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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  
Supreme Court ups pressure on Little Sisters to settle
Mark Silk       May 17, 2016
To the surprise of many, the Supreme Court yesterday punted the challenge to Obamacare's contraceptive coverage accommodation for religious non-profits back to the four federal appeals courts whose decisions had been consolidated into Zubik v. Burwell.

In doing so, the justices kept the mandated coverage in place. They said they want the non-profits and the government to work out an arrangement along the lines they suggested when they asked for supplementary briefs two months ago. And they declared that the mandated contraceptive coverage had to be acquired "seamlessly" by the insured women from non-profits' insurance companies.

In other words, the non-profits were told to find a way to live with something they once said they couldn't live with. Not to beat a dead horse (here and here), but they've already made the crucial concession - not that they've admitted doing so.
. . . .
It's anybody's guess why the Justices didn't go ahead and decide the case on the merits - specifically, "whether petitioners' religious exercise has been substantially burdened, whether the government has a compelling interest, or whether the current regulations are the least restrictive means of serving that interest."

Adam Liptak of the New York Times thinks it was a way to avoid a 4-4 tie. Over at Bloomberg opinion, Noah Feldman sees it in terms of a short-handed Court reluctant to take major stands.

Something else may be going on here, however.

The Roberts Court, liberals and conservatives alike, has been notably friendly to claims of religious liberty. In this case, it may prefer to have the religious petitioners freely acknowledge (rather than be forced to accept by judicial fiat) limits to a very strong free exercise claim. That would establish a useful benchmark going forward.

Moreover, a straight-up decision for the government could well have induced religious nonprofits to stop insuring their employees altogether. The kind of negotiated settlement the Court is urging will not. From a public policy standpoint, that's a good thing.
After 12 Years of Defiance, a Massachusetts Congregation Goes in Peace

Jess Bidgood       May 29 2016
For almost 12 years, the parishioners of St. Frances X. Cabrini have prayed, eaten meals, watched the Super Bowl and even slept in the church, holding a round-the-clock vigil to protest the Archdiocese of Boston's decision to close it.
. . . .
On Sunday, having exhausted their options in  and American courts, the parishioners held their last service, but not without a final act of defiance. A man who was ordained a Roman Catholic priest, but was later married, stood at the altar of the deconsecrated church and led services for parishioners who said they intended to break away from the archdiocesan hierarchy and form an independent Catholic church.
. . . .
The parishioners plan to leave the church by 11:59 p.m. Monday and hold a service next Sunday in a Masonic lodge, a temporary stop while they try to raise money for a building of their own.

In a statement, the archdiocese said it hoped the congregants would join other parishes. "Their sense of loss from the closing of the parish is understandable," the statement said. "For this reason the archdiocese kept its commitment to allow the appeals process to conclude both in civil and canonical courts."
. . . .
"The way the sex abuse scandal was handled pretty clearly shattered the trust that a lot of people had in the hierarchy," said James O'Toole, a professor of history at Boston College, who added that the vigil had most likely also been motivated by the writings of the Second Vatican Council, in the 1960s, which expanded the role of laypeople in the church.
Chicago shocker: Catholic archdiocese to offer 12 weeks of paid parental leave
David Gibson      May 18, 2016
The Archdiocese of Chicago has announced that it will begin offering 12 weeks of paid parental leave to its employees, a policy that is almost unheard of in Catholic dioceses and one that reflects an effort to put the church's money where its mission is.

Betsy Bohlen, chief operating officer for the archdiocese, said Archbishop Blase Cupich pushed for the innovative policy soon after he took over the nation's third-largest diocese in late 2014 in order to ensure that personnel policies were in line with church teaching.

"Obviously we do want to be a voice for pro-life, family friendly kinds of policies," Bohlen told the Catholic New World, the archdiocesan newspaper.  "The idea was to make sure that we have something that can work for all staff."

The gulf between the church's rhetoric on behalf of family-friendly policies, and specifically paid family leave, and the fact that apparently none of the nation's nearly 200 dioceses have offered anything like those policies, has been a source of growing concern among Catholic commentators across the spectrum.
Read more
Berrigan quote
Ordination of Women to the Priesthood
Tony Flannery     May 29, 2016
On Wednesday next I am taking part in a round table discussion on the ordination of women in Rome. This is organised by Women's Ordination Worldwide (WOW). It is not, as you can guess, taking place in the Vatican!!
. . . .
My position on this matter is summed up well in a letter recently written to the Cardinals advising the Pope by John Shea, an Augustinian priest I met in my travels in the States, and who impressed me greatly.

Below is the text of his letter:
Pentecost, 2016

Dear Cardinal Maradiaga,

I am writing again to you and to the other members of the Council of Cardinals on this profoundly holy day to ask you to discuss at your
next meeting a core issue of structural reform-ecclesia semper reformanda-an issue that continues to disrespect every aspect of the identity and mission of the church: the decision to see women as not biologically worthy to be ordained to the priesthood.

Of all the things that Pope Francis has said and done, his opening of the Synod on the Family in 2014 was perhaps the most extraordinary:
he asked the bishops to speak "freely," "boldly," and "without fear." On the one hand, this exhortation is incredibly shocking, that he would have to ask his fellow bishops-grown men and the teachers of the church-to speak honestly to each other. On the other hand, given the atmosphere
of the Vatican where honest exchange is often so difficult, his exhortation was not only necessary but also a modest sign of hope in our dialogically challenged church.

If you believe that the ordination of women to the priesthood is vital for the integrity, mutuality, and viability of our church, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you find nothing in Scripture or tradition prejudicial against women or precluding their ordination to the priesthood, I ask you to
speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you know that the actual history of ordination-of women as well as men-needs to be acknowledged and carefully understood by you and all the bishops, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you believe the letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, squashed dialogue on the ordination of women just when it could have been open, intelligent, and fruitful, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you know that any given woman is as religiously mature and able to provide pastoral care as any given man, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you know that seeing women and men through a "complementarity" lens or in light of precious "theological symbolism" is not pertinent
to ordination, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you see the letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, as an historical explanation of ordination rather than a theological explanation, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you think the one theological explanation put forth by the Vatican in the 1970s and 1980s-that women cannot be ordained because they are "not fully in the likeness of Jesus"-would be silly if it were it not so heretical, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you know that the church's opposition to the ordination of women is understood-within the church and throughout the world-as affirming women's inferiority and justifying all kinds of horrible violence against them, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you understand why so many of the adult faithful are leaving the church in droves over the injustice of women barred from priesthood-if
you see that a "patriarchal Jesus" is a colossal contradiction-I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If the church's current practice directly undermines our God's relational Three-in-Oneness-if a huge patriarchal plank is stuck in the
church's eye, worshipping the Father as male, the Son as male, and the Holy Spirit as male-I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you want our church to walk proudly on two feet instead of aping patriarchal culture and hobbling around on one, please-honoring the human and the divine-have the courage to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you have some inkling that all the reforms you are undertaking ultimately do not mean very much as long as women are not fully in the likeness of Jesus in our church, I ask you on this holy day of Pentecost to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

Cardinal Maradiaga, is injustice to women to cripple the Christian message forever? Like the reformation of inclusion in the infant church,
can you and your fellow bishops see and hear and name what Pope Francis is not able to see or hear or name.

John O'Shea OSA
Female deacons: how likely is it to happen under Francis?
Phyllis Zagano      May 19, 2016
Just prior to Pentecost, responding to questions at the final session of the Union of International Superiors General (UISG) triennial meeting, Pope Francis said he would like to think about women deacons. The eyes of the world turned toward Rome. Women ordained as deacons? Well, the Church has never ruled against it.

Like the good Jesuit pastor he is, Francis sees the need for clarity and decision-making here. Around the world, women - and men - are asking, why not restore women to the ordained diaconate? The question will not go away; neither will it be answered quickly.
. . . .
He told the assembled women Religious that he would ask the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) for materials about women deacons. The CDF surely has plenty of research; in 2002, its International Theological Commission (ITC) published a study document on the diaconate. That followed an earlier study in 1997, which did not win the approval or signature of Joseph Ratzinger, then CDF prefect, who refused to promulgate it. 
That first, brief 17- or 18-page document reportedly found no barrier to restoring women to the ordained diaconate. The second study, quadruple in size, ended inconclusively, stating: 1) "deaconess" in history is not the same as deacons; 2) while each is part of the one sacrament of holy orders, the distinction between priests/bishops and deacons is underlined by the magisterium; and, therefore, 3) the question of women ­deacons is up to the "ministry of discernment the Lord has left his Church" to decide. That is: the decision is there is no decision.
. . . 
While Francis is duty-bound to ask his Curia for input on the matter, nothing from the CDF would be likely to advise restoring women to the diaconate. The 2002 ITC document is proof of this. Parts of that study include uncited sections paraphrased or taken whole from a book by Gerhard Müller, then a Munich professor and member of the sub-commission producing the study, and now cardinal prefect of the Congregation, who finds women deacons an "amusing anachronism". Further, the study document dismisses in footnotes major scholarship on women in the diaconate. 
. . . .
If a CDF panel has already relegated the major scholarship supporting women deacons to the back of the filing cabinet, how will Francis make an informed decision? He seems to have answered his own discernment dilemma: form a commission to study the question. But what would the new commission study? That depends on how it is formed. If it is yet another group of hand-picked clerics and laymen seminary professors, the information (and the resulting decision by the Pope) is predictable. 

. . . .  
If the commission is comprised of people - including women - who have actually studied the theology and history of women in the diaconate, at least Francis will have the information for his discernment.

. . . .
Historical evidence, good as it is, cannot fully answer newer objections against ordaining women as deacons. There are New Testament references to female deacons and we know that papal and conciliar documents mention women deacons - eleventh- and twelfh-century papal letters affirm the rights of a western bishop to ordain male and female deacons. The eighteenth-century canons of the Maronite Catholic Church refer to women deacons. Even though extant ordination ceremonies - some in the Vatican Library - include the epiclesis, or calling down of the Holy Spirit, some argue a woman cannot receive the grace and charism of order, saying the female body is not a proper "subject" for diaconal ordination.
. . . .
What restricts women from priestly ordination is the argument from authority: Jesus chose male apostles to head his Church. What points toward restoring women to the diaconate is that it is a ministry of service created by the Church.

When he spoke to the UISG, Francis praised the service of the women Religious and railed against clericalism, but he seemed to be weighing the possibilities for "a more incisive presence" of women in the Church, including their ability to preach homilies. Restoring women to the one order of deacon is a valid and legitimate way to accomplish those goals. How it all turns out is anybody's guess, but the fact that the question was asked - and answered - so close to Pentecost gives encouragement to both sides of the discussion.

Future Church Survey on Women Deacons
Do you support women deacons?  Do you have concerns? Have you experienced a call to the permanent diaconate or are you discerning a call?  Do you know other women whom you believe are called to the permanent diaconate?   Let us know.
The pope's risky overture towards the Lefebvrists
Massimo Faggioli      May 25, 2016
Pope Francis has been busy redefining the boundaries of the Church in many different ways.
. . . .
But there is one group that few would expect to see drawing closer to Rome during the pontificate of a Jesuit pope who is not afraid to challenge the status quo and advocate social justice issues.

It is the Priestly Society of St Pius X (SSPX), commonly known as the Lefebvrists.

Founded by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970, it is the most famous group to denounce the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) and the first to leave full communion with Rome in the post-conciliar period.
Archbishop Lefebvre (d. 1991) famously declared his rejection of the Council (particularly the liturgical reform, episcopal collegiality, religious freedom and ecumenism) and when he consecrated four bishops without Vatican approval in 1988 he incurred automatic excommunication (excommunicatio latae sententiae).
. . . .
Here is the paradox: Pope Francis, who is unquestionably a pro-Vatican II pope, is moving towards reconciliation with a group whose only reason for existence is the rejection of the Council and the denunciation of its teaching as heresy.

The SSPX's current superior general, Bishop Bernard Fellay, acknowledged in a recent interview with the  National Catholic Register that steps are being taken in the dialogue between Rome and his small but vocal group of ultra-traditionalists.
. . . .
But Pope Francis sounded a more cautious note in his recent interview with La Croix (published in English here in Global Pulse).

When questioned about granting the SSPX the status of a personal prelature, the pope said,  "That would be a possible solution, but beforehand it will be necessary to establish a fundamental agreement with them. The Second Vatican Council has its value. We will advance slowly and patiently."

How this develops must be watched carefully. It is not the first time that the Lefebvrists and Rome have tried to come to an agreement. There were already attempts under John Paul II and Benedict XVI, but they always failed in the end.
President Obama Appoints Rev. Thomas Reese, S.J. and Dr. John Ruskay to USCIRF
USCIRF      May 13 2016
President Barack Obama on May 12, 2016 announced his intent to reappoint Rev. Thomas Reese, S.J. and appoint Dr. John Ruskay to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).  
. . . .
Rev. Thomas J. Reese, S.J. is a Senior Analyst for the National Catholic Reporter, where he has worked since 2013.  Father Reese was Editor-in-Chief of America magazine from 1998 to 2005 and an associate editor from 1978 to 1985. 

Additionally, Father Reese was a Senior Fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center from 2006 to 2013 and from 1985 to 1998.  Father Reese entered the Jesuits in 1962 and was ordained in 1974.  He was first appointed to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in 2014.  Father Reese received a B.A. and M.A. from St. Louis University, an M.Div. from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. John Ruskay is a partner at JRB Consulting Services, a position he has held since 2014.  Dr. Ruskay is currently the Executive Vice President-Emeritus of the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York, where he previously served as Executive Vice President & CEO from 1999 to 2014.  He began his tenure at the UJA Federation working in a variety of roles in 1993 including Chief Operating Officer, Group Vice President for Program Services, and Executive Director for Education and Community Services.  From 1985 to 1993, Dr. Ruskay served as the Vice Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.  From 1980 to 1985, he was the Education Director of the 92nd Street Y.  Dr. Ruskay received a B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University.

Composed of nine commissioners, USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan federal body that is principally responsible for reviewing the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom internationally and making policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress. The President and leadership of both political parties in the Senate and House of Representatives appoint USCIRF Commissioners. 
Philippine president-elect blasts Catholic church, bishops
Jim Gomez    May 22, 2016
The presumptive Philippine president-elect has blasted the country's dominant Roman Catholic church as "the most hypocritical institution" and accused some of its bishops of corruption for allegedly asking favors from politicians, including him.

In a late-night news conference that dragged on to the early hours of Sunday in southern Davao city, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte questioned the relevance of Catholic bishops, citing his overwhelming victory in the May 9 presidential election based on an unofficial count despite efforts by them to persuade Filipinos not to vote for him.
Such harsh public condemnation of the influential church and its bishops by a top politician is rare in the Philippines, Asia's bastion of Catholicism. It presages a potentially thorny relationship between the Catholic church and the incoming president, who shocked bishops in November when he cursed Pope Francis for sparking a huge traffic jam that trapped him for hours during a visit to Manila.
. . . .
The foul-mouthed mayor then turned to the bishops, accusing some of them of violating their vow of celibacy by getting married or keeping women and seeking favors like cars from politicians. Once, he said without elaborating, church officials whom he did not identify forced him to take steps as a mayor so they could obtain a real estate property in a residential enclave.
. . . .
"Some people here in the Philippines can't even afford to have food to eat or get medicine while you're enjoying the money of the goddamn people," Duterte said. "Aren't you ashamed of yourselves, you sons of bitches?"

"You know," Duterte said, "the most hypocritical institution is the Catholic church."

Until a day before his inauguration as president on June 30, Duterte said he would continue to publicly disclose "the sins of the Catholic church and whether or not you are still relevant," promising to be more circumspect after his proclamation. Duterte says he believes in God but doesn't believe in religion.

Church officials were not immediately available for comment.
They have, however, criticized Duterte for cursing the pope, his public vows to kill criminals, his publicly acknowledged adultery and vulgarity.
No Mass for Vic bishop who moved abusers
Megan Neil       May 12, 2016
Ronald Mulkearns did not have a funeral befitting a retired Catholic bishop; nor will he even get the public prayers said for dead sinners.

The pain caused by pedophile priests under the 1971-1997 Ballarat bishop's watch is still so raw that the Catholic Church has cancelled a memorial mass planned for Monday.

Bishop Mulkearns covered up abuse by pedophiles he moved between parishes, Ballarat clergy abuse victim Andrew Collins said.
. . . .
"And we're not talking about one or two, we're talking about potentially hundreds of children."
. . . .
Ballarat diocese vicar-general Fr Justin Driscoll said the church needed to listen to the adverse reaction.

"We reconsidered because of the high level of distress that the very proposal for the mass prompted," Fr Driscoll told AAP on Thursday.
. . . .
A small private funeral was held for Bishop Mulkearns and he was the first Ballarat bishop not to be interred in the crypt of St Patrick's Cathedral.
London priest arrested in Kosovo
Lin Jenkins     May 14, 2016
A priest wanted in connection with child sex abuse allegations at a school where he taught for 12 years has been arrested in Kosovo five years after he failed to respond to police bail.

Laurence Soper, the former abbot of the Benedictine monastery of Ealing Abbey in west London, failed to respond to bail in March 2011 and was thought to have been in Rome when a European arrest warrant was put out for him months later. He had been arrested and released on police bail the previous year.
. . . .
Neighbours told a reporter that Soper, 72, had lived in the town for some years, did not have a job and had said he was writing a book.

A damning review by Lord Carlile QC into decades of paedophile activity at St Benedict's school, a Catholic school attached to the abbey, published in 2011, listed 21 abuse cases starting in 1970. Soper was named as one of five clergy wanted for questioning in relation to paedophile activity involving pupils. Soper taught at the school between 1972 and 1984. He was abbot from 1991 to 2000.
Cardinal in charge of Vatican real estate faces embezzlement probe
Ines San Martin      May 17 2016
A day after Pope Francis told the Italian bishops to renounce unnecessary wealth, local newspapers on Tuesday reported that an Italian cardinal responsible for managing the Vatican's real estate holdings is being investigated in his former diocese for embezzlement.

Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, former bishop of the northern city of Savona and current president of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), is reportedly under investigation by Italian prosecutors for alleged misappropriations of funds at an institute to support the clergy in Liguria.
. . . .
Prosecutors believe the institute was turned into a real estate agency of sorts, which collected money from local priests and parishes and then used the revenue to make a series of speculative investments, several of which turned out badly.

The biggest example, according to reports, was the purchase of a structure called "Colonie Bergamasche," which was supposed to be converted into a luxury hotel and residential complex, a project that was scuttled by Calcagno's successor in 2004.
Bishop to donate kidney to poor, lower-caste Hindu in India
Nirmala Carvalho       May 30 2016
Bishop Mar Jacob Muricken. . . .
Bishop Mar Jacob Muricken is an auxiliary in the Palai diocese, part of India's Syro-Malabar Eastern church, located in the southern state of Kerala where the country's small but influential Catholic population is concentrated.

Recently, Muricken, who'll turn 53 in mid-June, received the necessary clearances from a governmental medical college in Kottayam to take one of his healthy kidneys and have it transplanted into the sick body of E. Sooraj, a thirty-year-old poor and lower-caste Hindu man from Kottakal, on June 1, 2016.

Sooraj was diagnosed two years ago with kidney failure, and has been on dialysis ever since.  He's the sole breadwinner of his family and is struggling to take care of his mother and wife.
. . . .
Father Davis Chiramel, chairman of the Kidney Federation of India was invited by the Palai Diocese last year to preach at a charismatic convention, where Muricken was present.  Chiramel told the story of his own donation of a kidney to C. G. Gopinathan, a Hindu and a stranger, in 2009.

Muricken later phoned Chiramel expressing his desire to be a donor. He registered his name volunteering to be part of a transplant with the Kidney Federation of India.

The bishop said he was saddened to learn of Sooraj's condition, but excited about his opportunity to make a life-saving donation.
The stunning way a Catholic cardinal marked the deaths of refugees in the Mediterranean
Rick Noack    May 26, 2016
"Someone who lets people drown in the Mediterranean also drowns God - every day, thousands of times."

The archbishop of the city of Cologne, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, found these striking words on Thursday to condemn Europe's increasingly tough attitude toward refugees. He spoke during a special church service, which took place in one of the German city's main squares.

Woelki also used a seven-meter-long former refugee boat as his altar for the service to celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi. The boat had previously been recovered by the Maltese military during a search-and-rescue operation.

The cardinal emphasized the significance of choosing the boat, saying that altars had always symbolized Jesus Christ. "To see those in need and help them is the task the Lord has given to us as Christians," said Woelki.
. . . .
The symbolic gesture by one of Germany's most influential cardinals came the same day dozens of refugees were feared to have drowned while trying to reach European soil. It was at least the second boat to capsize within only two days.
Cocktail was 'religious event' trial told as cardinals stay away
AFP      May 15, 2016
Top cardinal Pietro Parolin and two close associates of Pope Francis have sidestepped giving evidence in the controversial and increasingly embarrassing Vatican trial of five people accused of leaking classified Holy See documents.

Vatican number two Parolin, fellow cardinal Santo Abril y Castello and Archbishop Konrad Krajewski had all been asked to give evidence on behalf of one of the accused, PR consultant Francesca Chaouqui.

The three clerics invoked an article of the Vatican's penal code which allows them to decline to testify for professional reasons.
. . . .
The prosecution of the journalists has been condemned around the world and some officials inside the Vatican regard the entire case as a public relations disaster given the lurid nature of much of the evidence.
. . . .
In another embarrassing snippet to emerge from the trial, (Monsignor Alfredo) Abbondi defended himself and other clerics linked to the panel for organising a terrace cocktail party during the canonisation of Pope Jean-Paul II.

The priest said the cocktail had been a "religious event with nothing worldly about it" which had been organised because the panel had not been granted enough tickets for the Mass to mark the late pontiff's elevation to the sainthood.
More than 800 sex abuse claims filed under Minnesota law
Jean Hopfensperger      May 23, 2016
More than 850 child sex abuse claims, including about 500 against Minnesota Catholic clergy, have been made in the past three years under a landmark Minnesota law sunsetting this week that allowed victims of older abuse cases to have their day in court.
The Minnesota Child Victims Act, which rocked the Catholic Church to its core, set a May 25, 2016, deadline for filing older claims. Victims' lawyers are rushing to the finish line, expecting a last-minute surge in claims.
. . . .
In 2013, Minnesota became the fourth state to create a temporary window in its civil statute of limitations to give child sex abuse victims their day in court. Until then, victims had until age 24 to file suit - even though advocates long have argued that it can take years for abuse survivors to step forward.

Step forward they did, seeking not just compensation but the prying open of church files documenting what religious leaders knew about priests who had sexual contact with kids, and how they handled the abusers.
. . . .
The calls poured in from across the state. They resulted in about 400 claims (each representing an individual victim) in the Twin Cities archdiocese, 115 in the Winona Diocese, 109 in the Duluth Diocese, 74 in the New Ulm Diocese, 72 in St. Cloud Diocese, 65 against the Order of St. Benedict at St. John's Abbey, and 50 against the Crosier religious order in Onamia, Minn.

Some priests served in more than one religious institution, so the figures are not an aggregate, according to Anderson's office. More than 250 abusers have been identified, and many are accused in multiple claims.

In addition to clergy, Minnesotans reported abuse by leaders at other well-known and respected institutions such as the Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis, the Boy Scouts of America and public and private schools.
St. Paul archdiocese plan offers over $65m to creditors
Steve Karnowski      May 26 2016
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis on Thursday filed a bankruptcy reorganization plan that would set up a trust fund of more than $65 million to compensate some 440 clergy abuse victims plus other creditors, with just over half of that amount coming from insurance.

The plan would also create a $500,000 fund to pay for counseling and incorporate the terms of a settlement reached with Ramsey County in December that allows for greater legal oversight of the archdiocese over the next three years, with the goal of changing its organizational culture to ensure that no more children are abused.
. . . .
But attorney Jeff Anderson, whose firm has filed most of the abuse claims against the archdiocese since Minnesota gave survivors of past abuse a new three-year opening to sue, called the plan "predictably deficient." He said the archdiocese is offering only 1 percent of what it's capable of paying.
Prominent French priest and Vatican adviser accused in sex scandal
David Gibson      May 20, 2016
For years, seminaries and monasteries around France sent students and novices to Msgr. Tony Anatrella, a prominent French priest and therapist who has written disparagingly of gays, if their superiors decided the young men were struggling with homosexuality.

Now Anatrella, who argues that gay men cannot be ordained as priests, is facing mounting allegations that he himself had sex with male clients under his care, a scandal that could have repercussions all the way to the Vatican, where the priest is still regularly consulted on matters of sexuality.
The reports about Anatrella that have emerged in recent weeks also landed just as the Catholic Church in France has been embroiled in a crisis over charges that senior churchmen shielded priests even after they received reports that the clerics had molested children.

Anatrella stoked that furor earlier this year when it was revealed that he told new bishops at a Vatican-sponsored course that they are not obligated to report a suspected abuser to authorities even in countries where the law requires such reporting.
. . . .
Anatrella has so far not responded to the latest allegations.

On May 13, the Archdiocese of Paris released a statement acknowledging that in 2014, the current archbishop, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, received a written complaint, via a priest, from a patient of Anatrella's who also made allegations of sexual exploitation. But the archdiocese said that because the complainant would not reveal his identity, the church could not pursue the matter.
. . . .
Anatrella remains a consultant to the pontifical councils for the family and for health care ministry; in February, he was the main organizer of a major conference on priestly celibacy at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
Spike in clerical sex abuse cases reported in US
Megan Cornwell      May 23, 2016
The number of people reporting sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic clergy in the United States rose sharply last year, according to an audit released by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The report, released on Friday (20 May) alongside a yearly progress review of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, showed that 838 people came forward from 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015 to say they had been sexually abused by priests, deacons or members of religious orders.

Only 1 per cent of the new allegations involved children under the age of 18 in 2015. The majority of cases relate back to the 1960s, 70s and 80s, made by adults alleging abuse when they were minors.
. . . .
One of the areas of concern was the reliance of some parishes on international priests, of whom a "significant number of allegations" related. "Dioceses should take note of this and ensure they are utilising the appropriate methods for evaluating their backgrounds," the report said.

Last year the Catholic Church in America paid out $154 million (roughly £106 million) in costs associated with abuse allegations, up 29 per cent a year earlier. The largest proportion of costs was attributed to legal fees; other costs were incurred in supporting offenders and providing therapy for victims.

Of the total number of allegations made against clergy during the reporting period, 39 were unsubstantiated or proven to be false. The report states that every religious institute follows a process to "determine the credibility of any allegation of clergy sexual abuse, as set forth in canon law and as advised in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People".
Missing former abbot arrested in Kosovo
Catherine Pepinster      May 14, 2016
Reports are emerging from Kosovo that Laurence Soper, the former abbot of Ealing Abbey, has been arrested after being wanted in connection with historic child sex abuse cases in England. 

Soper, 72, absconded six years ago after being asked by police to be interviewed. At the time he was living in Rome. A European arrest warrant was put out for him.

The Albeu news agency said that Soper, known in Kosovo as Andrew Soper, was arrested in the street in the town of Peja where he was living.

Abbot Soper was wanted for questioning by the Metropolitan Police regarding offences against children which took place when he was teaching at St Benedict's School, attached to the Benedictine monastery of Ealing Abbey in West London.
A Vatican conspiracy persists, and a bigger mystery unfolds
David Gibson      May 27, 2016
The Vatican has always been a hothouse for conspiracy theories, and a new controversy over the so-called Third Secret of Fatima is showing just how persistent such fixations can be - to the extent that the latest episode even forced Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI out of seclusion to refute claims that he once shaded the truth about the mysterious prophecy.
At the same time, however, the new Fatima saga has overshadowed what could be a much more problematic bit of Vatican intrigue: how Benedict's presence as the first ex-pope in more than six centuries is continuing to raise questions about the nature of the papacy, and the authority of Francis, the current pope.
. . . .
But conspiracy theories die hard. And this year, shortly after the May 13 feast of Our Lady of Fatima, a traditionalist blog published claims that Ratzinger - who was elected Benedict XVI after John Paul died in 2005 - told a friend that there was more in the secret than had been published.

The blog also suggested that the hidden bits were dark predictions about the current papacy of Pope Francis and the turmoil, and even heresies, that some conservatives believe Francis has encouraged.

The charges were so explosive that the Vatican press office on May 21 issued a forceful denial directly quoting the frail, 89-year-old former pope. Benedict called the reports "pure inventions, absolutely untrue" and confirmed that "the publication of the Third Secret of Fatima is complete."
. . . .
But just as the Fatima story was making headlines, Benedict's longtime personal aide, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, delivered a surprisingly candid speech that reignited the equally potent issue of whether there are two popes or one, or whether the papacy itself has been redefined.
Speaking at a May 20 event at Rome's Gregorian University for the launch of a book dedicated to Benedict's pontificate - and a day before Benedict's Fatima statement gained so much attention - Ganswein said that the papacy "remains the foundation of the Catholic Church" but he said "the papal ministry is not the same as before."

Benedict, he explained, "left the papal throne and yet, with the step he took on February 11, 2013, he has not abandoned this [papal] ministry."

Ganswein said quitting in that sense would have been "quite impossible after his irrevocable acceptance of the office in April 2005" when the conclave of cardinals elected Benedict pope.

Ganswein went on to say that Benedict intentionally "built a personal office with a collegial and synodal dimension, almost a communal ministry."

Consequently, he said, there are "not two popes, but de facto an expanded ministry - with an active member and a contemplative member," referring to Francis and Benedict.

The emeritus pope "had taken only one step to the side to make room for his successor and a new stage in the history of the papacy."

It's an open question as to whether Ganswein clarified or confused the concept of what the papacy is today, and in what sense there could be two popes at the same time.
St. John XXIII's aide, oldest member College of Cardinals, dies at 100
Carol Glatz      May 26 2016
Cdl. Capovilla
The former secretary to a saint and the oldest member of the College of Cardinals died May 26 at the age of 100.

Italian Cardinal Loris Capovilla, who served St. John XXIII before and after he became pope, died in Bergamo, near Milan.  Cardinal Capovilla was born in Pontelongo, Italy, on Oct. 14, 1915, and ordained to the priesthood in 1940.
. . . .
The papal secretary also served Pope Paul VI for a time after his election, following St. John's death in 1963. He was made archbishop of Chieti-Vasto in 1967 and appointed prelate of Loreto in 1971, retiring in 1988.

Pope Francis made him the world's oldest living cardinal when he elevated him to the College of Cardinals in 2014 at the age of 98.
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