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Sep 11 16 12:06 AM
Standing slightly taller than his living height of four feet 11 inches, the statue of Dom Hélder Câmara stands between the entrance to the Igreja das Fronteiras (Borders Church) and the mile-high gate to the adjoining provincial house for a religious order.Câmara was Archbishop of Recife and Olinda during Brazil's 1964-1985 military dictatorship. A nearby plaque notes his years of service as archbishop, and his role in advocating for human rights during that repressive time.I pay a visit to the statue in late August. Câmara was an important figure in the liberation theology movement which infused my religious upbringing, and I want to remember the life and message of a powerful clergyman who refused all the trappings of office; an activist who made no distinction between the practices of challenging authority, structural critique, personal belief, and inner life.And I want to honour my parents and others in the Australian community of contrarian Catholics who brought me up with the teachings of such people and encouraged me to see and speak the truth when it was being repressed in the interests of conservatism and capital.While I take photographs of Câmara's likeness, well-dressed church personnel exit and enter the provincial house gate on my right, some in nice cars for which the gate opens by remote control. On my left, a few of the city's homeless people are sitting in the shade on the steps of the church, sharing a bottle of water to drink and wash their feet.It's so hot that my camera starts to shut down, so I sit on a step and drink some water of my own while I wait for it to cool down. Looking up, I notice that the gate has a surveillance camera, which appears to be trained on Câmara's statue.There are few who have confronted the Roman Catholic Church – on its own terms, and from within – like Dom Hélder Câmara, so it's not surprising that he still appears to be spooking them in statue form, arms outstretched between poor people seeking the church's sanctuary and the traditional training ground of the institution's elite.Many Brazilians, as do many Catholics around the world, remember the 'Red Bishop' as much more than a defender of human rights. For these people, Câmara is included reverently in the litany of rogues who drew the ire of church and state authorities by demanding both do a better job of embodying Jesus Christ's message of social justice, and providing a lived example of how to do that.Câmara refused to live in the archbishop's palace in Recife, instead occupying the house behind Borders Church. He led a council of Brazilian bishops that advocated the expropriation and transfer of land to the poor. He denounced racism and sexism and stood publicly with the dictatorship's many political prisoners while constantly at risk of becoming one himself. He was a leading participant in the 1968 Latin American bishops conference in Medellín, Colombia, when Latin American churches committed to 'the preferential option for the poor', having the Church stand with those most oppressed by capitalism before all others.He was also an influential participant in the Second Vatican Council in Rome, during which he was a party to the Pact of the Catacombs, made in the catacombs of Domitillio between around 40 bishops who professed their dedication to ensuring that Catholic Church 2.0 embraced simplicity, humility and openness in its dealings with all people, and sought structural justice for the economically oppressed without fear or favour.Many observers have noted the consistency of Pope Francis' vision with the commitments made in the Pact of the Catacombs. Indeed, the Vatican announced last year that Dom Hélder Câmara was being considered for canonisation – a striking move considering that one of Câmara's best-loved quotes is 'When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.'For many years, the kitchen in our family home bore a poster with this quote, and an image of the bishop, commemorating his visit to Australia in 1985. For the Australian Catholics who brought me up, figures like Câmara oriented and emboldened their commitment to Jesus' message of radical equality. As a kid I hung around their reading groups, marched with them in the streets, and watched them risk (and sometimes lose) their employment, friends, and family on account of their advocacy for women, the poor, gay and lesbian people, Aboriginal people, and others traditionally excluded from the deep structures of power in both the Church and the society around us.It was a powerful idea to grow up with: that this imposing and defining institution I had been born and baptised into – the product of the culture, faith, and identity of my grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents, which structured so much obedience – contained a rebellious truth that often demanded we go against the institution's own grain. Câmara occupied the moral authority of a Catholic archbishop, but the greater authority flowed from his embodied resistance to the institutional, systemic oppression of people under elitism, capitalism and dictatorship.The example of Dom Hélder Câmara is reflected in many of Australia's current moral troublemakers, such as Love Makes A Way, Father Rod Bower, Mums for Refugees, and the Knitting Nannas Against Gas. We need people like this if we are to achieve our hopes for justice at the national scale of catastrophes such as the impoverishment, incarceration and torture of Aboriginal people, the destruction of the environment, and the arbitrary detention and abuse of refugees and asylum seekers.
Sep 11 16 4:55 AM
Soccer legends to play the Pope Francis' “Match for Peace”Several soccer stars, past and present, have confirmed that they will play in the "Match for Peace”, announced by Pope Francis in February.Soccer legends such as Ronaldinho, Roberto Carlos and Verón will take the field once again on October 12. Other players who are still active, like Iker Casillas and Carvajal, have yet to confirm their attendance but they depend on their teams' calendars, but all of them have given their support to this initiative.The goal is simple. No matter their country, their religion or their team, all of them will set differences aside to call for peace and send a message to the millions of young people who see them as their idols. Players such as Lucas Biglia, Iturbe or Diego Perotti, who play for the soccer teams in Rome, supported the organizers in the presentation of the event in the Eternal City on Friday. JOSE MARIA DEL CORRALPresident, Scholas Occurrentes"I discovered that I need them as a teacher. Children look up to them and follow their example. Sometimes they don't listen to us, but they copy them. What they do is a great example for children and it is also a form of education.DIEGO PEROTTIAS Roma"Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, so we must use this opportunity to help. The game on October 12 will be much more important for us than our regular league games.”This is the second "Match for Peace” sponsored by the pope. The first was in 2014, and soccer icons like Maradona, Roberto Baggio, or Zamorano played on that occasion.It is not the first time that this second "Match for Peace” has had to be postponed because of the players' busy schedules. However, thanks to the organizers' persistence the match will be finally played. Part of the money raised will be go to those closest to the pope: the victims of the earthquake in Central Italy that killed almost 300 people.
"I discovered that I need them as a teacher. Children look up to them and follow their example. Sometimes they don't listen to us, but they copy them. What they do is a great example for children and it is also a form of education.
"Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, so we must use this opportunity to help. The game on October 12 will be much more important for us than our regular league games.”
Sep 11 16 5:04 AM
Ballarat vows to use controversial $2.1M legacy to help sex abuse victimsDisgraced former Bishop of Ballarat Ronald Mulkearns causes stir by leaving his entire state to the dioceseBallarat's Bishop Paul Bird has moved quickly to assure survivors of abuse and the rest of the community that he intends to set aside any proceeds received from the estate of his disgraced predecessor, Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, to help victims of abuse.Bishop Bird made the commitment on 6 September, the day Melbourne's biggest-selling daily newspaper, the Herald Sun, published a front-page story headed "Bishop's almighty insult", reporting that Bishop Mulkearns, who died in April, had left nearly all his estate - including a property on Victoria's Great Ocean Road worth $2.1 million (£1.2 million) and about $40,000 in cash - to the diocese he led from 1971-97. It was during this time, the paper reported, that "hundreds of children were molested by a nest of paedophile clerics".“Whatever the diocese of Ballarat receives from Bishop Mulkearns’ estate I intend to set aside for assistance to victims of abuse," Bishop Bird said in a brief statement. "This will continue the support that the diocese has given to abuse victims over many years.”Survivors and their supporters, as well as the head of the Church council liaising with Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, welcomed Bishop Bird's commitment. Clergy abuse survivor Andrew Collins told Ballarat's Courier newspaper that the funds inherited by the Church should be invested to ensure a continuous fund was available to help survivors. “The Diocese of Ballarat has been very supportive – reimbursing some medical and counselling costs to survivors,” Mr Collins said.“I’m pleased to see that Bishop Bird isn’t just talking. He is actually taking some action.”Another survivor, Peter Blenkiron, said he hoped it would be the start of a $20 million fund and said the abuse had affected the whole community. "This can start helping people who are really in crisis mode,” Blenkiron said.“This might encourage other bishops to change their wills to help people in need.”The CEO of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, Mr Francis Sullivan, wrote in his regular blog on 7 September: "This is a welcome announcement and will, hopefully, mean that abuse survivors in Ballarat will have greater access to pastoral and other services offered by the Diocese and also receive continuing compensation."But a national support group for abuse victims, Care Leavers Australia Network (CLAN), called for the proceeds from Bishop Mulkearns' estate to be shared nationally, as many of the victims in Ballarat no longer lived in or near the Victorian Goldfields city, west of Melbourne.CLAN chief executive Leonie Sheedy told Australian Associated Press that the proceeds should go into a fund that distributed money independently of the Catholic Church.Sheedy welcomed Bishop Bird's announcement but said it was rare. Many paedophile priests had died without their assets going to help victims."How many other paedophiles have died and their assets have gone to the parish church?" she said."I think this is an issue that needs more exposure."The Herald Sun report said that in his 2012 will, Mulkearns had left the coastal property at Fairhaven, which is in his old diocese, and the money to his successor "for the benefit of the Catholic diocese of Ballarat at his absolute discretion". The paper said the late bishop directed that the property, believed to have been left to him by his father, be sold and that his nephews have first option to buy it. Pictures, paintings and furniture were to go to the Church, while books and anything not wanted by the diocese were to be left to his only brother Geoffrey.It said his ecclesiastical vestments had been left to his former secretary Fr Adrian McInerney, now parish priest of St Alipius' in Ballarat East -- where some of Ballarat's worst paedophile clerics once were based.Bishop Mulkearns died on 4 April, aged 85, a few weeks after giving evidence to a public hearing the Royal Commission by video link from his nursing home in Ballarat, Nazareth House.During his time as leader of the Ballarat diocese, which covers much of western Victoria, many paedophile priests were moved between parishes while they were abusing children.“I’m terribly sorry that I didn’t do things differently in that time but I didn’t really know what to do or how to do it,” he told the hearing in February.Unlike his predecessors, he was not buried in the crypt of St Patrick's Cathedral but at Ballarat General Cemetery. His funeral was held in the chapel at Nazareth House and plans for a memorial Mass in the Cathedral in May were abandoned after a threatened protest by survivors and their supporters.
Sep 12 16 3:29 AM
Vatican City is a highly secretive world in miniature – containing in less than half a square kilometre everything a state needs. In the second part of the Guardian's exclusive look behind the scenes, we meet the workers of the Vatican. After two months of phone calls and letter writing Christian Sinibaldi was granted permission to photograph many of the characters whose roles allow this unique city to function. "It is about the people behind the pope – the working class of the Vatican," he saysThere are about 80 maintenance workers, known as sampietrini: ironmongers, marble experts, carpenters, cleaners, people to detach chewing gum from the floor, people to change lightbulbs … It takes four people to change a lightbulb in St Peter’s because the chandeliers have to be lowered the equivalent of 33 floors. There are around 25 people on cleaning duty every day. The job is often handed down through generationsThe sediari pontifico were the pope's chair bearers. Nowadays they are a hospitality team who take care of the rooms and access around the Apostolic PalaceChristian SinibaldiProfessor Pellegrini is responsible for arranging the pope’s audiences, bringing people who have appointments to the pope’s rooms, and accompanying the pope to general audiences in St Peter’s Square"What do you see when you look in the pope’s eyes? It’s difficult to find the adjective. Profundity, maybe. John-Paul II – when he looked at me it gave me a bit of a shock. I saw people, even heads of state, cry. Pope Benedict – candour, mildness, sweetness. In Pope Francis, I see profundity. A human exchange. A glance from man to man”Professor PellegriniThere are eight keepers of the keys in the Vatican museums alone. Along with his three shift-mates, Alessio Censoni has to open around 300 doors. (He doesn’t open windows - there is a separate technician for that. And he doesn’t open the door to the Sistine Chapel - there are so-called sistinari for that.) The largest key on his ring (visible in the picture) is No 401 - the key to the Sala Rotonda. It is his favourite doorThe nuns in the picture are ironing in the apostolic sacristy. They iron from 8am till midday, then from 2.30pm to 7.30pm. While they iron, they pray.Christian Sinibaldi"Sometimes, even Sundays, we don’t manage to finish. When there’s need, there is no timetable. It’s all difficult. The napkins are easier but you still need to be careful with those. When there’s time they mend things … but there’s never time”Sister RitaThe Vatican has its own petrol station. Pope Francis has spurned the Mercedes that his predecessor Benedict used - it now sits at the back of the pope's car port under a sheet of bubble wrap. The new pope prefers a Ford Focus – and uses the most open Popemobile on offer“When the pope wants to get down from the Popemobile, usually it’s a sudden thing. He sees a person who interests him, and he gives me a tap on the shoulder … Once we took a smaller car, a Fiat Panda, because we knew the Popemobile wouldn’t fit under a bridge. The people on the street who thought they were waving to the Pope were actually waving to the police in the big car in front”Renzo Cestiè, senior driverThe studio del Mosaico was established in the 16th century for the redecoration of the new St Peter's.
"What do you see when you look in the pope’s eyes? It’s difficult to find the adjective. Profundity, maybe. John-Paul II – when he looked at me it gave me a bit of a shock. I saw people, even heads of state, cry. Pope Benedict – candour, mildness, sweetness. In Pope Francis, I see profundity. A human exchange. A glance from man to man”
"Sometimes, even Sundays, we don’t manage to finish. When there’s need, there is no timetable. It’s all difficult. The napkins are easier but you still need to be careful with those. When there’s time they mend things … but there’s never time”Sister Rita
“When the pope wants to get down from the Popemobile, usually it’s a sudden thing. He sees a person who interests him, and he gives me a tap on the shoulder … Once we took a smaller car, a Fiat Panda, because we knew the Popemobile wouldn’t fit under a bridge. The people on the street who thought they were waving to the Pope were actually waving to the police in the big car in front”Renzo Cestiè, senior driver
Sep 12 16 3:56 AM
Pope Francis' sex abuse commission has scored a victory within the Vatican: Members have been invited to address Vatican congregations and a training course for new bishops, suggesting that the Holy See now considers child protection programs to be an important responsibility for church leaders.Commission members praised the development as a breakthrough given that bishops have long been accused of covering up for abusers by moving pedophile priests from parish to parish rather than reporting them to police. For decades, the Vatican too turned a blind eye and failed to take action against problem priests or their bishop enablers.Commission members have already addressed the Vatican congregations for priests and religious orders and the Vatican's diplomatic school. This week, members including Irish abuse survivor Marie Collins will address the new bishops' course, which the Vatican hosts for all bishops named in the previous year to teach them how to run their dioceses.The presentations come after the Vatican was embarrassed last year when, during the annual "baby bishops" course, a French priest delivering an official presentation told bishops they don't need to report priests suspected of raping or molesting children to civil authorities.He said it was up to the victims or their parents to do so.The commission head, Cardinal Sean O'Malley, swiftly corrected him saying bishops have an "ethical and moral" obligation to report.Commission member, Baroness Sheila Hollins, praised the developments as evidence that the Vatican itself now considers educating even its own leaders about abuse and protecting children to be a top priority. In addition, she said, it shows the commission is now viewed as a resource.Previously, the commission's work has been met with some skepticism within the Vatican, where some prelates still consider the tough approach against abuse adopted by Francis and his predecessor, Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, to be excessive."I don't believe it is because they were resistant," Hollins said of the Vatican's initial reaction. "I think it's because they didn't know."
Sep 12 16 5:12 AM
Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors holds plenary(Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) met in Plenary Assembly last week, September 8-11 focusing their attention on the three key areas of education, a Day of Prayer and the Holy Father's Motu Proprio, “As a Loving Mother”, on the accountability of Church leadership. The Plenary also recognised the importance of digital technology and have announced the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors will be going live with its own website.The Working Group meetings focused on the updates for current projects, and developing draft proposals for Pope Francis. ********** Please find below the full press statement from the Commission:The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors [PCPM] works throughout the year and came together in Rome from September 5 through 11 for a week of Working Group meetings, [Guidelines, Healing and Care, Education, Formation, Theology and Spirituality, Canonical and Civil Norms] and for its Plenary Assembly. The Working Group meetings focused on the updates for current projects, and developing draft proposals for the Holy Father, Pope Francis. For example, the Commission has developed a template for guidelines in the safeguarding and protection of children, adolescents and vulnerable adults, which we will shortly present to the Holy Father for his consideration. Education is keyHighlights of this Plenary Assembly were the members’ reports on the progress of on-going education programs, both at a local level and in the Vatican.These initiatives are part of the Commission’s effort to be of service to the Holy Father by placing their expertise at the disposition of local churches and church leaders. Commission members have also been invited to give talks and take part in various conferences and workshops on all five continents.These include: talks and workshops held in Australia, in the Archdiocese of Melbourne; in South Africa (SACBC), an orientation program for New Missionaries; in the Philippines [CBCP], a workshop for the Archdiocese of Manila; in Colombia, a talk with clergy of the Archdiocese of Bogotá, a workshop with religious communities, workshops with the Major Seminary and a workshop with evangelization leaders; USA, a talk with “United States National Safe Environment and Victims Assistance Coordinators”; a workshop in Fiji; in New Zealand a series of talks and workshops with the bishops and religious leaders; in Ghana a meeting with the secretary generals of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar from the Association of [SECAM]; a meeting in Tanzania with child protection practitioners from the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa [AMECEA] in Argentina, a discussion with seminarians and clergy of the Diocese of Moron, Buenos Aires; In Santo Domingo, a meeting with fifty formators from thirteen different nations belonging to the Council of Latin American Bishops Conferences [CELAM]; a meeting with Bishops and canonists of Slovakia and Czech Republic; in Italy, a seminar for Abbots of the Benedictine Confederation and participation in the Anglophone Safeguarding Conference.In the context of the Vatican, Commission members were invited to address meetings of the Pontifical Ecclesiastic Academy and the Congregation for Consecrated Life. In the coming week members have also been invited to address the training for new bishops held by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, a meeting of the Congregation for the Clergy and the training for new Bishops held by the Congregation for bishops. (Good! It's high time the new bishops were "exposed" to the cold, hard reality of the sex abuse scandal, the enormous suffering it has caused, and the untold damage inflicted on the Church and its most innocent members by bishops who shielded these monsters in clerical collars.) Other education programs planned in the coming months include workshops in Mexico, Ecuador and with the Colombian Bishops Conference. The Commission has also been asked to address the Conference of Major Superiors of Men in the US and to hold a workshop for the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences [FABC].Day of PrayerA survivor of clerical child sexual abuse made the proposal of a Day of Prayer to the Commission. The Commission believes that prayer is one part of the healing process for survivors and the community of believers. Public prayer is also an important way of consciousness raising in the Church.The Holy Father has requested that National Bishops Conferences choose an appropriate day on which to pray for the survivors and victims of sexual abuse as part of a Universal Day of Prayer initiative. The Commission was happy to learn that many Bishops Conferences have already taken steps to enact the proposal.We were informed that in Australia, the Church throughout the country marked the Day of Prayer on Sunday September 11, in conjunction with their National Day for Child Protection.The Bishops of the Philippines have already begun to discuss how best to implement the Day of Prayer and will soon announce a date.The Southern African Bishops Conferences [SACBC] have embraced the proposal dedicating three days to the initiative from Friday December 2 to Sunday December 4., the second Sunday of Advent. Friday will be observed as a day of fasting, there will be a penitential vigil on Saturday and on Sunday a statement prepared by the SACBC, will be read out in all parishes.The PCPM has prepared resources and materials for the Universal Day of Prayer and we are happy to make them available on request.Motu Proprio, “As a Loving Mother”The Holy Father’s motu proprio “As a Loving Mother” was discussed. Accountability in dealing with the scandal of child sexual abuse by clergy has been a major concern for the Commission from the outset. In February 2015, the Commission made a proposal to the Holy Father regarding bishop accountability. In “As a Loving Mother”, Pope Francis goes beyond the accountability of bishops broadening it to other Church leaders. The Commission has welcomed this. (Now, let's see how that motu proprio is implemented!)Coming soon: the PCPM WebsiteOur presence in the digital world is seen as key to furthering the Commission’s efforts to collaborate with local Churches and disseminate the importance of the protection and safeguarding of minors and vulnerable adults. In the coming months the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors will be going live with its own website. It is also our hope that it will be a useful resource for the Church and all people of good will in our common goal, which is to make our Church and our society a safe home for all.The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was created by Pope Francis in March of 2014. The Chirograph of His Holiness Pope Francis states specifically, “The Commission’s specific task is to propose to me the most opportune initiatives for protecting minors and vulnerable adults, in order that we may do everything possible to ensure that crimes such as those which have occurred are no longer repeated in the Church. The Commission is to promote local responsibility in the particular Churches, uniting their efforts to those of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the protection of all children and vulnerable adults.”
The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors [PCPM] works throughout the year and came together in Rome from September 5 through 11 for a week of Working Group meetings, [Guidelines, Healing and Care, Education, Formation, Theology and Spirituality, Canonical and Civil Norms] and for its Plenary Assembly. The Working Group meetings focused on the updates for current projects, and developing draft proposals for the Holy Father, Pope Francis. For example, the Commission has developed a template for guidelines in the safeguarding and protection of children, adolescents and vulnerable adults, which we will shortly present to the Holy Father for his consideration. Education is keyHighlights of this Plenary Assembly were the members’ reports on the progress of on-going education programs, both at a local level and in the Vatican.These initiatives are part of the Commission’s effort to be of service to the Holy Father by placing their expertise at the disposition of local churches and church leaders. Commission members have also been invited to give talks and take part in various conferences and workshops on all five continents.These include: talks and workshops held in Australia, in the Archdiocese of Melbourne; in South Africa (SACBC), an orientation program for New Missionaries; in the Philippines [CBCP], a workshop for the Archdiocese of Manila; in Colombia, a talk with clergy of the Archdiocese of Bogotá, a workshop with religious communities, workshops with the Major Seminary and a workshop with evangelization leaders; USA, a talk with “United States National Safe Environment and Victims Assistance Coordinators”; a workshop in Fiji; in New Zealand a series of talks and workshops with the bishops and religious leaders; in Ghana a meeting with the secretary generals of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar from the Association of [SECAM]; a meeting in Tanzania with child protection practitioners from the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa [AMECEA] in Argentina, a discussion with seminarians and clergy of the Diocese of Moron, Buenos Aires; In Santo Domingo, a meeting with fifty formators from thirteen different nations belonging to the Council of Latin American Bishops Conferences [CELAM]; a meeting with Bishops and canonists of Slovakia and Czech Republic; in Italy, a seminar for Abbots of the Benedictine Confederation and participation in the Anglophone Safeguarding Conference.In the context of the Vatican, Commission members were invited to address meetings of the Pontifical Ecclesiastic Academy and the Congregation for Consecrated Life. In the coming week members have also been invited to address the training for new bishops held by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, a meeting of the Congregation for the Clergy and the training for new Bishops held by the Congregation for bishops. (Good! It's high time the new bishops were "exposed" to the cold, hard reality of the sex abuse scandal, the enormous suffering it has caused, and the untold damage inflicted on the Church and its most innocent members by bishops who shielded these monsters in clerical collars.) Other education programs planned in the coming months include workshops in Mexico, Ecuador and with the Colombian Bishops Conference. The Commission has also been asked to address the Conference of Major Superiors of Men in the US and to hold a workshop for the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences [FABC].Day of PrayerA survivor of clerical child sexual abuse made the proposal of a Day of Prayer to the Commission. The Commission believes that prayer is one part of the healing process for survivors and the community of believers. Public prayer is also an important way of consciousness raising in the Church.The Holy Father has requested that National Bishops Conferences choose an appropriate day on which to pray for the survivors and victims of sexual abuse as part of a Universal Day of Prayer initiative. The Commission was happy to learn that many Bishops Conferences have already taken steps to enact the proposal.We were informed that in Australia, the Church throughout the country marked the Day of Prayer on Sunday September 11, in conjunction with their National Day for Child Protection.The Bishops of the Philippines have already begun to discuss how best to implement the Day of Prayer and will soon announce a date.The Southern African Bishops Conferences [SACBC] have embraced the proposal dedicating three days to the initiative from Friday December 2 to Sunday December 4., the second Sunday of Advent. Friday will be observed as a day of fasting, there will be a penitential vigil on Saturday and on Sunday a statement prepared by the SACBC, will be read out in all parishes.The PCPM has prepared resources and materials for the Universal Day of Prayer and we are happy to make them available on request.Motu Proprio, “As a Loving Mother”The Holy Father’s motu proprio “As a Loving Mother” was discussed. Accountability in dealing with the scandal of child sexual abuse by clergy has been a major concern for the Commission from the outset. In February 2015, the Commission made a proposal to the Holy Father regarding bishop accountability. In “As a Loving Mother”, Pope Francis goes beyond the accountability of bishops broadening it to other Church leaders. The Commission has welcomed this. (Now, let's see how that motu proprio is implemented!)Coming soon: the PCPM WebsiteOur presence in the digital world is seen as key to furthering the Commission’s efforts to collaborate with local Churches and disseminate the importance of the protection and safeguarding of minors and vulnerable adults. In the coming months the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors will be going live with its own website. It is also our hope that it will be a useful resource for the Church and all people of good will in our common goal, which is to make our Church and our society a safe home for all.The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was created by Pope Francis in March of 2014. The Chirograph of His Holiness Pope Francis states specifically, “The Commission’s specific task is to propose to me the most opportune initiatives for protecting minors and vulnerable adults, in order that we may do everything possible to ensure that crimes such as those which have occurred are no longer repeated in the Church. The Commission is to promote local responsibility in the particular Churches, uniting their efforts to those of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the protection of all children and vulnerable adults.”
Sep 12 16 5:28 AM
Sep 12 16 11:02 AM
The reform of the Roman Curia accelerated over the summer with the creation of two new powerful bodies dealing with issues that affect most of humanity, signaling Pope Francis’ determination to make the Vatican less clerical and enclosed.The new so-called “dicasteries” — for Laity, Family and Life, and for Promoting Human Development — take over the work of six pontifical councils, consolidating what have been too often overlapping functions.As well as streamlining and simplifying these areas — the pope can now relate to two department heads, rather than six — the changes give the two new bodies a higher status than councils, effectively putting them on a par with congregations.Both juridically and in terms of the optics, therefore, Pope Francis has elevated the status within the Vatican of ‘lay’ concerns such as family and life while giving new prominence to his vision of a battlefield-hospital church concerned for human welfare, and especially the poor.Laity, family, lifeThe first body, the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, takes over the work formerly done by the two pontifical councils for the Laity and the Family, and adds to its remit supervision of the Pontifical Academy for Life.In an unprecedented move, Pope Francis has said that temporarily at least he will have direct control of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Human Development’s outreach to migrants, suggesting that he regards the issue as being of such significance to the Church’s witness that it cannot be delegated.
Its statute was published last June, but its first prefect, Irish-born Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell, was named only at the end of August, just before the dicastery opened its doors for business on Sept. 1. In the statute, called Sedula Mater (“Like a Caring Mother), Pope Francis said he wants to offer particular help and support to lay people, families and life “because they are an active witness of the Gospel in our time and an expression of the kindness of the Redeemer.”The dicastery is essentially in charge of promoting the reinvigoration of marriage and family laid out in Francis’s exhortation Amoris Laetitia, which Bishop Farrell has warmly praised. The Spanish-speaking former Legionary — who is now, incidentally, the highest-ranking American in the Holy See — will initially live in Rome with his brother Brian, who is secretary for the pontifical council promoting Christian unity.On the same day as that announcement, Francis tapped the outgoing head of the soon-to-be-defunct Pontifical Council for the Family, 71-year-old Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, to head two Rome bodies concerned with pro-life issues: the Pontifical Academy for Life — which falls under Bishop Farrell’s dicastery — and the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family.Paglia, who was promoter of Oscar Romero’s sainthood cause, is one of the founders of the Community of Sant’Egidio in Rome and a natural Francis ally. By putting him in charge of the Vatican’s pro-life engagement, Francis is signaling his determination not to allow the life cause to be captured by conservative culture warriors (among the ordinary members of the Academy for Life are two signatories of a petition protesting Amoris Laetitia).The second body, the Dicastery for Promoting Human Development, had been announced earlier in the summer, but not until Aug. 31 were either its name or its head known.When it opens on Jan. 1, 2017, the human development dicastery will take over the work currently done by four pontifical councils, which will then close: Justice & Peace, Migrants & Itinerant Peoples, Health Workers (which oversees the work of around 6,000 Catholic hospitals and 18,000 clinics across the world), and the Vatican’s charitable arm, Cor Unum.The dicastery will be headed by another Francis ally, Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, who currently is the president of the council for Justice and Peace.The dicastery’s name is strongly redolent of Blessed Pope Paul VI’s 1967 encyclical, Popolorum Progressio, which speaks of “integral human development” as not merely economic and material growth but “must foster the development of each man and of the whole man.”According to the apostolic letter creating it, Humanam Progressionem, the dicastery “will be competent particularly in issues regarding migrants, those in need, the sick, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, and all forms of slavery and torture.”An external focusThe new dicasteries are a major step forward in the curial shake-up being overseen by the pope’s council of nine advisers, or C-9. The first stage, in 2014, saw the creation of a new Secretariat for the Economy to oversee Vatican finances; then, last year, Francis created the Secretariat for Communications, to consolidate the Vatican’s multiple media outlets.If the two secretariats were about putting the Vatican’s internal house in order, the two new dicasteries are about showing the importance of the Church’s engagement with the wider Church and world.The new bodies are neither congregations (which are executive bodies governing the work of the Church) nor pontifical councils (advisory bodies created at the time of Pope Paul VI) but a hybrid. Back in June, Father Federico Lombardi, who has since stood down as Vatican spokesman, said he did not know if there would be a final “qualification” of the new bodies as either one or the other, adding that the lack of a decision on the precise nature of the new dicastery was “intentional”.Yet by making Bishop Farrell and Cardinal Turkson prefects rather than presidents, Francis has sent a clear signal that the internal regulation of the Church is not more important than its engagement with lay people, or life and justice issues.He has also opened new opportunities for lay involvement, stipulating in the new dicastery statutes that the deputies in both cases “may also be laypeople” (men or women). In interviews, Bishop Farrell has said Francis wants to see lay people in more prominent positions in the Vatican bureaucracy, and both he and Cardinal Turkson are expected to name high-profile laypeople to senior positions.Reform roll-outIt is clear by now that the curial reform is being staged rather than implemented all at once, and so any future new constitution — to replace Pope St. John Paul II’s Pastor Bonus, which regulates the Curia — will reflect, rather than determine, the reforms.For now, there appear to be four kinds of departments in the Vatican: four powerful secretariats to govern the Vatican’s internal workings (state, synod, economy, communication), nine congregations to regulate the Church worldwide (clergy, bishops, religious congregations, eastern Churches, education, canonizations, missions, the sacraments and doctrine), two dicasteries concerned with the Church’s engagement with the wider Church and society (laity, family and life, and integral human development), and five pontifical councils (for culture, Christian unity, interreligious dialogue, legislative texts, and new evangelization, the last created in 2011), at least some of which are likely to be merged or absorbed in the next stage of the shake-up.Although that next stage is not yet clear, it can no longer be said that curial reform is stalled. The Vatican already looks and feels different.
Sep 12 16 11:15 AM
When one thinks of Angela Merkel, Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin getting together on a semi-regular basis as members of the G8, it’s easy to imagine clashes between these strong personalities - and, of course, we don’t really have to imagine it, since some of those run-ins are well documented.A similar expectation of butting heads naturally comes to mind when thinking of Pope Francis’s Council of Cardinal Advisers, which since the first year of his election has been meeting to advise him on the reform of the Church’s governing body in the Vatican, the Roman Curia.Long-time Vatican watchers couldn’t avoid surprise when it was announced that widely differing figures such as German Reinhard Marx, Australian George Pell and Laurent Monsengwo, from the Democratic Republic of Congo would all be meeting on average four times a year. It seemed highly plausible that they’d spend a fair amount of their time taking swipes at each other.Yet according to one of those personalities, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, from India, the group’s diversity is also its main strength.Speaking to Crux at the Casa Santa Marta, the residence on Vatican grounds where the “C9” holds its sessions, Gracias said the council is a “collegial body [where] no one dominates, and everybody has a chance to speak.”“I can see why from the outside some might think differently … not all [of us] have the same ideas … we would differ, but it has to be like this,” he said. “There’s no one there you can say who doesn’t have a strong personality and strong views, and no one changes them quickly.”One of those who has a chance to speak, of course, is Francis himself. He attends each session, spending the mornings and afternoons with the group, and one way in which the pontiff underscores the collegial atmosphere is that he raises his hand when he wants to chime in.“At the beginning it was a bit weird, to see him putting up his hand,” Gracias said, adding that sometimes he has to nudge Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga from Honduras, who coordinates the meetings, to notice that the pontiff has something to say.Although pictures from the encounters show the seating arrangements vary sometimes, Gracias said he and Maradiaga are often next to each other.The body, which Gracias describes as the “cabinet of ministers of the Holy Father,” has become the “sounding board” of this papacy.From the outside, it’s sometimes tempting to conclude that the C9 hasn’t actually accomplished very much. To date, among the few major decisions directly and publicly attributed to its input have been decisions to consolidate a cluster of Vatican offices into two large departments, which can come off as mostly shuffling the bureaucratic deck.Gracias, however, says it’s much more than that, saying Francis consults the group on 75 or 80 percent of the decisions he makes, including upcoming documents and the profile of the people needed to fill specific vacancies.When the C9 meets, the Vatican often releases a short statement, including some generic issues that were discussed. These often include a progress report from Pell, who heads the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, created at the C9’s advice, or from Boston’s Sean P. O’Malley, the only American in the group, who heads the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, also created at the group’s recommendation.However, as Gracias underlined during the interview, the pope’s C9 is not a governing body, and as such they can’t actually tell the pope what to do, they can only make suggestions. In what he called a very “Jesuit” style, Francis often has his mind set on something and it can be a challenge to make him shift positions, yet Gracias said he’s watched it happen.“I’ve seen clear instances of [Francis changing course],” Gracias said. Furthermore, Gracias added he couldn’t think of a “singular instance in which he’s actually vetoed a particular idea.”With 15 meetings under their belt, the nine cardinals, according to Gracias, have achieved a comfort level in which they can tell Francis when they believe he’s said or done something they found inappropriate.“I probably wouldn’t say it publicly, not even when it’s all of us there, but have a coffee, make sure I’m alone with him. Some, I think would tell him straight on! There’s that comfort level, that kind of exchange,” he said.This honesty, Gracias said ahead of the group’s Sept. 12-14 meeting, is not “being disloyal but helpful,” and he acknowledged having told the pope that “I was surprised this is what you had to say.”“We’re some of the few with such easy access to him, if we don’t tell him, don’t give him accurate feedback, which is so hard for a leader to get, [Francis could] get cut off,” he said.Although it wasn’t the main reason behind his election, it’s a truth long accepted that Pope Francis was elected in part on a mandate to reform the Vatican.And a month after he was chosen, he called some of his old acquaintances, such as Maradiaga and Francisco Javier Errázuriz, of Chile, with whom he’d worked in Latin America.The rest of the team is made up by Italians Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State and Giuseppe Bertello, President of the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State. The only extra who’s a permanent fixture in the meetings is Italian bishop Marcello Semeraro, who works as the group’s secretary.When the group meets, they often do so for three days, and at Francis’s request all of them stay at the Santa Marta, where they not only have their assemblies, but also share their meals at the “big kids table,” which is especially reserved for them.All the sessions are in Italian, “the only language we all have in common,” although the council has benefited from the passage of time, since not everyone’s language skills are equal: “By now we know each other so well that we know what the other wants to say,” Gracias said.Francis attends all the meetings but those which take place on Wednesday morning, when he holds the public weekly audience in Rome’s St. Peter’s Square.The C9 was set up by history’s first Argentine pope to help him review the Roman Curia and the Vatican’s constitution, called Pastor Bonus. But along the way, it’s also allowed Gracias to personally experience the “universality, the needs of the Church,” as a whole, and the importance of getting to know each other.“It was the first time I experienced the Church as Church,” he said, adding he knew nothing of the church in Latin America until he was summoned to the group. Gracias believes the same could be said for the rest of the team.One of the challenges he faces personally is having to remind himself when he speaks with Francis, that he’s talking to the pope: “He seems like another fellow bishop when we’re meeting in the G9.”“I can’t imagine myself sitting and talking to Benedict XVI and John Paul II as I do with Francis,” Gracias said towards the end of the interview.During the time of the Polish pontiff, he was a priest, and describes feeling a “sense of awe” for the pope. Benedict, he said, is “such an intellectual giant that you would listen to him, but you wouldn’t argue.”“Francis, on the other hand, wants you to say no if you don’t agree,” Gracias said.
Sep 13 16 3:30 AM
‘The Loves of the Popes’ and the Vatican’s new normal(RNS) The big news out of the Vatican last week was the publication of a book-length interview with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in which the former pontiff reflects — the first to do so, as popes almost always die in office — on his controversial eight years as pope.In the volume, poignantly titled “The Last Conversations,” the 89-year-old Benedict told his fellow German, the journalist Peter Seewald, that he was shocked when he was elected pope in 2005. He also said that while administration was not his strong suit, “I don’t see myself as a failure” and he took credit for breaking up a “gay lobby,” or clique, that he said operated inside the Vatican.But the revelation that had tongues wagging was not in the book.Instead it came in a magazine interview with Seewald in which he said that Benedict — who was born Joseph Ratzinger — “fell in love … in a very serious way” as a student and struggled “very much” with the idea of taking a vow of celibacy when he became a priest.“He was really a very smart-looking guy, a handsome young man, an aesthete who wrote poetry and read Hermann Hesse,” Seewald told the German news weekly Die Zeit in a story published Thursday (Sept. . “A fellow student told me he had quite an effect on women, and vice versa. The decision to choose celibacy wasn’t easy for him.”The news brought to mind other stories in that vein, such as the confession by Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio — which emerged the week after he was elected Pope Francis in 2013 – that he was “dazzled” by a young woman he met at a relative’s wedding while he was a young man in seminary.“I was surprised by her beauty, her intellectual brilliance … and, well, I was bowled over for quite a while. I kept thinking and thinking about her. When I returned to the seminary after the wedding, I could not pray for over a week because when I tried to do so, the girl appeared in my head. I had to rethink what I was doing.”Francis decided to continue the path to the priesthood, but said “it would be abnormal for this kind of thing not to happen.”Similarly, one of the most affecting stories about Saint John Paul II was about how he apparently had at least one flirtation as a young man growing up in Poland, with the apparent object of his attention — or he of hers — a beautiful Jewish girl named Ginka Beer.Earlier this year a potentially more explosive revelation emerged in correspondence that John Paul, who died in 2005, carried on with a married Polish-American woman over the course of their adult lives. There was never any suggestion in the exchange that John Paul ever broke his vow of celibacy, and the pontiff was known to have close friendships with women and men.But the intimacy of the letters created a frisson of scandal, as if some boundary had been crossed.In a sense it had. Centuries ago, of course, the love lives of the popes — and cardinals and various powerful prelates — became a source of constant fascination and scandal, and the tales of a bed-hopping Renaissance pontiff like Alexander VI can still make for remarkable reading.As if in reaction to such episodes, however, popes in following centuries became virtual ciphers, regal monks who seemed to be spiritually and physically in another realm, above and beyond real life. They were encased in piety and stripped of passion, especially of the romantic kind.The teaching on papal infallibility — which only pertains to solemn declarations by the pontiff and the bishops, not the pope’s personal conduct — was elaborated in the 19th century and added more degrees of papal separation from the flock.But by the middle of the last century there was also a sense that the popes had become too remote and needed to be humanized, a development that paralleled the Catholic Church’s broader pivot to a more open and pastoral style — and a style that had to be modeled by more open and pastoral, and human, popes.Part of that “humanizing” trend was to let it be known that popes could also fall in love — at least in an innocent way, and always in their pre-ordination lives.Hence the promulgation of the story that even Pope Pius XII, one of the more aristocratic and distant figures to sit on the Throne of Saint Peter, had a crush on a girl when he was a teenager. If she had reciprocated his affection “there would be no Pope Pacelli today,” as his parish priest told a reporter in St. Peter’s Square on the evening Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli was elected pope in 1939.In these days of great anxiety in the church about the role of gays and gay rights, leaking stories about papal crushes can also be useful for signaling that a pope is straight, and not just straight but also virile and seriously attractive to women, an attraction he naturally must renounce.But it’s still a balancing act — trying to advertise a pontiff’s shared humanity with the flock while not encouraging prurient speculation.Benedict, with his characteristically wry sense of humor, seemed to understand that. In his first book-length interview with Seewald, published back in 1996, the journalist asked then-Cardinal Ratzinger if he had ever fallen in love. The future pope said demurely that he was “touched by friendship” in that regard but “my plans never progressed as far as a clear desire for a family.”A year later, asked at the launch of his memoirs why the extensive account of his youth mentioned no girlfriends, the future pope quipped: “I had to keep the manuscript to 100 pages.”Even if Benedict was not known as the most warm and fuzzy of popes, he knew the trend line is clearly toward more humanity, more humor, more “normalcy,” as they say — a trend Francis has also pushed ahead.“The Pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps peacefully, and has friends like everyone else. A normal person,” as he said in a 2014 interview. “To depict the Pope as a kind of superman or a star seems to me offensive,” Francis added.Indeed, at heart the issue is not just about whether a pope can fall in love, or out of love, but about whether the popes as people are so sacred as to be immune from the spiritual and even physical challenges that afflict humanity. The more important message is that they are men, and Christians, not religious robots.In this latest, and apparently last, interview, the aging Benedict said that was a central lesson he hoped people learned from his shocking decision to retire in 2013 — the first pope in six centuries to do so.“I think it is also clear that the pope is no superman and his mere existence is not sufficient to conduct his role, rather he likewise exercises a function,” Benedict said in explaining his reasons for resigning.“If he steps down, he remains in an inner sense within the responsibility he took on, but not in the function. In this respect one comes to understand that the office of the pope has lost none of its greatness, even if the humanity of the office is perhaps becoming more clearly evident.”
Sep 13 16 7:24 AM
But Padre Benedetto ... meeting him was one of the happiest moments of my life, and I can say that Prof. Pellegrini speaks the truth. Anyone who has ever looked into Padre Benedetto's eyes will see all those things: sincerity, gentleness and a surpassing tenderness of heart and spirit. I often think that, in many ways, the beatific Joseph Ratzinger is entirely too kind and benevolent for his own good. *Sigh!*
Unicorn, I too was one of those blessed enough to have a short encounter with Padre Benedetto in Rome a few years ago. What I remember with crystal clarity as though it happened yesterday is that his gaze seemed to penetrate my very soul. It felt like a laser beam. Not so much warmth but absolute purity. I wouldn't have been surprised at all had he told me there and then exactly what I was thinking at that moment! Powerful. Haunting. Unforgettable.
Sep 14 16 6:14 AM
Council of Cardinals continues discussions on selection of Catholic bishopsROME - The group of cardinals advising Pope Francis on reforming the Catholic church's central bureaucracy spent time in their latest meeting discussing how Catholic bishops around the world are selected, the Vatican's main spokesman said Wednesday.Gregory Burke, the head of the Holy See press office, said the nine-member Council of Cardinals focused particularly on the role the Vatican's various global ambassadors, known as apostolic nuncios, play in helping select new bishops."The cardinals reflected extensively on the spiritual and pastoral profile necessary for a bishop today," Burke said in a statement following the cardinals' meeting. (No more Burkes, Sarahs, Mullers, Chaputs and Gansweins, please!)"They spoke of the diplomatic service of the Holy See and of the formation and duties of apostolic nuncios, with particular attention to their great responsibility in choosing candidates for the episcopacy," Burke continued.The Council, created by Francis to help him in reforming what is known as the Roman Curia, has been meeting with the pope in Rome Monday through Wednesday for the 16th of its in-person meetings.The only American serving in the group is Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley.Apostolic nuncios are normally responsible for recommending to the pope three possible candidates to become leaders in Catholic dioceses that need bishops in the countries of their postings.The Council of Cardinals is known to have previously discussed the selection of bishops around the world in their meeting held last April.Burke said the Council's discussions at this week's meeting "were dedicated in major part to further considerations about how the various dicasteries of the Curia may better serve the mission of the Church." (I can think of at least one more Curial office which should be merged with a major dicastery ...)The spokesman said the group spoke particularly about four Vatican offices: the Congregations for the Clergy, for the Bishops, and for Catholic Education; and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Congregation for Bishops, was present for one session of the meeting to speak about his congregation's work, Burke said.Australian Cardinal George Pell, head of the new centralized Secretariat of the Economy, also gave a presentation, as did O'Malley, who leads the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.The next meeting of the Council of Cardinals is set for Dec. 12-14.
Sep 16 16 4:22 AM
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, has said that Europe’s Christian legacy is at risk “because we Europeans have squandered it”, not because of Islam.He made the remark in his archdiocesan newspaper to clarify comments he made in a homily on September 11 that was covered widely by the world’s media.In his homily at St Stephen’s Cathedral he said: “Will there be a third Islamic attempt to conquer Europe? Many Muslims think this and wish this and say that Europe is at its end.”Cardinal Schönborn later clarified: “Europe’s Christian legacy is in danger, because we Europeans have squandered it. That has absolutely nothing to do with Islam nor with the refugees. It is clear that many Islamists would like to take advantage of our weakness, but they are not responsible for it. We are.”The cardinal said his homily was not a “call to defend ourselves against the refugees”.“The opportunity for a Christian renewal of Europe lies in our hands: if we look at and come to Christ, spread his gospel and deal with our fellow men, strangers included, as he has taught us, in love and responsibility,” the cardinal said.
Sep 17 16 5:53 AM
Why are there so many papal plots in fiction?The first duty of a Roman Catholic cardinal, when elected pope, is to choose the name by which he wants to be known. Among the 266 holders of the papacy to date, the current incumbent is the first to take Francis, a flash of re-baptismal originality in a line of succession in which the Johns reach 23, there have been a dozen men called Pius and 13 took the name Innocent.This autumn, though, Pope Francis will co-exist with Pope Innocent XIV, the title eventually taken by the winner among the cardinals competing for the throne of St Peter in Robert Harris’s thriller, Conclave, and Pius XIII, the identity selected by Jude Law as the first American pontiff in The Young Pope, a TV drama that starts its UK run on Sky Atlantic next month.In fiction, there has already been an Innocent XIV, in The Fourth K, a 1990 novel by Mario Puzo, and a previous Pius XIII, in The Shoes of the Fisherman, the 1963 novel by Morris West that can be seen as the rock on which all modern pontifical fictions are based, although the genre of fake papacies has a long tradition: Christopher Marlowe gives the real Pope Adrian IV a schismatic rival, Pope Bruno, in his late 16th century tragedy, Doctor Faustus.Marlowe’s warring Catholic leaders were intended to amuse audiences in Protestant England, and it is suspicion of the papacy – as foreign, strange, potentially treacherous – that has made it such a profitable subject for fiction. One of the oddest and most enduring Vatican novels was written directly as revenge on the church. Rejected as a candidate for the priesthood, the English author Frederick Rolfe wrote, under the pseudonym “Baron Corvo”, a novel, Hadrian the Seventh (1904), in which a failed priest is later made pope by a repentant Vatican. In 1967, it was adapted by Peter Luke into a successful play, with Alec McCowen as the surprise leader of the faithful.Whereas Marlowe and Rolfe were personally motivated to take on the pope, most writers in the genre are attracted by the external drama. Head of the only church that is also a nation state, the pope fascinates because of a doubly unusual lifestyle. He is denied sex, one of the most powerful human desires. Harris’s Conclave and West’s The Clowns of God (1980) both turn, as did Holy Father, a play I wrote for BBC Radio 4 last year, on ways in which the ecclesiastical rules of sexuality might be tested without sin. However, those priests who become cardinals are tantalised by the prospect of another Darwinian driving motivation – power – at a level perhaps only matched by the American presidency.As a result, ecclesiastical politics clearly have a resonance beyond religion. Vatican fictions tend to have the same main plotline: a contest between reforming and orthodox candidates. This reflects the narrative of most actual papal elections – these stories tend to be a serious exploration of what is supposed to be a famously apocryphal question: is the pope a Catholic? – but such testing for heresy is also common in political parties, such as, at the moment, Labour in the UK and the Republicans in the US.It feels logical that Harris should have turned to the papacy after having written thrillers about a Blairite prime minister in The Ghost and the politics of ancient Rome in his Cicero trilogy. The incense-filled rooms of a conclave (the name by which the heavily sequestered papal election assembly is known) have an obvious parallel with the smoke-filled rooms of the traditional political procedural. And, as in presidential and prime ministerial fictions, a key decision for papal narratives is whether the made-up characters should be seen in succession to real-life figures.In an author’s note to Conclave, Harris insists that the man whose death kicks off his plot “is not the current pope”. This disclaimer is probably necessary because the late pontiff is revealed to have made some eccentric decisions but, as Harris’s “late Holy Father” shares most of the biography of Pope Francis and has also made identical speeches, it is in practice impossible not to impose his face on the character. Even more baldly, Piers Paul Read’s thriller The Death of a Pope (2009) superimposes the crisis of a fictional priest on a documentary account of the death of John Paul II and the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Benedict XVI.Contrastingly, Morris West, the Australian novelist who is commonly considered the pope of the Vatican thriller, created an elaborate alternative progression. Pope Kiril I in The Shoes of the Fisherman is succeeded by Gregory XVII in The Clowns of God, who gives way to Leo XIV in Lazarus (1990).West’s novels have an astonishing record of prophecy. The Shoes of the Fisherman was published on the day that John XIII died, and imagined an eastern European anti-Soviet cardinal ending the long line of Italian popes, which duly happened in 1978, when Cardinal Wotyla of Kraków became John Paul II. The unlikely plot of The Clowns of God (1981), in which a pope resigns because he can no longer face the burdens of office, was validated in February 2013 by the retirement of Benedict XVI. In West’s final conclave novel, Eminence (1998), the leading candidate to become pope, a Latin American radical called Cardinal Luca Rossini, now reads as a spooky preview of the Argentinian Jorge Mario Bergoglio becoming Pope Francis.Whether or not Bergoglio knew it, fiction had got to his papal name before he did: a cardinal takes it at the end of the conclave imagined in The Vicar of Christ (1979) by the American writer, Walter F Murphy. Most novelists, though, extend one of the existing nominal lists, with some more popular than others.The year before West anointed a Gregory XVII, another one had appeared in Anthony Burgess’s Earthly Powers (1980). The book’s gay, atheist narrator, Kenneth Toomey, is the brother in law of Carlo Campanati, an Italian cleric who rose to become Gregory XVII, and has become a candidate for sainthood after a miracle that Toomey witnessed.In Burgess’s alternative version of the 20th century, Cardinal Campanati takes the post-1958 papacy occupied in reality by John XXIII. There has in fact been no 24th John – as the former Cardinal Roncalli of Venice was identified as the most reforming pope of modern times, direct identification by a successor would have risked a schism in the Vatican – although two have appeared in very contrasting works of fantasy fiction.In Kingsley Amis’s The Alteration (1976), the Reformation has not happened and England remains a Roman Catholic country, obedient to the religious rule from Rome of a Yorkshire-born pontiff, who seems to be a caricature of Harold Wilson, British prime minister at the time Amis was writing. The John XXIV of the Left Behind series – 16 books by the Christian evangelists Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins – was also contentiously presented. Having become too close to Protestantism, he is taken by God and replaced by the more orthodox Peter II, a designation that no real occupant of the post has ever been arrogant enough to adopt.In Graham Greene’s late short story, “The Last Word”, published in 1988, the line of Johns reaches XXIX, although also stops there, with the last pontiff having become a prisoner of an anti-Christian government. As Greene’s new world order in some way resembles the global caliphate envisaged by Islamic State, a notable political novelist had once again spotted a future trend. West, Dan Brown, Read and now Harris all have plot lines that turn on a perceived Islamist terrorist threat to the office of the papacy.One reason that the role has attracted so many thriller writers is that it is attended by many persistent conspiracy theories. The so-called “Siri thesis” alleges that Cardinal Giuseppe Siri of Milan was elected pope in 1958, but that, as a conservative, his accession was blocked by liberals who replaced him with John XXIII.Hardcore conspiracists, known as sedevacantists (roughly translating as empty throners) have refused to recognise any of the last six popes, whom they regard as invalid. The fact that Siri himself always denied the claims was explained away, as these things often are, by his being in fear of his life. A more benign version of the thesis – that Siri might have changed his own mind – can be glimpsed, in comedic form, behind Habemus Papam (We Have a Pope in the UK), the 2011 film by Nanni Moretti, in which a pontiff goes on the run post-election to avoid taking up office.Better known matters of Vatican contention are the allegation that John Paul I, who died suddenly after only 33 days in office in 1978, was murdered; repeated scandals involving the Vatican Bank, which has been accused of corruption including money laundering; and the belief that a secret document in a Vatican safe (known as “The Third Secret of Fátima”), supposedly revealed by a vision of the Virgin Mary to Portuguese children in 1917, contains an apocalyptic secret such as the date of the end of the world.Although John Paul II released the text of the “third secret” – which turned out to be a sub-Nostradamus allegory that can be made to represent either the destruction or triumph of Catholicism – true disbelievers continue to insist that the Vatican publication was a fake in place of a true prophecy considered too terrifying to publicise.Shadows from these various controversies can be spotted in most pontifical fiction. The Fátima-related belief that Catholicism is withholding terrible information underlies Brown’s Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code, both of which have popes willing to kill to hide the true story of Christianity. Suspicions about the death of John Paul I mean that deaths and elections of fictional pontiffs are almost always suspicious. Even Burgess, though not operating in the mystery genre, contrives a sudden death during the conclave described in Earthly Powers. These presentations of the devious ease with which the Vatican dissembles also clearly serve as a metaphor for the Catholic church’s unwillingness to address the scandals of priestly paedophilia.Despite papal fiction being such a crowded church, Harris, in Conclave, contrives a twist involving the number of cardinal-electors that seems to me completely new, showing that the genre still has possibilities. Some people claim that the Third Secret of Fátima warns that the current pope is the last but, if so, the line should continue in fiction.
Sep 19 16 7:55 AM
Another appointee to Vatican abuse commission leaves group, member revealsVATICAN CITY A member of Pope Francis' commission on clergy sexual abuse has revealed that one of her colleagues in the group has resigned his position. The resignation, previously not made public, means two of the pontiff's seventeen original appointees to the commission are no longer taking part in its work.Marie Collins, an Irish laywoman and member of the Pontifical Council for the Protection of Minors, made the revelation in an NCR interview in response to a question about the status of fellow member Peter Saunders, who the commission put on a leave of absence from the group in February."There has been a resignation from the Commission," Collins responded. "But Peter has not resigned or been dismissed: he is still on leave of absence."The Irishwoman, an abuse survivor, spoke to NCR following the commission's meeting in Rome last week.Emer McCarthy, the commission’s projects and media coordinator, said Monday that a member of the group resigned in May due to personal reasons.McCarthy identified the resigned member as Claudio Papale, an Italian who teaches canon law at the Pontifical University Urbaniana. The Vatican's 2015 phonebook also lists him as an official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."The Commission sees no need for further comment out of respect for his privacy," said McCarthy. Papale did not immediately respond to a request for comment.Francis' original appointments to the abuse commission included 10 laypeople, two women religious, two priests, and one bishop. Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the group's president, also serves as a member as does Msgr. Robert Oliver, the group's secretary.Saunders is a British abuse survivor who founded the UK's National Association for People Abused in Childhood. In a brief statement following the commission's meeting in Rome in February, the Vatican said "it was decided" by the group then that he would be taking a leave.The Briton has disputed the Vatican's account and said he did not accept such a leave of absence.Collins said during the interview that Saunders' situation "hasn't changed.""Peter is still on leave of absence," she said. "The situation hasn't changed in any way. He wasn't in attendance at this meeting.""There's really not a lot more that I can say," said Collins. "The situation is still as it was. It's not a very satisfactory situation but it hasn't really changed."On other matters of the commission's work, Collins expressed hope in the interview about new measures adopted by Francis to allow the Vatican to initiate removal of Catholic bishops negligent in handling sexual abuse.The pontiff launched the new efforts in June with the promulgation of a motu proprio titled Come una madre amorevole ("As a loving mother.")The measures specify that a bishop's negligence in response to clergy sexual abuse can lead to his removal from office and empower several Vatican dicasteries to investigate such bishops and initiate processes of removal.The pontifical commission had previously recommended that Francis give power to the Vatican's doctrinal congregation to establish a tribunal to judge negligent bishops. That recommendation was not put into place."I was quite depressed about the accountability tribunal," said Collins. "After it was announced last year, I was really positive about that and then when it sort-of didn't go anywhere I was quite down-hearted.""Although the tribunal is no longer on the cards, I think the new process is actually more wide-ranging," she continued. "I think that was very positive for everyone on the commission because it's one thing that we said at the very beginning we were going to deal with: bishops' accountability.""I know there's been a lot of frustration," said Collins. "But in this case we have actually seen something coming out at the other end.""We gave [Francis] our advice and we now have a process in place which should bring much better accountability," she said. "That for me is very positive ... that we can see movement forward."Asked about concerns that the new accountability process relies on the Vatican offices to sincerely set about investigating negligent bishops, Collins responded: "That is my reservation.""My reservation would always be: it's good, I welcome it, but I want to see it in action and I want to see it actually put into practice and to see leaders who are negligent actually held to account," said Collins."Giving more powers to the dicasteries and to the different congregations is obviously an excellent move but then we have to see them use them and see what the result is," she said. "I'll wait and see.""It's obviously different than a tribunal but if the tribunal was not going to be put into force, if it was not going to be accepted, if it wasn't going to happen, it's good that we have something in its place and the whole idea of accountability has not disappeared," she continued."I feel the Holy Father has followed through and is very serious about accountability," said Collins. "I want to see the results."The commissioner also expressed concern that her commission has not been given power to oversee the implementation of efforts against abuse, such as Francis' new measures on negligent bishops, to make sure they are being properly put in place."It's an area of the commission that is a concern for me in that we have no remit of any sort to review implementation," said Collins. "It's not what was given to us in our mission by the Holy Father. It's not there in our statutes.""I would have the personal view that it should be; that when advice is taken and new methods [or] processes are put into place that we then would have the opportunity to review how they're being done," she continued."We're purely an advisory body," she said. "Personally, I would like to see us having more authority to actually review how things are implemented because we don't have it."Collins also spoke about the news that she and other members of the commission are taking part this year in the annual course of formation held at the Vatican for new bishops appointed around the world."It's a breakthrough I think for the commission because we did make it known last year that we were willing to take part and we weren't invited," she said. "It's really a step forward this year that the commission is going to have some input.""You have bishops from around the world," said Collins. "It's so important that they have clear training on child protection. The session will be short, it won't be that long, but just having the involvement of the commission members I think is very important."Collins said she was planning to speak on the effect of abuse and "the importance of treating the perpetrator not just as a sinner but a criminal and somebody who is a danger to children."The commissioner said she also wanted to tell the new bishops that sexually abusive clergy do not just harm their victims but the entire church around the world."People might say to me, 'Well why speak about the damage it does to the church? Why are you concerned about that?'" she said."But I'm speaking to men to whom that is of great concern and they need to realize that it's not an issue that can be minimized in any way because it is such, and has been such, a devastation to the church that they have given their lives to," said Collins.
Sep 20 16 5:53 AM
Vatican delegate urges Pope Francis to fire Guam archbishop over abuseVATICAN CITY (RNS) - The special investigator Pope Francis appointed to look into allegations that the Catholic archbishop of Guam abused altar boys is urging the Vatican to remove the cleric.In a statement read at services in the island’s 26 Catholic churches on Sunday (Sept. 18), Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai said he was now in Rome and had asked the Holy See to dismiss Archbishop Anthony Apuron and appoint a successor after Apuron refused to stand down voluntarily.“I can assure you that the gravely serious allegations against Archbishop Apuron will continue to be dealt with by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, which will hold a canonical trial, “ he said, referring to the powerful Vatican department that investigates abuse cases.“His Holiness, Pope Francis, is monitoring the proceedings.”Francis has pledged zero tolerance for clerical sexual abuse and set up a commission to tackle the issue and ensure the protection of minors.Hon’s statement, also published on the diocese website, was entitled: “Putting the house in order without burning it down.”Francis named Hon three months ago to investigate claims against Apuron, head of the Archdiocese of Agana in the U.S. island territory in the Western Pacific.The allegations date back to the 1970s and involve at least four former altar boys who claim they were molested by Apuron, then a parish priest.Apuron, 70, who has headed the Guam archdiocese since 1986, has not been charged with any crime.“On behalf of the church, I want to apologize personally to the survivors of sexual abuse everywhere who have suffered so much at the hands of clergy,” Hon said.Francis temporarily stripped Apuron of his administrative powers in the church in Guam and temporarily replaced him with Hon on June 6.Hon, who said he was backed by the advisory council of the Agana archdiocese, has presented two letters — the first asking Apuron to resign and the second calling for the Holy See to remove him.“We cannot undo the appalling betrayal of trust and faith and the horrendous acts that clergy have committed against the youngest and most innocent among us. We are committed to helping them heal in body and soul,” Hon said.Guam lawmakers recently approved a bill that seeks to remove the statute of limitations on sex crimes. Hon opposed the move saying it would have “damaging and unintended consequences” and expose the church to “unlimited financial liability.“As happened in thirteen other dioceses in the U.S., the result will very likely be to drive the Archdiocese into bankruptcy,” he said.About 80 percent of Guam’s 162,000 residents are Catholic.
Sep 20 16 6:06 AM
When bishops give up on episcopal conferencesThe Church is struggling to move from a totally all-consuming worldview – that is, a Weltanschauung – to a world-engaging pastoral Church.One of the difficult transitions the Catholic Church is trying to make is from a totally all-consuming worldview – that is, a Weltanschauung – to a world-engaging pastoral Church.The more Catholicism tries to present itself as a separate worldview that divides the world into two, the more Catholics (especially young Catholics) withdraw from this battlefield, having already enough to do with the combat zone that is everyday life.The early reception of Pope Francis’ exhortation Amoris Laetitia is a good example of that.The Synod of Bishops’ summit on marriage and family concluded almost one year ago (October 24, 2015) and the pope’s exhortation was published almost six months ago (April 8, 2016). The reception of the papal document is under way and how it is unfolding says something about the situation of the Catholic Church today.One aspect typical of Catholicism today is the division among bishops. The first division follows geo-cultural fault lines. The bishops of the region of Buenos Aires in Argentina wrote guidelines for the application of the post-synodal exhortation in which they talk about the possibility for divorced and remarried Catholics who cannot live “in chastity” to receive communion after a process of discernment with their pastor.And Francis sent those bishops a letter – as reported by the official newspaper of the Vatican, L’Osservatore Romano – endorsing their interpretation of his document.But this is at the southern end of the Americas.In North America the bishops’ reception of Amoris Laetitia seems to be quite different. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia (who last June was appointed chairman of the US bishops’ working group charged with implementing the exhortation) issued his own guidelines on July 1st for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. And he likely wants it to become the standard for other US dioceses, as well. (I daresay that what Chaput wants, and what other US dioceses want, is another thing altogether.)Chaput’s document makes it very clear that the official and pastoral interpretation of the exhortation will not take into consideration the theological context of the two Synod gatherings of 2014-2015. Neither will it consider certain lines of Amoris Laetitia. (Sounds like Chaput intends to deny that the Synods of 2014 - 2015 ever happened!)“With divorced and civilly-remarried persons, Church teaching requires them to refrain from sexual intimacy. This applies even if they must (for the care of their children) continue to live under one roof,” says the archbishop’s guidelines.“Undertaking to live as brother and sister is necessary for the divorced and civilly-remarried to receive reconciliation in the Sacrament of Penance, which could then open the way to the Eucharist. Such individuals are encouraged to approach the Sacrament of Penance regularly, having recourse to God’s great mercy in that sacrament if they fail in chastity,” the archbishop’s text continues.North of the US border, in Canada, the guidelines issued by the Catholic bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories adopt a similar approach and deny the idea that the Synod and Amoris Laetitia brought any kind of change.“It may happen that, through media, friends or family, couples have been led to understand that there has been a change in practice by the Church, such that now the reception of Holy Communion at Mass by persons who are divorced and civilly remarried is possible if they simply have a conversation with a priest. This view is erroneous,” the bishops say.“Couples who express it should be welcomed to meet with a priest so that they hear proposed anew ‘God’s plan [pertaining to marriage] in all its grandeur’ (Amoris Laetitia, 307) and thus be helped to understand the correct path to follow toward full reconciliation with the Church. In order to enable such a journey of healing and reconciliation in a manner that remains obedient to the strong command of Christ that ‘what God has united man must not divide,’ the Church has established its marriage tribunals,” these Canadian prelates insist.The issue of those who are divorced and remarried is not the only focus of Amoris Laetitia. Nevertheless, it is symptomatic of the kind of reception Francis’ document is getting on other aspects, as well, such as the issue of homosexuals in the Church.There is no question that the theological reception of the Synod is taking place, in the USA and not only there.And what is happening in the reception of Amoris Laetitia among bishops shows two issues.The first one is about the difference between the pastoral reception and what I am calling the worldview or Weltanschauung reception. In other articles in Global Pulse I have spoken about the difference between a pastoral approach and an ideological approach to issues raised by Pope Francis.The problem for Amoris Laetitia in North America is that the debate on marriage gets drawn into “bio-politics” (laws on abortion, euthanasia, gender, etc.). This framework has been the central and key factor for the way in which the Catholic magisterium has looked at modernity over the last fifty years.This tendency to put the issue of divorced and remarried Catholics together with other issues that are culturally and pastorally more upsetting (like, in this example, euthanasia) reveals that the problem is deeper: it is about a Weltanschauung, a total, all absorbing vision of the world and the Church. Unfortunately, the reaction of some bishops to Amoris Laetitia is conditioned by a context where, as with abortion, euthanasia, etc., pastoral practice with the divorced and remarried cannot change because, it is believed, it never has changed.The second issue I want to examine is how and where the reception and implementation of Francis’ teachings (based on the Synod) is taking place. The reception is taking place more at the level of public exchanges in the media than where it should more properly take place – that is, in ecclesial settings such as bishops’ conferences and diocesan synods.But there are exceptions. For example, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego (USA) has decided to convene a diocesan synod on marriage and family life.Unfortunately, such initiatives like that in San Diego remain exceptions.The fact is that even where there are bishops willing to talk about Pope Francis’ teachings and their impact on the daily life of Catholics, they are not doing so inside their episcopal conferences.Recently Archbishop Chaput in a speech delivered at the University of Notre Dame compared Washington, D.C. to “a big mechanical Golem”; that is, a monster.In Jewish folklore, a golem is an animated anthropomorphic being, magically created entirely from inanimate matter. In the Psalms and medieval writing, the word was used to mean something that was amorphous and unformed. Some bishops seem to have the same perception of their conferences.National bishops’ conferences are the single, most important institutional change for the post-Vatican II Church. But I suspect that right now many bishops (and not only those in the United States) see this institution as not being significant or meaningful for pastoral ministry or for the life of the Church. In the worst cases, they see conferences as a Golem.This is paradoxical because episcopal conference documents are one of the most important sources for Francis’ encyclicals and exhortations, while the Roman Curia in his pontificate is producing a lot fewer documents than before. Now there is actually a new space for bishops to work at the national level. This could suggest the beginning of a new phase in the life of bishops’ conferences worldwide. But this is not happening, at least not yet. Many bishops’ conferences seem almost paralyzed right now.The problem is that many pastoral bishops, who see a deep rift between a pastoral Church and a Weltanschauung Church, seem to be choosing to withdraw and disengage from their national conferences. There are very few so-called “Francis bishops” who are now leading these episcopal conferences or who are visibly active in trying to make of them a place for the reception of the pope’s magisterium (see the cases of the USA, Italy, and in Eastern Europe; Germany and Austria are the exceptions).My impression is that many of the bishops who want a pastoral Church and not an ideological Church now have become disillusioned with their episcopal conferences.They have simply left the leadership of these institutions to “Weltanschauung bishops” who have no interest in receiving what is coming from Rome these days. This is a truly a strange reversal of fortune, given that during the last fifty years these same culture warriors tried to reduce episcopal conferences to nothing more than megaphones of the Vatican.
Sep 20 16 2:52 PM
Currently, the Society of Jesus in the United States is reviewing its program for training young Jesuits. This provides an occasion for some questions and reflections on ministerial education in general. After being involved in theological education and after listening to the comments of young Jesuits and other candidates for ordination, both Catholic and Protestant, for over 30 years at the Jesuit School of Theology and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, I offer here some reflections on that training that may help answer the following question: Are we in fact preparing our priestly candidates for the globalized world of the 21st-century?My basic assumption is that all priests are in service to the church and that the church, in turn, is in service to all humanity (“Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World,” No. 3). Since the Second Vatican Council, however, the role of the ordained among the people of God has been changing. In recent years, the Holy Spirit has inspired many lay men and women to take up leadership roles in the church. Some interpret this as the “declericalizing” of the church. The church is not the clergy nor the hierarchy; it is the whole people of God. Today’s priests need to understand themselves to be in service to the laity, not the laity in service to the clergy. Furthermore, as Pope Francis has been reminding us, the church is a church that “goes forth,” a church with “open doors”—open to all those outside its confines, the poor, the marginalized, the neglected, those without faith, the seekers amongst the young and the “nobodies” of this world (“The Joy of the Gospel,” Nos. 20-24). Are we preparing them to serve those on the periphery?The document from the Jesuit curia in Rome that initiated the review of the Jesuit course of studies suggests that there are four fundamental elements involved: context, content, competencies and charism. (The Ignatian charism is appropriated intensely in the first two years of training, a time called the novitiate, but then continuously throughout all stages of Jesuit life.) My concern here is with the changing context and its implications for the content and competencies. My fear is that too much of the intellectual training still takes place in the abstract, prescinding from the context, both local and global.
Although I am primarily concerned with our present context, I also think we need to attend more to the context of previous church teaching and theology. For some time now, biblical scholars have taken the context of both testaments quite seriously in the interpretation of their texts. But how seriously do we take the historical, social and cultural context in which much of our theology of the family, marriage and children was formed? For example, much of that teaching was developed in an agricultural world in which children were an economic asset and necessity, when the majority of children died before the age of 5 and when the average life expectancy was less than 45 years. And much of the doctrine on authority in the church was developed in a world that took monarchy, hierarchy and patriarchy for granted.The ‘Other’ in Our MidstIf we focus on our present context, we can see that our knowledge and understanding of the world has changed dramatically in the last 30 years. The accelerated rate of change and the processes of globalization—variously understood as “the compression of the world in time and space,” or “complex connectivity,” or “the intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa”—have changed the horizon against which priestly formation takes place. Ours is a context of radical pluralism. People of another culture or religious tradition who once were thousands of miles and an ocean away are now right down the street. This has made us acutely conscious of the “other” in our midst—people of other ethnicities, other cultures and other religious traditions. This is the lived experience not only of the global elite but of the average person in the pew. Are we preparing our Christian ministers to deal with this new reality?Further, the new, post-Hubble cosmology has changed our understanding of the age (13.8 billion years) and size (100 billion galaxies) of the universe. Yet much of the imagery depicting the power of the creator God in Scripture and tradition is drawn from the atmosphere and environment of our own tiny planet (for example, Ps. 18 and 104). Evolution is part of our mental furniture, and we are seriously expecting to find intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, yet much of our theology is still very geocentric and anthropocentric. We are much more conscious now than even 15 years ago of the ecological or environmental crisis, as Pope Francis’ latest encyclical exemplifies. As the philosopher Charles Taylor has pointed out, our “social imaginary” has changed dramatically. Has the content training of our young priests changed accordingly?All this raises questions about what the candidates study, what tools they are given to understand our context, what competencies they need and how well they are prepared to deal with diversity, pluralism and continuing change. But first I want to question the assumption that there should be one program for all students. Smaller numbers of candidates as well as the wide diversity in age and backgrounds call for much more individualized programs, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. The Society of Jesus in the United States, for example, has had an average of 35 men entering the novitiate each year (45 last year) for the last several years. So it should not be difficult to design an individual program for each man.There are some things, however, that every candidate for ordination needs to possess—a firm grounding in Scripture for preaching; a knowledge of tradition, how Christianity has developed and changed over the centuries as background for the present practices in liturgy, sacraments, prayer; sensitivity to the moral challenges people face today and the knowledge to help them discern their choices. Each candidate may come with some background in one of these disciplines and not in others. Some come with a background in engineering or law or business but not in the humanities or the social sciences. In addition, every priest is expected to have certain competencies—be a good preacher or homilist, a leader and presider at prayer and liturgies, a compassionate listener and spiritual guide and a servant-leader who can evoke the gifts of all the members of the community. This is a tall order for even the best-intentioned candidate.If we take the historical, social and cultural context seriously, how would this affect what ministerial candidates study and what competencies they need to relate to our rapidly changing situation? First, it is not necessary to spend so much time studying academic philosophy, which has become highly specialized and no longer gives a broad understanding of the human condition.They should have an understanding of the whole humanistic tradition, not only the Western tradition but also the wisdom traditions of Asia and Africa. Depending on the background with which they enter, one year of study of the Western tradition and one year of study of a non-Western tradition should be sufficient.They should prepare for inculturating Christianity in the United States by studying the history and culture of this country. Given the religious pluralism of our time, they should be prepared for dialogue with other Christian and non-Christian traditions. An open, ecumenical and collaborative approach to pastoral situations is expected today. Are we preparing them for this? Further, given that our social imaginary is highly scientific and technological, some study of contemporary cosmology and the biological sciences should be included. And the ability to do social and cultural analysis requires some study of sociology and cultural anthropology.What Every Priest Needs to KnowAll of the above recommendations are designed to help ministerial candidates communicate the Gospel in our current context. But what of the more specifically theological disciplines? We need to continue to emphasize the study of Scripture, which is the soul of theology and homiletics. More time and emphasis should be given to Catholic social teaching. Globalization and technological advances mentioned earlier have made the issues of poverty and inequality both within and between nations more urgent, as Pope Francis in “Laudato Si’” has made clear. Students also need to be better prepared to confront the moral aspects of environmental degradation and the problems posed by advances in communication technologies. Less time could be spent on some doctrinal questions that were once urgent but no longer are (the relationship between grace and free will, for example, or eucharistic controversies of the 11th century), and the historical context of all theology should be stressed. Issues about globalization and inculturation are more pertinent now than even 40 years ago, especially regarding liturgy and spirituality. In the area of ecclesiology, collegiality and synodal governance remain the unfinished agenda of Vatican II.Finally, two recommendations more specific to Jesuit formation, concerning sequence and place. Regency, the time young Jesuits spend in full-time apostolic work, should come right after novitiate. Although it is true that some will need more academic preparation for teaching in regency, that is increasingly less the case. I have heard some say that they left novitiate full of energy and enthusiasm to set the world on fire only to find themselves studying something whose point or purpose they did not see. Nothing is worse than dampening zeal and studying something for which you see no point. A regency experience can teach a candidate what he does and does not know and what questions he needs to pursue. And after hearing continuing complaints about the lack of coordination between first studies and theology, I would suggest that first studies should take place at the same physical location as theology to better integrate the two, and together they should not take more than five years. Again, these suggestions are made on the assumption that the program will be tailored to each individual.All of the above recommendations can apply, mutatis mutandis, to ministerial candidates other than Jesuits. Finally, one of the motivations for publishing this article is the hope that it will evoke some comments and input from the people of God, the people we serve in our parishes, schools and other apostolic works. They certainly should play a role in shaping what they expect and would like to see in the future ministers in the church.
Sep 22 16 4:40 AM
Catholic church's total ban on contraception challenged by scholarsNEW YORK - Nearly 50 years since Pope Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae, the encyclical that rejected the use of artificial birth control, a group of prominent Catholic theologians, ethicists and physicians has produced a report reassessing and challenging the papal document.The report, entitled, "Promoting Good Health and Good Conscience: The Ethics of Using Contraceptives," was commissioned by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research, an independent think-tank based in London.The 20,000-word academic report, which was co-authored by 22 Catholic scholars from Australia, Colombia, Europe, India, the Philippines, South Africa and the United States, evaluates, from within the Catholic tradition, the morality of using artificial contraceptives for family planning. The authors include U.S. ethicists Michael Lawler and Christine Gudorf and African theologian Nontando Hadebe.A five-page statement summarizing the report's key arguments was signed by 149 Catholic scholars from around the world, including former heads of state, members of Parliaments, priests, religious, a bishop and scholars working at Catholic universities.The statement calls for a development of the doctrine of contraception that would make it compatible with current scientific and theological knowledge. It also calls the Vatican to form a commission to reopen the discussion of the morality of using contraceptives through an independent process of consultation.Signatories included former President of Ireland Mary McAleese, Australian Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, and U.S. theologians Fr. Charles Curran and Fr. Peter Phan.The statement was launched during a side event of the U.N. General Assembly called "Keeping the Faith in Development: Gender, Religion and Health," a symposium that examined the intersections and areas of contention between health, human rights and lived theology.Luca Badini Confalonieri, director of research at the Wijngaards Institute and the principal author of the report, introduced the statement to an audience of 60 participants that included members of multiple U.N. agencies, as well as Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu religious leaders, and several women religious with posts at the U.N.Badini Confalonieri explained that the scholarly report, which took nearly a year to produce, concludes that "contraception for the purpose of family planning is not 'intrinsically evil,'" as Paul VI declared."On the contrary, it can be a good, to the extent that family planning is indeed a requirement of what popes call 'responsible parenthood,'" he said."When Paul VI declared that the use of artificial contraception is intrinsically evil, he said that it was always immoral regardless of the intentions of the agents, the circumstances of the situation or the consequences of the action," Badini Confalonieri continued. "Our report argues that there are circumstances when it can be used legitimately and it can be morally good."The Wijngaards report is "grounded in the ethical and social justice teaching of the Church," Badini Confalonieri said. "According to Catholic teaching, 'responsible parenthood' is a moral duty and it requires that couples determine the number, spacing, and timing of their children taking into account their own 'physical, economic, psychological and social conditions,' as well as their ability to provide for the health, education and growth of the children."Though the church's ban on contraceptives is often dismissed or ignored by Catholics in the U.S. and Europe, in the developing world the lack of access to contraceptives remains a life or death issue. An estimated 25 percent of healthcare facilities in developing countries are operated by Catholic institutions. The ban on contraceptives continues to be significant point of tension for U.N.-based aid agencies that have declared that sexual and reproductive health care is a Sustainable Development Goal.The launch of the Wijngaards statement was part of an event initiated by the United Nations' Interagency Task Force on Religion and Development, a group that seeks to foster dialogue between faith-based organizations and development agencies. The symposium was intended to address taboo issues that faith communities encounter when seeking to address sexual and reproductive health challenges in the developing world.The task force invited the Wijngaards Institute to present their statement in conjunction with the launch of two other reports, "Religion, Women's Health and Rights: Points of Contention, Paths of Opportunities," a paper produced jointly by the U.N. Population Fund and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation. The third report, "Dignity, Freedom and Grace: Christian Perspectives on HIV, AIDS, and Human Rights," published by The World Council of Churches was also presented. The event was also co-hosted by U.N.AIDS, U.N. Women, and Islamic Relief USA.The symposium's ten-person panel discussion offered insights from interfaith voices into the struggle for gender equality and sexual and reproductive health in the poorest regions of the globe. Many speakers emphasized the ways in which the faith-based groups can be either agents for justice or obstacles to progress in parts of the world in which girls and women suffer untold discrimination, poverty and disease.According to the "Religion, Women's Health and Rights," report, each year there are "290,000 maternal deaths, 74 million unintended pregnancies and 3 million newborn deaths."It is grim statistics like these that motivated the Wijngaards Institute to challenge the Vatican's ongoing ban on contraception and to contribute broader Catholic perspectives in a U.N. environment where typically the Holy See is the dominant Catholic presence.For decades the Holy See, which has permanent observer status at the United Nations, has used its influence at the U.N. to object to declarations, charters, and sustainable goals that make reference to sexual and reproductive health, contraception and family planning.In an attempt to engage the Holy See in dialogue, Miriam Duignan, communications director for the Wijngaards Institute, hand-delivered an invitation to the event and a copy of the statement to the Holy See's office near the United Nations in New York City.Duignan says that she received confirmation that the Holy See received and read the materials, but no representative attended the event.In an emailed response to NCR, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the U.N. stated that it had no official comment on the event.Backlash to the statement and the event, however, was noteworthy at the Catholic University of America, where several members of the faculty produced a counterstatement to the Wijngaards report and hosted a press conference, which was live-streamed on the CUA Facebook page, at the exact time of the U.N.-hosted symposium.Addressing these objections during the launch, Badini Confalonieri said, "allow me to ease some predictable concerns: we are not advocating sexual promiscuity, abortion, or population control on the part of governments."Badini Confalonieri insisted that the report comes out of a deep commitment to the church's social justice doctrine. In an interview with NCR before the symposium, he said that it is precisely Pope Francis' "emphasis on the social gospel, sustainability, and care for poorest people" that motivated the Wijngaards Institute to develop the report."All of these social justice issues are linked with contraception," Badini Confalonieri said. "We had an acute awareness that there were so many Catholics with expertise in this field. The lack of debate is glaring."The Wijngaards Institute was further emboldened by the pope's encouragement of frank dialogue during the Synod of Bishops on the family."It was stunning," Badini Confalonieri said, "that there were two meetings by bishops on the family and no formal discussion of contraception. We decided to commission a report to try to kick start dialogue."
Sep 22 16 4:17 PM
To say a bishop “smells like his sheep” is considered high praise today and is one of the top characteristics Pope Francis says he wants in bishops and candidates for the position of guiding a diocese.But like many of the other traits Pope Francis says he is looking for, there is no foolproof smell test and, in fact, a variety of sheep with varied scents are present in most dioceses.Pope Francis’ instruction — almost a plea — to the world’s apostolic nuncios Sept. 17 to “cast the nets” wider when identifying potential new pastors for a diocese and his continuing discussion with his international Council of Cardinals about “the spiritual and pastoral profile necessary for a bishop today” make it clear that providing good shepherds for every diocese is a responsibility the pope takes seriously.While the pope makes the final decision, the task of identifying, scrutinizing and proposing candidates to him is a burden shared by regional groups of bishops, the leadership of bishops’ conferences, the nuncios and either the Congregation for Bishops, the Congregation for Eastern Churches or the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.The bishops of an Eastern Catholic synod or a Latin-rite province — usually an archdiocese and several surrounding dioceses — regularly study the names and curriculum vitae of priests mentioned as potential bishops and vote on whom to recommend. The information collected and the vote are sent to the nuncio.The nuncio conducts his own investigation, including by sending a confidential questionnaire to 20-30 people who know the potential candidate. Improving the questionnaire was a specific topic of discussion at Pope Francis’ meeting in April with the Council of Cardinals.U.S. Archbishop Thomas E. Gullickson, the Vatican nuncio to Switzerland, said the basic text “has not changed much since the close of the Second Vatican Council.” The questionnaire is modified slightly by each congregation to fit the needs, for example, of a missionary diocese or Eastern church and by the nuncio to fit country’s specific culture.“Personally, I have been asking for a radical revision of the form for over five years,” the archbishop said in an email response to questions. “Some of the language of the council documents is no longer understandable to people and the questionnaire is much too long. People panic when they see two full pages of questions to answer in writing.”The nuncios — archbishops who are sent to represent the pope and the Holy See both diplomatically with a government and pastorally with the local church — solicit a report on the state of a vacant or about-to-be vacant diocese, collect the completed questionnaires, evaluate them and send their recommendations to the Vatican. Their missives take the form of a “terna” — a list of three names, but with an indication of whom the nuncio thinks is best suited for the ministry.For Latin-rite dioceses, officials at the Congregation for Bishops study the material and, usually twice a month, members of the congregation discuss it and vote for a candidate. The prefect, currently Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, presents the congregation’s recommendations to the pope, who approves them or asks for other options.“It is probably the most important work entrusted to a nuncio,” Archbishop Gullickson said. “In countries with a large episcopate, the job can be all-consuming; in a small country with less than 10 bishops, not so much.”When he met the nuncios Sept. 17, Pope Francis asked them to find ways to broaden the search for candidates. Certain that God continues to provide for his church, the pope told the nuncios not to “go fishing in an aquarium” or seek candidates only on the “barnyard of ‘friends of friends.'”“The Holy Father’s image is very suggestive when understood correctly,” Archbishop Gullickson said. “He wants us to avoid the abuse of allowing a clique or simple convenience to dictate the candidates for the office of bishop.“The challenge of ‘casting your nets wide,’ however, is not to trust your own personal judgment, but to consult diligently and do so discreetly and with reliable witnesses, with those who really know the potential candidates,” he said.But that is not easy, the archbishop said. “I remember years ago Pope St. John Paul II urging one of my nuncios to seek other sources of candidates. The nuncio worked hard, but he failed for lack of dependable and thoroughly knowledgeable witnesses. Sometimes laypeople can be lifesavers when it comes to judging candidates, but usually the average man or woman in the pew has very little knowledge of the parish priest. In religious communities and sometimes among diocesan clergy, petty jealousy or scrupulosity will make for too negative a picture of a candidate.”For more than three years, Pope Francis has been saying he wants bishops who: are close to and committed to their people; embrace poverty and live simply; are men of prayer and of the church; are not content to stay in the chancery, but go out in search of people in need; and are not managers, but pastors.But, in an early 2014 speech to members of the Congregation for Bishops, the pope said no “list of human, intellectual, cultural and even pastoral qualities” will provide an “algebraic sum” adding up to the perfect bishop.While nuncios will not have a precise list of qualifications like a corporate “head hunter,” the pope told them in September, the right men are out there. “Go out and find them.”
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