Sunday, November 6, 2011

Vatican moved quickly to punish Gumbleton

MILWAUKEE -- Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, a retired auxiliary bishop of Detroit, revealed for the first time yesterday details about his removal as a parish pastor in 2007.

You can read more here:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sad Catholic 101 - the last post

Sad Catholic 101, the blog, was started in May, 2009 nearly two and a half years ago after I had had a particularly challenging experience with the Roman Catholic Church.

Suffice to say that the inexperience, lack of self-awareness and egoism on the part of some priests in leadership positions within some church hierarchies caused a lot of the problems and this was confirmed for me by other, more balanced priests and religious who had the wisdom and experience to know what they were seeing. The profound disappointment of seeing an ineffectual diocesan Bishop with some serious mental health issues, charged with criminal offences was, for me, the final straw.

My goal in starting this blog was to try to present some sort of balanced reportage on the events transpiring within the Roman Catholic Church, to focus on the faithful priests, religious and others who give their life to the Church and, at the same time, to present the seedier side of the Church in which the men-in-red care little for the average cleric or the average Catholic for that matter.

I realize now that I no longer care what happens within the Roman Catholic Church. I described myself for the last couple of years as a non-practising Catholic; now I simply describe myself as a Christian.

The Catholic part of me has shrivelled up and died a lingering death. At times, I have thought about trying to get back in “the fold”, but frankly, I’m no longer interested and it would have no meaning for me. I am an indifferent former cradle catholic who no longer desires to be part of the Roman Catholic Church that so long ago lost its way in the jungle of rules and rituals that mean so little to so many.   Especially now to me.

I wish you peace on your journey.

(I’ll leave this blogsite in place for awhile in case there are some articles you would like to copy for your own files.)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Negotiations continue between Vatican and LeFebvre group (Post #160)

Excerpt from Reuters: Vatican says open to accord with traditionalists

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican on Wednesday told an ultra-traditionalist splinter group they will have to accept some non-negotiable doctrinal principles before they can fully rejoin the Roman Catholic Church.

Leaders of the dissident Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) held several hours of meetings with the Vatican's top doctrinal officials to discuss how to finalise several years of negotiations aimed at eventual reconciliation.  A statement said the Vatican told the head of the traditionalists, Swiss-born Bishop Bernard Fellay, that the SSPX must accept the principles outlined in a "doctrinal preamble," before moving on to a "hoped for reconciliation".  The Vatican did not release the text of the preamble handed to Fellay. But it said it included certain doctrinal principles and guidelines for interpreting Church teaching so that the SSPX was not fundamentally out of step with the Vatican.

The SSPX defied the Vatican in 1988 by consecrating four of its own bishops, triggering their excommunication. In a gesture of reconciliation, Pope Benedict has lifted those bans and promoted the use of the traditional Latin Mass the SSPX favours.  But he has until now refused to grant the SSPX bishops the right to reject other teachings of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), such as its historic reconciliation with Judaism and other faiths, or assume official positions in the Church.
Despite their dissent, Benedict values the SSPX's commitment to Church traditions and does not want their splinter group to develop into a permanent schism claiming to be Catholic but outside the Vatican fold. As such Benedict has shown a keen interest in fully resolving the matter.  Vatican spokesman Rev Federico Lombardi said there was no deadline for the traditionalists to accept the doctrinal principles. But he added that the Vatican expected a response "in a matter of months."  "They now have to reflect on this offer. That was the aim of this meeting," Lombardi said.

If the SSPX agrees to any accord, it would probably be offered a special legal status within the Church, similar to a the international prelature enjoyed by the conservative Roman Catholic group Opus Dei.  Refusal to accept the Vatican's offer would leave the SSPX leaders as validly ordained bishops but without any official mission or position in the Church. 

Another question to be resolved will be the status of British-born Bishop Richard Williamson, who caused an uproar by denying the Holocaust just before Benedict lifted the excommunication bans on him and the other SSPX bishops. 

SSPX leaders have recently signalled they have refused to make any concessions in the talks with the Vatican.  "If their aim is still to have the SSPX accept the Council, the discussions showed clearly enough that we have no intention of going down that path," Fellay said last month. 
Sources include

Ontario Bishop worried about declining numbers at church (Post #159)

Excerpt from The Windsor Star: Empty pews worry Bishop Fabbro

A new in-depth report on the state of the Roman Catholic church, released Thursday by the Diocese of London [Ontario], paints a picture of waning faith and points to a need for rebuilding, says Bishop Ronald Fabbro. "I found this report hard to read," the bishop wrote in a message to all clergy and church employees that accompanies the 65-page document. "Many of us are saddened by the losses our Church has experienced in our own lifetime."

Fabbro goes on to state the study, which was begun last fall and includes data, analysis and projections on everything from attendance at mass to technology and volunteerism, should not be seen as a "source of discouragement" but as a tool to understand the trends, the rapid changes and point to solutions.

Among the report's findings is that church attendance for diocese churches in Windsor and Essex County has dropped by six per cent in the past three years. That compares with a 3.5 per cent decline in other areas of the diocese. The report also showed there are about 450,000 Catholics in the diocese but average weekend attendance is only about 14 per cent of that population. There were 120 parishes in 2010, down from 171 in 1975.

Data on sacraments, from baptism, confirmation and marriage to funerals also shows "constantly declining" participation, with numbers off by more than 18 per cent in some cases since 1975. The declines have begun deepen after 1993. The report blamed declining birthrates and smaller student populations in Catholic schools for some "but not all" of those losses.

Fabbro was at a loss to explain the reason for the higher percentage locally, but suggested part of the problem may have begun with church reorganization which has seen many parishes close and others consolidated since the 1990s. He said that work is more or less complete now and the remaining parishes are being readied to serve into the future. That, he said, will begin the process of rebuilding.

He also blamed part of the decline on the ongoing controversy over the sexual abuse of children by priests, which, the report concludes "has also led to a loss of trust in the moral authority of the church" and priesthood. "I'm committed to making sure that the church is safe for children," said Fabbro, when asked about the long-lasting impact of sexual abuse cases. "That's essential and we have to continue to be vigilant."

Sources include

Halifax Archdiocese pulls funding from Guardian Angel (Post #158)

Excerpt from the CBC:   Halifax Archdiocese pulls funding from Guardian Angel

The Archdiocese of Halifax has severed its ties of more than a century with the Home of the Guardian Angel, and now the organization is facing a major financial shortfall. That puts its adoption program in jeopardy.

Donna Williamson, executive director for Home of the Guardian Angel, said the archdiocese contributed $40,000 every year toward its operation. "Forty thousand dollars is huge for us," she said Thursday. "Funding through the province ended in 1996, so it really is detrimental to the adoption program."

The Archdiocese of Halifax established the Home of the Guardian Angel 124 years ago to help single mothers and abandoned babies. Since then, opinions have changed and government agencies have stepped in to help fill the gap. So now the Archdiocese says it's decided to put its money somewhere else. "The whole world has changed since that time, so what became very important was that as the church, as the Archdiocese of Halifax, we pay attention to what is the work that we need to do now, " Archdiocese spokeswoman Marilyn Sweet said.  They're looking at supporting agencies that are following the Catholic direction, she said.

Williamson said they discuss three options when counselling pregnant women: "To parent the child, to place the child for adoption or to have an abortion." Sweet said the Catholic Church does not support abortion. "Certainly there's no way that the Catholic Church supports abortion. We're very clear on that and the Home of the Gurdian angel is not a Catholic agency, so does it factor in? All questions need to be raised and looked at when you're making decisions," she said.

The new reality means extra fundraising must take place to save the adoption program.
"We're really hoping that we'll find our guardian angel and that funding will come through for us," Williamson said.
A fundraising event is scheduled for next month.

Sources include

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Vatican rejects Irish criticism over sex abuse (Post #157)

Excerpt from Associated Press: Vatican rejects Irish criticism over sex abuse

by Nicole Winfield
Associated Press 
VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican on Saturday vigorously rejected claims it sabotaged efforts by Irish bishops to report priests who sexually abused children to police and accused the Irish prime minister of making an "unfounded" attack against the Holy See.

Irish officials defended their claims that the Vatican exacerbated the abuse crisis and criticized the Holy See for offering an overly "legalistic" response to the scandal of priests who rape and molest children.

The Vatican issued a 24-page response to the Irish government following Prime Minister Enda Kenny's unprecedented July 20 denunciation of the Vatican's handling of abuse — a speech that cheered abuse-weary Irish Catholics but stunned the Vatican and prompted it to recall its ambassador.

Kenny's speech was inspired by the publication of a government-mandated independent report into the County Cork diocese of Cloyne, which found that the Vatican had undermined attempts by Irish bishops to protect children by warning them that their policy requiring abuse to be reported to police might violate church law.

The Cloyne document was the fourth such report to come out in recent years on the colossal scale of priestly sex abuse and cover-up in Ireland. But it was the first to squarely find the Vatican culpable in promoting the culture of secrecy and cover-up that kept abusers in ministry and able to prey on more children.  The Cloyne report based much of its accusations against the Holy See on a 1997 letter from the Vatican's ambassador to Ireland to the country's bishops expressing "serious reservations" about their policy requiring bishops to report abusers to police.

A committee of Irish bishops had adopted the policy in 1996 under mounting public pressure as the first cover-ups came to light, a year after a former altar boy became the first abuse victim in Ireland to go public with a lawsuit against the church.  The Cloyne report charged that the Vatican's 1997 letter "effectively gave individual Irish bishops the freedom to ignore the procedures which they had agreed and gave comfort and support to those who ... dissented from the stated official church policy."

The Vatican concurred that, taken out of context, the 1997 letter could give rise to "understandable criticism." But it said the letter had been misinterpreted, that the Cloyne report's conclusions were "inaccurate" and that Kenny's denunciation was "unfounded."  The Vatican noted that at the time, in the mid-1990s, there was no law in Ireland requiring professionals to report suspected abuse to police and that the issue was a matter of intense debate politically. In fact, Ireland has never had a law explicitly making the failure to report suspected child abuse a crime, but is planning to draft one now in the wake of the Cloyne report.

"Given that the Irish government of the day decided not to legislate on the matter, it is difficult to see how (the Vatican's) letter to the Irish bishops, which was issued subsequently, could possibly be construed as having somehow subverted Irish law or undermined the Irish state in its efforts to deal with the problem in question," the Vatican said.  The response said the Vatican's concerns about mandatory reporting weren't designed to thwart police investigations, but were designed to simply ensure that church law was followed to prevent abusive priests from being able to overturn any church sanctions on appeal.

The Vatican has detailed internal policies for investigating priestly sex abuse, with sanctions that include being dismissed from the clerical state. Such norms, however, were rarely if ever followed. And critically, it wasn't until last year that the Vatican ever explicitly told bishops to cooperate with civil authorities in reporting abusive priests.

After reading the report, Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore said squarely: "I remain of the view that the 1997 letter from the then-nuncio provided a pretext for some to avoid full cooperation with Irish civil authorities."

The Cloyne report also admonished the Vatican for diminishing the bishops' abuse policy as a mere "study document" in the 1997 letter, implying that it wasn't an official policy that needed to be followed.

The policy had been presented at the time as mandatory for all of Ireland's bishops: they staged a news conference to announce it, the country's highest ranking prelate wrote a forward to the policy, and individual bishops pledged to implement it.

The Vatican, however, said Saturday the policy was never legally binding because the Irish bishops themselves had never sought to make it so by submitting it for official approval by the Vatican.

In fact, the Vatican response cites two letters from the Irish bishops' conference saying the policy wasn't an official conference publication but rather a report from an advisory committee containing a code of "recommended practice" that was offered to individual bishops as guidelines "that could — and indeed should — be followed."

"Since the Irish bishops did not choose to seek recognition for the Framework Document, the Holy See cannot be criticized for failing to grant what was never requested in the first place," the Vatican said.

Gilmore blasted such a technical, "legalistic" argument.

"The sexual abuse of children is such a heinous and reprehensible crime that issues about the precise status of documents should not be allowed to obscure the obligation of people in positions of responsibility to deal promptly with such abuse and report it," he said.

"The sense of betrayal which was felt by Irish people about this matter, and which was clearly expressed by (Kenny), came about not only because of the nature of child abuse itself but also because of the unique position which the Catholic Church enjoyed in this country, manifested in many ways, over many decades."

The Vatican stood by its terminology calling it a "study document" — but for the first time publicly acknowledged its very existence and urged bishops to implement it.

Kenny had also accused the Vatican of frustrating the inquiry into the Cloyne diocese, and that in doing so said the Cloyne report "excavates the dysfunction, the disconnection, the elitism that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day."

The Vatican said there was no evidence to support Kenny's accusation and that when asked Kenny's office said he wasn't referring to any specific incident.

Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, the church's leading voice calling for honesty about abuse, said Kenny's unsubstantiated claim "merits explanation."

Martin, who has clashed both with the Vatican and his fellow bishops in demanding greater accountability, also noted that those same bishops who used the 1997 letter as an excuse to ignore the Irish policy continue to ignore Vatican-mandated laws on dealing with abusers.

"These people may be few, but the damage they caused was huge," Martin said Saturday in urging Ireland and the Vatican to move beyond the polemics of the last few weeks and work together to protect children.

The 1997 letter from the Vatican's ambassador based its findings on a review of the Irish policy by the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy. At the time, the congregation was headed by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, who as a matter of policy routinely defended the church's practice of not reporting abuse to police in favor of guarding the rights of accused priests.

Surprisingly, the Vatican response Saturday cites a 1998 speech Castrillon Hoyos delivered to Irish bishops on dealing with sexual abuse by priests in which he acknowledged that the church and its priests "should not in any way put an obstacle in the legitimate path of civil justice."  The response doesn't, however, cite the rest of his speech, in which he resoundingly criticized the Irish mandatory reporting policy, said it should be revised and that such reporting requirements risked that "the image of the bishop can be turned into more of a policeman than a true father."

He said such mandatory reporting policies seemed inspired more by insurance company lawyers concerned about diocesan legal liability than canon lawyers, and urged the bishops to fight "all the way up to the highest courts" to defend bishops against any claims of liability for abusive priests.  He acknowledged that such crimes need to be dealt with quickly, but warned against "obsessive" pursuit of accused priests by bishops because of the damage it can do to the priests, whose souls, he said, were "at the center of the affair."  "If he is guilty, we must, before anything else, be involved with his conversion," Castrillon Hoyos said. "If as often happens, he is a victim of calumny, we must help him to prove his innocence and carry this cross."

The speech was provided to The Associated Press by the Vatican press office after inquiries were made about it. It is a remarkable document demonstrating what many victims' advocates consider the Vatican's misplaced concern for the rights of priests over the welfare of children.

Cardinal Sean Brady, leader of Ireland's 4 million Catholics, said the time that it took the Vatican to respond to the Cloyne report, and the thoroughness of its reply, showed the seriousness of the issue for the Holy See.  "I believe it will contribute to the healing of those who have been hurt and also to a closer working together of all concerned with the safeguarding of children," he said in a statement.

One prominent Irish victim, Marie Collins, said the Vatican's defense highlighted the need for Ireland to pass a law making the non-reporting of suspected child abuse a specific crime.  "As long as it's not there, the church can defend its own actions as the document does," she said. The AP generally doesn't name victims of sexual abuse but Collins is a prominent victims' advocate in Ireland.

Vatican's response is at:
Cloyne Report is at:
Irish bishops' 1996 "Framework Document" is at:

Sources include

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Evangelical Catholicism on display in Spain (Post #156)

Exerpt from the National Catholic Reporter:  Big Picture at World Youth Day: 'It’s the Evangelicals, stupid!'

by John L. Allen, Jr.

World Youth Day offers the clearest possible proof that the Evangelical movement coursing through Catholicism today is not simply a “top-down” phenomenon, but also a strong “bottom-up” force.

Defining Evangelical Catholicism

“Evangelical Catholicism” is a term being used to capture the Catholic version of a 21st century politics of identity, reflecting the long-term historical transition in the West from Christianity as a culture-shaping majority to Christianity as a subculture, albeit a large and influential one. I define Evangelical Catholicism in terms of three pillars:

• A strong defense of traditional Catholic identity, meaning attachment to classic markers of Catholic thought (doctrinal orthodoxy) and Catholic practice (liturgical tradition, devotional life, and authority).
• Robust public proclamation of Catholic teaching, with the accent on Catholicism’s mission ad extra, transforming the culture in light of the Gospel, rather than ad intra, on internal church reform.
• Faith seen as a matter of personal choice rather than cultural inheritance, which among other things implies that in a highly secular culture, Catholic identity can never be taken for granted. It always has to be proven, defended, and made manifest.

I consciously use the term “Evangelical” to capture all this rather than “conservative,” even though I recognize that many people experience what I’ve just sketched as a conservative impulse.

Fundamentally, however, it’s about something else: the hunger for identity in a fragmented world.

Historically speaking, Evangelical Catholicism isn’t really “conservative,” because there’s precious little cultural Catholicism these days left to conserve. For the same reason, it’s not traditionalist, even though it places a premium upon tradition. If liberals want to dialogue with post-modernity, Evangelicals want to convert it – but neither seeks a return to a status quo ante. Many Evangelical Catholics actually welcome secularization, because it forces religion to be a conscious choice rather than a passive inheritance. As the late Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger of Paris, the dictionary definition of an Evangelical Catholic, once put it, “We’re really at the dawn of Christianity.”

Paradoxically, this eagerness to pitch orthodox Catholicism as the most satisfying entrée on the post-modern spiritual smorgasbord, using the tools and tactics of a media-saturated global village, makes Evangelical Catholicism both traditional and contemporary all at once.

Evangelical from the Bottom Up

“Evangelical Catholicism” has been the dominant force at the policy-setting level of the Catholic church since the election of Pope John Paul II in 1978. If you want to understand Catholic officialdom today -- why decisions are being made the way they are in the Vatican, or in the U.S. bishops’ conference, or in an ever-increasing number of dioceses -- this is easily the most important trend to wrap your mind around.

You’ll get Evangelical Catholicism badly wrong, however, if you think of it exclusively as a top-down movement. There’s also a strong bottom-up component, which is most palpable among a certain segment of the younger Catholic population.

We’re not talking about the broad mass of twenty- and thirty-something Catholics, who are all over the map in terms of beliefs and values. Instead, we’re talking about that inner core of actively practicing young Catholics who are most likely to discern a vocation to the priesthood or religious life, most likely to enroll in graduate programs of theology, and most likely to pursue a career in the church as a lay person -- youth ministers, parish life coordinators, liturgical ministers, diocesan officials, and so on. In that sub-segment of today’s younger Catholic population, there’s an Evangelical energy so thick you can cut it with a knife.

Needless to say, the groups I’ve just described constitute the church’s future leadership.

Once upon a time, the idea that the younger generation of intensely committed Catholics was more “conservative” belonged to the realm of anecdotal impressions. By now, it’s an iron-clad empirical certainty.

Case in point: A 2009 study carried out by Georgetown’s Center of Applied Research in the Apostolate, and sponsored by the National Religious Vocations Conference, found a marked contrast between new members of religious orders in the United States today (the “millennial generation”) and the old guard. In general, younger religious, both men and women, are more likely to prize fidelity to the church and to pick a religious order on the basis of its reputation for fidelity; they’re more interested in wearing the habit, and in traditional modes of spiritual and liturgical expression; and they’re much more positively inclined toward authority.

To gauge which way the winds are blowing, consider women’s orders. The study found that among those which belong to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, considered the more “liberal” umbrella group, just one percent have at least ten new members; among those which belong to the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, seen as the more “conservative” group, a robust 28 percent have at least ten new members.

For the most part, it’s a mistake to diagnose this trend in ideological terms, as if it’s about the politics of left vs. right. For today’s younger Catholics, it’s more a matter of generational experience. They didn’t grow up in a stuffy, all-controlling church, so they’re not rebelling against it. Instead, they’re rebelling against a rootless secular world, making them eager to embrace clear markers of identity and sources of meaning.

Among youth, Evangelical Catholicism usually becomes ideological only if the older generation paints them into a corner, demanding that they choose sides in the church’s internal battles. That tendency, alas, seems equally pronounced on the left and the right.

Evangelical Catholicism and World Youth Day

For sure, not all the youth gathered in Madrid this week are Evangelicals. I’ve covered five World Youth Days, and it’s my observation that you can generally identify three groups: A gung-ho inner core; a more lukewarm cohort, who don’t think about religion all that much, but who still go to Mass and see the faith as a positive thing; and those who are just along for the ride, perhaps because their parents would pay for WYD but not spring break in Cabo. (These are usually the kids outside playing hacky-sack and eating ice cream during the catechetical sessions.)

Pastorally, I’ve always thought the aim was to nudge a few young people from that second group into the first, and from the third group into the second.

That said, the Evangelicals clearly set the tone. World Youth Day is perhaps the lone international venue where being faithfully, energetically Catholic amounts to the “hip” choice of lifestyle. To be clear, this passion isn’t artificially manufactured by party ideologues and foisted on impressionable youth, like the Nuremberg rallies or Mao’s Red Guard brigades; it’s something these young believers already feel, and WYD simply provides an outlet.

In that sense, World Youth Day is the premier reminder of a fundamental truth about Catholicism in the early 21st century. Given the double whammy of Evangelical Catholicism as both the idée fixe of the church’s leadership class, and a driving force among the inner core of younger believers, it’s destined to shape the culture of the church (especially in the global north, i.e., Europe and the United States) for the foreseeable future. One can debate its merits, but not its staying power.

In the real world, the contest for the Catholic future is therefore not between the Evangelicals and some other group -- say, liberal reformers. It’s inside the Evangelical movement, between an open and optimistic wing committed to “Affirmative Orthodoxy,” i.e., emphasizing what the church affirms rather than what it condemns, and a more defensive cohort committed to waging cultural war.

How that tension shakes out among today’s crop of church leaders will be interesting to follow, but perhaps even more decisive will be which instinct prevails among the hundreds of thousands of young Catholics in Spain this week, and the Evangelical generation they represent.

That’s the big picture in Madrid, whatever the individual brush strokes end up looking like.

Sources include

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Editorial casts new light on Washington's John Paul II Cultural Center (Post #155)

An NCR editorial

Excerpt from the National Catholic Reporter: $34 million loss was a theft from the poor

The John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C., a colossal and vapid manifestation of episcopal arrogance, will take on a new identity and purpose thanks to the recent purchase by the Knights of Columbus, who plan to turn it into a shrine to the late pope.

Exactly how the Knights will manage to fund the ongoing operations of a facility that has been a financial nightmare during its 10-year existence has yet to be announced. But the Knights have enormous resources from the insurance it sells to its 1.8 million members. We trust that the organization’s members have means of letting the leadership know if it doesn’t like what it’s doing with their money.
Unfortunately, such is not the case for Catholics in the Detroit archdiocese who, when the deal is finalized, will be left with a loss of $34 million.
They had no say in the matter when their former archbishop, Cardinal Adam Maida, decided to commit to loans and loan guarantees to a personal project for which he could not raise sufficient funds. He only managed to raise $67 million, $8 million short of the final $75 million construction costs. That amount was far short of the funds needed to endow the place to assure its ongoing operation.

So Maida simply dipped into diocesan coffers, and also borrowed from the Allied Irish Bank $23 million for which the archdiocese is responsible, to keep afloat a losing papal attraction more than 500 miles from his own archdiocese. John Paul personally selected Washington as the site when originally approached by Maida about the idea for a cultural center.

Some have tried to soften the understandable outrage over Maida’s use of church funds for his personal ambition by saying that the initial investment was made in better times, prior to the global economic crisis and when the archdiocese’s other investments were doing well.

The reality, however, is that while the Detroit metro area includes rather affluent suburbs, the city of Detroit has for a long time been one of the poorest U.S. cities by many measures. Since 2000, the archdiocese has closed more than three dozen schools, and more than 60 parishes have been either closed or merged.

Let’s just say $34 million would have gone a long way toward aiding the lives of the poor.

This, indeed, was a theft from the poor, a crime made more egregious by the fact that Maida felt free to use the people’s money to his own ends without consulting anyone. The episode represents the worst side of the hierarchical culture that remains above accountability. This was the prince serving the image of his king, no questions please. And when the boondoggle was finally uncovered and the natural questions posed, the only answer forthcoming was: “We just don’t talk about our investments.”

It is heartening to learn that Archbishop Allen Vigneron, upon taking charge in 2009, immediately went about a thorough review of finances and reform of structures that should lead to much wider consultation and transparency about financial matters in the future.
Perhaps Detroit’s loss will serve for a while as warning to other princes in the hierarchy that it is time to see service to the church as something other than sitting atop tiny kingdoms in which whatever the bishop says or wants to do becomes the law of the day. It would be far more encouraging were we to begin hearing voices speaking -- in light of the depressing run of sexual and financial scandals that Catholics have lived through as a result of bishops’ poor decisions -- of the need for deep reform of the clerical/hierarchical culture.

Sources include

Saturday, August 13, 2011

WYD indulgences: Rome fiddles while we burn (Post # 154)

Excerpt from The National Catholic Reporter: Bulletins from the Human Side

by Eugene Cullen Kennedy on Aug. 12, 2011

The sex abuse crisis among priests and other church personnel has now exploded like napalm across the entire Catholic world. New revelations tell an old story almost every day: that of the suffering of its victims, often in secret and compounded by ecclesiastical ineptitude, inattention, or moral insolvency.
How Irish that the scandal has turned into a brawl between the Irish prime minister and the Roman authorities he has criticized for their handling of the crisis. That reveals that Ireland's green is really base metal beneath the phony gilt of its claims to be the land of saints and scholars.

Things are even worse in Germany where the non-stop revelations of sex abuse have stunned the world and embarrassed Pope Benedict XVI who, while all this is going on, is busily promoting a return of the church to the pre-Vatican II period that served as the incubator for a tragedy that has brought immeasurable grief to innumerable people, including the priest sex abusers themselves whose lack of inner growth led them into lives of pseudo-celibacy that made them seem virtuous to their bishops when they were actually menaces to their people.

Now, while Catholics burn with the shame inflicted on them by this crisis, Rome seems so pre-occupied with re-entering the shadowed yesterday of clerical domination that it has no interest or enough spiritual energy to lead the church to a fresh dawn of self-examination and self-cleansing.
The latest example is found in promising plenary indulgences to those who fulfill certain conditions when they attend World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain, Aug. 18-21. BUT WAIT -- as they say on infomercials -- partial indulgences are also available to those who pray appropriately during this gathering even if they cannot attend in person.

As part of the Reform of the Reform, this unfortunately rings like a church bell with associations of selling such indulgences during medieval times when bartering for grace and time off from Purgatory with cash scandalized Catholics and helped bring on the Reformation.

It is worse now because it confounds the mystery of Time and Eternity in which Roman officials should have an interest even if they lack any understanding of them. These are also critical variables in the human experience of the sexual abuse crisis and confusing them can only increase the suffering of the victims of sex abuse.

Indulgences are airily explained as lessening the temporal, or in time, punishment for sin that actually takes place beyond the reach of time, or the application of its parameters, in eternity. Where there is time, as Joseph Campbell has expressed it, there is sorrow. That is a function of time not of eternity and indulgences make no sense, sold 500 years ago or promised now, as any kind of spiritual currency to bail us out of the timeless sphere of eternity.

Time, with its sorrows, has a meaning for sex abuse victims because there is no time in the human unconscious; it is always NOW. That means that a wound that was seemingly inflicted on a certain date breaks free of the calendar's grip and is always as fresh in the victim as the moment it was inflicted. There is not statute of limitations for victims and their suffering, no plenary or partial indulgences to relieve them of their wounds.

By turning back to the concept of giving "Get Out of Purgatory" cards to those who attend an event in time demonstrates how estranging to human experience this return to another age really is. The world's victims are burning with suffering that is not cured by the passage of time and Rome fiddles, neglecting to plumb the depths of the still continuing sex abuse crisis, while talking irrelevantly in the language of plenary and partial indulgences.

To promise to relieve the so called temporal punishment due to sin through indulgences while failing to understand the timeless nature of the suffering of the sexually abused makes one think that Nero may have had it right when he did the fiddling while letting Rome do the burning.

[Eugene Cullen Kennedy is emeritus professor of psychology at Loyola University, Chicago.]

Sources include

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Roman Catholic priest booted for supporting women's ordination (Post #153)

Excerpt from The Christian Post: Priest Dismissed From Order for Supporting Women's Ordination

A Catholic priest has been dismissed from his order for refusing to relent in his campaign to have women ordained as priests, and his case again sheds light on the divisive issue of women and church leadership.

The Rev. Roy Bourgeois, a member of the religious order Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, received a letter notifying him that he was being dismissed due to his “disobedience” and “defiant stance” in regard to official church policy on the ordination of women.

The letter, signed by the Rev. Edward Dougherty, Superior General for the Order, reads:

“Your numerous public statements and appearances in support of the women’s priests movement continues to create in the minds of many faithful the view that your position is acceptable to our Church.”

The warning, Bourgeois’s second, was dated July 27, 2011, and informed Bourgeois that he had 15 days to rectify the situation.

“They want two words: I recant,” Father Bourgeois told the New York Times. “And they can’t get that out of me. For me, the real scandal is the message we are sending to women: you’re not equal, you cannot be priests, you’re not worthy.”

Bourgeois, a priest for nearly 40 years, insists that the Roman Catholic Church’s argument for the exclusion of women from the priesthood “doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.”

In a written response dated August 8, the Catholic priest wonders, “Who are we to reject God's call of women to the priesthood?”
Citing Galatians 3:28, Bourgeois continues, “How is it possible for us to say that our call from God, as men, is authentic, but God's call of women is not?”

Bourgeois, who was automatically ex-communicated in 2008 for attending a women’s ordination, said to recant would make him a liar.

“This I cannot do, therefore I will not recant. I firmly believe that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is a grave injustice against women, against our Church, and against our God.”

In the letter, Bourgeois did not appeal to remain a part of the order, but that the Roman Catholic Church would allow women who feel called by God to be ordained as priests.

The issue of women leading in the church is not one exclusive to Roman Catholics, as it has also been debated in Protestant churches for years.
Although various Christian denominations allow and encourage women to be ordained in roles of leadership, some churches are adamantly opposed to women preaching from the pulpit, finding it offensive and against Scripture.

However, a 2009 survey by the Barna Group shows that women in mainline Protestant churches were making gains when it comes to attaining leadership roles.

The Barna Group survey reveals that between the early 1990s through 1999, only five percent of the senior pastors in Protestant churches were women. That figure doubled to 10 percent in 2009, according to the survey.

Most of these women, 58 percent, were affiliated with Baptist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian denominations.

Sources include:

Thursday, August 4, 2011

600 child porn photos among those found on Canadian Bishop's laptop Post #152)

Excerpt from The Canadian Press: 600 child porn photos among those found on Bishop Raymond Lahey’s laptop

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A disgraced Roman Catholic bishop betrayed little emotion Thursday as an Ottawa court was told his laptop computer contained hundreds of pornographic images of young boys — including photos of torture. Bishop Raymond Lahey was in the Ottawa courtroom for sentencing in a child-porn case that has rocked his former Nova Scotia Diocese of Antigonish. The 71-year-old cleric pleaded guilty in May to importing child pornography and voluntarily went to jail to begin serving time even before a formal sentencing. A second charge of simple possession remains against Bishop Lahey, but it is expected to be withdrawn as part of the plea deal when he is formally sentenced later this year.

Close to 600 photos, mostly of young teen boys, were found on Bishop Lahey's Toshiba laptop and a handheld device when he was stopped at the Ottawa International Airport in September 2009. An Ottawa police detective told the court Thursday that the images ranged from soft-core nude shots to far more gruesome photos. “Some of them were quite graphic,” Det. Andrew Thompson said. “There were images of nude boys, but there were also torture and stuff like that.”

As Det. Thompson answered questions from the witness stand about the contents of Bishop Lahey's laptop, the Bishop sat quietly, his right hand trembling slightly as he ran his index finger along his mouth, chin and the cleft between his nose and upper lip. He was dressed in a grey sport coat, khaki pants and a tan shirt with the top few buttons undone. He wore glasses and his grey hair was neatly combed and gelled.

Bishop Lahey's lawyers argued that the bishop may not have seen every image stored on his laptop's hard drive, since some of the pictures may have come from pop-up windows he never actually looked at. They also tried to make the case that the 588 images of child porn were just a small fraction of the 155,000 or so photos on his computer. Police found three child-porn websites in Mr. Lahey's web-browsing history, Det. Thompson said.

Bishop Lahey is scheduled to return to court in December. His lawyer, Michael Edelson, has asked the judge to reschedule that appearance for an earlier date.

Sources include

Sunday, July 31, 2011

August 1st - Feast of St. Alphonsus Liguori (Post #151)

Excerpt from Catholic News Agency: St. Alphonsus Liguori, founder of the Redemptorists, celebrated August 1

On August 1, the Catholic Church celebrates St. Alphonsus Liguori, the eighteenth-century bishop who is honored as a Doctor of the Church for his missionary zeal and his accomplishments as a moral theologian.

Alphonsus Liguori was born in Naples, Italy in 1696, the son of a naval officer and his Spanish-Italian wife. He was the first of his parents' seven children, and known in the family for his stubbornness. However, he was also extremely bright and became a virtuoso harpsichordist by the age of 13. Alphonsus loved music, especially opera, and would go on to compose numerous classical works.

As a boy, he did not attend school, but received private tutoring that allowed him to make incredibly rapid progress. By the age of 16, Alphonsus had earned his degree in law. He passed the bar examination and became a practicing lawyer before he had even turned 20. By the age of 26 he had gained a formidable reputation in the courts.

By that time, however, he had also begun to neglect prayer in favor of social functions and a more luxurious lifestyle. He later wrote that these “pleasures of the world” were truly “pleasures which are filled with the bitterness of gall and sharp thorns.”

The turning point of Alphonsus' life came in 1723, when he was part of a lawsuit between a nobleman of Naples and the Grand Duke of Tuscany involving a substantial amount of money. Alphonsus misunderstood a critical piece of documentary evidence, and suffered a humiliating defeat in the courtroom. He left the courthouse, never to return, so upset that he did not eat for three days.

On August 28, 1723, while visiting the sick at a local hospital, the young man had a life-changing experience of God. He saw a mysterious light, felt the building shake, and heard the voice of God asking him to “leave the world” and place himself totally in his service.

Alphonsus' father, already dismayed by his son's abandonment of the legal profession, opposed his plan to become a priest. But his stubborn son would not be dissuaded, and he eventually received ordination in 1726 at age 30.

In 1729, Alphonsus met an older priest, Father Thomas Falcoia, who envisioned the founding of a new religious congregation with the aim of imitating Christ's virtues more perfectly. In 1731, a religious sister had a vision in which Christ himself indicated that he had chosen Alphonsus to lead the new congregation.

In 1732, the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer – better known as the Redemptorists – had its formal beginning. During the early years Alphonsus struggled to keep the order from fragmenting, while continuing to travel, write, preach, and above all, to pray. In 1749 the Redemptorists' statutes and rule of life received the approval of Pope Benedict XIV.

Despite this approval, the Redemptorists met with hostility from the Prime Minister of Naples, Bernardo Tanucci, who sought to eliminate the privileges of the Church and secularize the kingdom. Tanucci refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the congregation, which was consequently in danger of state suppression for decades.

Against his own will, Alphonsus was forced to become the bishop of Naples' small Diocese of St. Agatha in 1762. He spent 13 years serving the poor and effectively reforming Church institutions that had fallen into serious disorder, though he felt disappointed with his own work and asked a series of Popes to accept his resignation.

Alphonsus also struggled with poor health, and received the Annointing of the Sick eight times prior to his last reception at death. He was partially paralyzed for the last two decades of his life. In 1775, Pope Pius VI finally allowed him to resign from his diocese. Alphonsus expected his death to come soon, and prepared accordingly.

He would, however, survive for more than a decade after his resignation. His last years were similarly filled with trials, including a split in the Redemptorist congregation that would not find its full remedy until after his death. Three years before he died, despite his strong faith and devotion, Alphonsus experienced a spiritual crisis involving extreme anxiety and temptations to despair.

On August 1, 1787, St. Alphonsus Liguori died at mid-day, his death coinciding with the bells that were calling the faithful to pray the Angelus. The saint gave the Church more than 100 books – including “The Glories of Mary,” “Preparation for Death,” and “The Passion and the Death of Jesus Christ” – and led a religious congregation that survives into the present day.

The Catholic Church canonized St. Alphonsus in 1839, and declared him to be a Doctor of the Church in 1871.

Sources include