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May 3 17 8:25 AM
A Hungarian priest offers refugees shelter, and a town takes noticeKÖRMEND, Hungary (RNS) Tucked up near the Austrian border, about 160 miles from Budapest, is a small Hungarian town of 12,000 people. It’s a quiet place about three and a half hours and two trains rides from Hungary’s capital.But the community has been split by the decision of the local Catholic parish priest, the Rev. Zoltan Nemeth, to allow some asylum-seekers to take shelter in a church building.The refugee issue is electric in Hungary, with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government taking an increasingly hostile line against those seeking asylum in the country. Last month the Hungarian authorities announced the detention of all asylum-seekers, and state news outlets push a steady stream of xenophobic stories to the public. (It doesn't help that Peter Cardinal Erdo, the Primate of Hungary, is not exactly of a welcoming frame of mind where the migrants are concerned.)When a few months ago Nemeth offered some asylum-seekers shelter, it split Körmend. The asylum-seekers were from Syria, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere, and were sleeping in tents on the outskirts of the town.Nemeth lives right next to his church, St. Erzsebet’s. He explains how one of the asylum-seekers from Africa emailed, asking for help.“The main reason we took them in was because they were in life-threatening danger,” he said.A middle-aged man in a comfy cardigan and glasses, Nemeth looks like an unlikely hero. His handshake doesn’t try to impress, and he’s a little bemused that anyone thinks what he did is newsworthy.“It came as a surprise to public opinion that we took people in,” he said. While some parishioners have been supportive, others have criticized him for helping the asylum-seekers, about a dozen men he has allowed to sleep in the nearby church building. People have shouted abuse at him on the street; his young chaplain has been sworn at. (The depths of unkindness to which people can stoop are astonishing.)Others have accused him of being a lackey of philanthropist George Soros, targeted by the Orbán government for his funding of various academic, rights and charitable causes in Hungary. Or they’ve shouted the name of Jacques Hamel at him, referring to the French priest murdered by two ISIS recruits as he was celebrating Mass in his Normandy church last year.Nemeth told me he’s encouraged by Pope Francis, who invited a dozen refugees from Syria to the Vatican.The moral choice was clear for Nemeth when he was asked to help people living in the cold.“This church doesn’t have a bishop at the moment,” he said. “And for that reason I came to the decision on my own. Among the (church) followers there was division, since the politics surrounding refugees in Hungary is not built on acceptance. That is why our followers became divided. Even among priests we can see the divisions.”He said that although there had been appeals for parishes to accept refugees, “there was really no reaction, no one took them in, and there was no substantive dialogue within the church between bishops and priests.” (Clearly the Beatitude "Blessed are the merciful" does not hold much significance for these people.)Some of the parishioners help the local asylum-seekers prepare their meals, and Nemeth said the interaction has helped some locals overcome stereotypes about foreigners.Last year, Orbán’s government organized a referendum aimed at evading the country’s responsibilities on refugees. Although the question “Do you want to allow the European Union to mandate the resettlement of non-Hungarian citizens to Hungary without the approval of the National Assembly?” won a clear “no” from voters, turnout was too low to make the results valid.While the Budapest government continues to push a dangerous anti-refugee rhetoric across the country, Nemeth has shown what it means to address the clear choice between helping and ignoring those in need. If Hungary is struggling for moral leadership on the issue of xenophobia, the town of Körmend isn’t.
May 4 17 7:09 AM
The Vatican has established full diplomatic relations with the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar for the first time, following a cordial meeting Thursday between Pope Francis and Nobel Peace Prize laureate and country leader Aung San Suu Kyi.The Vatican announced the surprise move about 90 minutes after their meeting, saying in a statement that the two entities would soon be opening respective embassies. The Vatican had previously been represented in Myanmar by an apostolic delegate based in Thailand.The move represents a significant step for Myanmar, which in 2015 began a process of democratic reforms to emerge from a half-century of military rule. Suu Kyi, who had been put on house arrest under the military leadership, was elected the country’s State Counselor, a role equivalent to prime minister, in April 2016.The Myanmar leader and Francis spoke privately for 23 minutes during their meeting Thursday. Although Suu Kyi is not her country’s formal head of state, the pope broke normal protocol and came out to greet her as she approached his office in the apostolic palace, something he normally only does for country leaders.The two appeared cordial and at ease with each other. Upon sitting together at Francis’ desk, they began to speak immediately, even before their translator had sat down.Francis presented Suu Kyi with a bronze medallion that he has not been known to give other political leaders. The medallion, a 7.5 inch wide casting, shows a desert turning to bloom in a depiction of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah’s words: “The wilderness will become a fruitful field.”“The dry, thorny branch that blossoms and bears fruit symbolizes the passage from selfishness to sharing, from war to peace,” the Vatican said in an explanation of the piece. “It is a parable of the change that takes place when men and women open their hearts to the authentic values of growth and social harmony.”The pontiff also gave Suu Kyi a copy of his message for 2017’s World Day of Peace, which focused on nonviolence as a political method. The two leaders spoke again for several moments as Suu Kyi left Francis’ office, and the Myanmar leader finished the encounter by bowing her head towards the pontiff.Suu Kyi met Francis as part of a round of encounters with European leaders this week. She was in Brussels Wednesday for a meeting with the European Union’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini. She is to meet later Thursday with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, before traveling to London for meetings with British leaders.The Myanmar leader faced tough questions in the Brussels meeting about her country’s treatment of Rohingya Muslims, who mainly live in its western state of Rakhine.About 88 percent of people in Myanmar identify as Buddhist. The United Nations has warned that there are atrocities being committed against the Rohingya minority that could be considered “crimes against humanity.”In a press conference, Mogherini urged Suu Kyi to support a U.N. mission to investigate the situation. The Myanmar leader ruled out cooperating with the investigation, saying the U.N. resolution on the matter is not “in keeping with what is actually happening on the ground.”Jason Quinn, an expert on peace agreement design and implementation who has provided research support to negotiations in Myanmar, told NCR that while the Rohingya situation is serious he has greater concern that the country’s peace process may be faltering.“The peace process of the last several years appears to be stalling or failing,” said Quinn, a research assistant professor at the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.“From what I have personally experienced in the Myanmar peace process, the rebel organizations want peace and are seeking very modest political reforms and limited autonomy arrangements,” he said. “The military pretends to be committed to a peace process and engages in a lot of signaling and busy work, but they are just stalling.”“The bottom line is that a collection of powerful military families have been enthusiastically exploiting the mineral wealth of the country-side for decades,” said Quinn. “How do you go about stopping that?”David Steinberg, a Myanmar specialist and the author of several books on the country, said he thought the Vatican would have an opportunity in opening an embassy in the nation to speak up for the protection of the Rohingya and other minorities there."The building of these relationships and trust is very important," said Steinberg, a distinguished professor of Asian studies at Georgetown University. "I think it's important that the church be visible and supportive of national goals and also supportive of better relations with the Muslim community.""I think it is important that the Vatican do something," he said. "I think Pope Francis because of his record on human rights could maybe help try and influence Aung San Suu Kyi to do more."Francis has given special emphasis to the church in Myanmar, appointing Yangon Archbishop Charles Bo as the country’s first cardinal in 2015. According to the Vatican’s 2015 figures, the latest available, there are 659,000 Catholics in the country of 51 million and 384 parishes.
May 5 17 4:46 AM
Pope Francis will meet President Trump on his first official visit to Europe, the Vatican said Thursday (May 4).In a brief statement, the Vatican announced the president’s trip to the Holy See, planned for May 24. Trump also announced the trip in a Rose Garden ceremony Thursday, timed to coincide with the National Day of Prayer, in which he signed executive orders that he said would protect Americans’ religious liberty.“Pope Francis will receive the Hon. Donald Trump, President of the United States of America, on Wednesday, 24 May 2017, at 8:30 a.m. in the Apostolic Palace,” the Vatican statement reads.In recent months there had been speculation about a possible meeting between the two leaders, who are strongly opposed on major issues including climate change, capitalism, immigration and Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico.During his early morning visit to the Vatican, Trump will also meet the secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, who is responsible for the Holy See’s relations with states.The president will stop in Rome to meet the pope before heading to Brussels for a NATO summit and then returning to Sicily for a meeting of the leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations (May 26-27).Recent media reports suggested that Trump may have been snubbing the pope but there was also speculation the president sought to delay his first audience with the pontiff because he has not yet appointed a U.S. ambassador to the Holy See to accompany him.In April Trump raised eyebrows when he said: “I look very much forward to meeting the pope,” during a joint news conference at the White House with the Italian prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni. Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, later said that the meeting had not been confirmed.Relations between the pope and Trump suffered a serious blow last year when the Republican candidate pledged to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border.Without naming Trump, the pope said: “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”An infuriated Trump at the time described the pope’s comments as “disgraceful” and said he was “proud to be a Christian.”On the day of Trump’s inauguration in January, Francis sent the incoming president a telegram urging him not to forget the poor and those in need.The pope also called for greater compassion for refugees days after Trump tried to impose a travel ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries in January.In a video of the pontiff’s prayer intentions for February, the pope did not specifically refer to the president or his policies but expressed concern about large numbers of people who Francis said were being marginalized on the fringes of society.“Pray with me for all those who are afflicted, especially the poor, refugees and marginalized, so they may be welcomed and find comfort in our communities,” he said.The Vatican has also urged Trump to listen to “dissenting voices” on climate change.
May 5 17 10:33 AM
Pope Francis calling for “a little violence, but good, good violence” is what reporters call a ‘man bites dog’ story: The pope is the world’s biggest proponent of nonviolence, after all.
More surprising is who the target of the violence is: Not ISIS or Al Qaeda, but the Vatican’s own communications apparatus.The pope was speaking on Thursday to the first plenary assembly of the Secretariat for Communication, which was established two years ago.The Secretariat is charged with bringing the disparate bits of the Vatican communications apparatus - outfits such as Vatican Radio, Vatican TV, the newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the press office, the printing office, and the previous Council for Social Communications - under a single, unified office, and creating what Francis called “a truly ex novo institution.”If the Vatican were starting from scratch today, year zero if you like, it is easy to tell what that ex novo institution would look like. The new office’s head, Monsignor Dario Edoardo Viganò, was previously in charge of the television center, and he has been clear he wants the Vatican’s communications to be centered on a web portal, available in five or six major languages, which will put out text, video, and audio content.Viganò says he sees Disney as a model, but what he describes is more like the BBC website, or even a Catholic Buzzfeed.Only, this is not Year Zero, and ex novo is not ex nihilo.That major work needs doing is perhaps the one thing on which everyone agrees: I spent 15 years at Vatican Radio, starting in 2002, and I do not recall ever hearing anyone - no layperson, at least - contest the idea that a major reform of Vatican communications is past due.It was a layperson, Lord Christopher Patten of England, in fact - who also led a reform of the BBC - who led the commission that provided the blueprint on which the current reform is based. That commission called for a unified office controlling all media, an emphasis on digital content and engagement in social media. The commission was also tasked with studying ways to slash the budget, which altogether was over 70 million dollars.This is where violence enters the picture.Vatican Radio takes up the largest chunk of the communications budget, with a staff of over 300 people. It is the obvious embryo of the ex novo institution to come: It has a professional staff, many holding the Italian journalist license; it has the most advanced website at the Vatican; and it has been, for years, experimenting with different forms of social media.However, it also poses several roadblocks to achieving the new vision. Its staff is large, and includes several technicians specializing in radio. It goes out in nearly 40 languages, but linguistically, it’s still a Cold War institution: It broadcasts in a multitude of Eastern European languages, while several major Asian languages - including Thai, Bengali, and Malay - are not represented.Also, and perhaps most fundamentally, Vatican Radio bleeds money.Worst of all, there is no reliable method of measuring audience size, and some programs can probably measure their listeners in the low thousands. One Vatican official once told me, “You guys are not a lot of bang for the buck.”There has been a lot of resistance to removing these roadblocks, including a sense that some of the smaller language sections are going to be allowed to fade away as staff retire. But there is also the reality of modern, and postmodern, media: Radio is not television, and neither of them is a newspaper.Although a unified platform can serve all three - again, the BBC website manages to bring together text, audio, and video - merging staff, with the idea that writing a column and presenting a radio program are interchangeable jobs, will be harder, especially with older staff set in their ways.Even more worrying for some of the staff is that it is not Disney, the BBC, or Buzzfeed that the final product will end up looking like, but the White House website.Journalists - even for state media - have a role very much different from that of public relations officers, and there is resistance to becoming a large multilingual press office.Yet Francis and Viganò know that if they can get the radio on side, making it an efficient digital platform, then dealing with the other much smaller offices will be a piece of cake. That’s why they are willing to use “a little violence” to get it done.But will it be enough?Those smaller offices have shown themselves to be hard to kill - and not all the genuine communications problems in the Vatican are traceable to the offices dedicated to communications and media. The most significant duplication happening in Vatican communications right now is in translation: Sometimes a papal speech can be translated independently, in whole or in part, 3 or 4 times by different offices.Yet a central translation office hasn’t been established, and it would require coordination between the new communications office, the powerful Secretariat of State, and the Pontifical Household, which controls the pope’s schedule. This gets us to the real rub.The communications office has been given the primary task of making sure what the pope says and does is made known to the world as quickly as possible. However, whenever the pope speaks off the cuff - or says something controversial - the Secretariat of State tells everyone in the Vatican to wait, until the “official version” comes out, no matter that the “unofficial,” but authentic, version is all over television and the newswires.This undercuts the ability of Vatican media to be on top of the news.The problem is compounded when one realizes that the new communications office does not have any horizontal reach, and has no power to compel other Vatican offices - such as the ones on Doctrine, Integral Human Development, and Culture - to share information, or have trained communications staff, especially ones able to work in languages other than Italian.In the Byzantine world of Vatican politics, Viganò - the highest-ranking Vatican official to not be a bishop - will have a harder time getting the cardinals and archbishops that head the other offices to follow his lead. Many of the more embarrassing moments for the Vatican over the years have come from talkative cardinals, not mistakes from the Vatican communications apparatus.In any case, pulling together those disparate bits has been more difficult than expected, and the promised new web portal is over a year late in making its debut.In short: The communications problems of the Vatican will not be solved with a website.
May 6 17 7:19 PM
'Ad limina' meeting was a 'sharing among shepherds,' Cuban bishop saysROME (CNS) -- Having a group meeting with Pope Francis was not like attending a lecture, but it was a moment of communion and sharing among friends and shepherds, a Cuban archbishop said."When people call it an audience, it sounds like we're there only to listen, but this was a sharing among shepherds; a meeting of bishops -- the apostles that are in Cuba -- and Peter," Archbishop Dionisio Garcia Ibanez of Santiago, president of the Cuban bishops' conference, told Catholic News Service May 4.Pope Francis met with the 13 prelates from the Caribbean island nation earlier that day during the "ad limina" visit that bishops are required to make to the Vatican.Archbishop Garcia said the pope listened intently as well as offered advice on the challenges facing the nearly 6 million Catholics in Cuba.Although the problems "are common in many churches," Archbishop Garcia said, they "manifest in Cuba in a unique way.""It is a poor church and we need material help. But more than anything, we need missionaries, we need priests, religious men and women. The number of missionaries does not reach the demand of people who come to the church and the evangelization efforts we have," he said.While the government has granted greater religious freedoms to the Catholic Church, Archbishop Garcia told CNS that the lack of money has made it difficult to "build new churches in so many places where we have started to preach the faith."The church, however, continues to stay strong and is encouraged by the support by the pope, he added."We know and we feel the appreciation of the Holy See for Cuba and we thanked (Pope Francis) for that. We told him about the situation of our church, which is a very fragile and poor church in many things, but one that is also creative and enthusiastic about evangelizing. He listened to us and gave us advice; it was a conversation among shepherds," Archbishop Garcia told CNS.He also said that Catholics in Cuba are "very grateful" for the affection shown to them, particularly throughout the past three pontificates.The closeness of the universal church to the people of Cuba began with St. John Paul II's historic visit in 1998, the first visit of a pope to the country."Pope John Paul II was an imposing person; imposing not only in how he presented himself but also because of his personal history. He was a man who lived through totalitarianism and who went out to fight for his church," the archbishop said.And, Archbishop Garcia said, when St. John Paul visited Cuba, "his old age and physical weakness made him even more lovable because of his frailty and the power of his voice and thought."Pope Benedict XVI visited Cuba in 2012. Recalling the retired pope's "methodical and studious" personality, Archbishop Garcia said that although he had shown signs of frailty, "he had a very powerful way of thinking.""Pope Benedict spent two days in Cuba whereas Pope John Paul II spent five days. Yet in only two days, he conquered the hearts of the people," the archbishop said.However, he continued, Pope Francis stands out since "out of all three, he was the one that was known before" he became pope.As archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio headed the drafting committee for the final document of the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean in 2007 in Aparecida, Brazil.The document's call to renew the church's commitment to mission and discipleship in Latin America, particularly reaching out to those far from the church, resonated in areas where the church was in decline or just beginning to flourish, Archbishop Garcia said.The Cuban people love Pope Francis' "Latin American personality" and his way of "transmitting the Gospel in a very Latin American style," the archbishop said.Each of the three popes, "according to their own personality, according to the historical moment, have left their mark, which is to bring us the Gospel," Archbishop Garcia told CNS.
May 6 17 7:32 PM
A Franciscan recounts the horrors of AleppoIbrahim Alsabagh is a Syrian Franciscan. He became a priest at Saint Francis Parish in Aleppo in December 2014. His book, "A Moment Before Dawn", recounts his work among the starving, terrorized population.From the library of the Franciscan convent on rue Marie-Rose in Paris, Father Ibrahim Alsabagh’s gaze often drifts off through the window. It is as if, in this peaceful, silent environment, his spirit is drawn back to the chaos and violence in Syria.As a priest in the Latin Parish of Saint Francis in Aleppo from December 2014, the 46-year-old Syrian Franciscan’s daily life is one of fear, hunger, and thirst, as his book recounts.Since the war (July 2012 to January 2017), two-thirds of the city’s residents have left the once bustling economic hub whose pre-war population was over 4 million. Alsabagh and three other Franciscans, spread out in three different areas of Aleppo, have been doing everything they can to “slow down the city’s population hemorrhage”.The exodus has been even greater among Christians. All Christian communities combined, a total of 40,000, remain in Aleppo. There used to be ten times that number.Wealthy families and men of working age have left, leaving mostly the poor, the elderly, women, and children.“Altogether 95% of families are living below the poverty line. This is due to unemployment which has reached 85% among adults. The ratio of men to women in Aleppo is one to twelve!” exclaims Ibrahim Alsabagh.In the Azizieh quarter, the parish of Saint Francis supports hundreds of families. They use tankers to distribute water from a well in the convent, they provide diesel (for generators) and food packages (over 3,000 per month).Saint Francis also pay school fees, doctors’ and dentists’ fees, and finance loans which were taken out before the war.In winter, the Franciscans open a heated reading room for school children and students to come and study after school.“We give €20 per month to each student to cover the cost of travel so that they can come and further their study here. In summer, we run camps for over 350 students,” Father Alsabagh explains.He points out that even though the greater part of Aleppo is under military control, there are still some pockets of resistance.Shooting and bombing continue, so residents are always under the threat of water or electricity outages.“We have gone up to 70 days without tap water," says the Franciscan Father, lamenting the number of children who are sick as a result of malnutrition.Adults suffer from depression, insomnia, eczema and stress from trauma.“To keep going in such a horrific environment, you need a reserve of patience and humility," he says."Only the tender presence of Christ, which we feel among us, through the work we do, provides us with the strength to keep going.”Although Father Alsabagh himself feels no hatred towards those responsible for the bombings and shooting, he sees it as “natural” to react with anger to violent attacks that result in death and injury.“It is my responsibility as a priest to help people go beyond this type of reaction."He tells the story of the shell launched by Jihadists that hit the dome of the church on Sunday 25 October 2015. It hit “right in the middle of mass”, and “miraculously” did not kill anyone. They covered it in flowers and placed it at the foot of the altar.“This symbol of hatred and death was transformed into an offering of love which forgives and gives life.”Ibrahim Alsabagh is currently touring around France with a message asking us not to forget the residents of Aleppo. Not only because the city’s population “depends entirely on humanitarian aid”, but also because “prayer and spiritual communion across the world help sustain us.”He also hopes that the French government will mount pressure to find a solution that is practicable at an international level. This solution should “involve all implicated actors” so that Syrians can remain in their country.“No one has the right to uproot the tree of Christianity which was planted here and which has been growing for two thousand years, watered by the blood of martyrs and witnessed by innumerable saints."
May 6 17 8:02 PM
The Swiss Guard is more than an army – it's a school of faithVatican City, May 6, 2017 / 10:46 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As 40 new Swiss Guards take an oath to defend and protect Pope Francis, their commander has emphasized that their role is not only to be a security force, but has a spiritual aspect as well.“If someone in the (job) interview only talks about security and doesn’t know who they are giving security for…for me he is not a candidate,” Christoph Graf, Commander of the Swiss Guard, told journalists May 5. “For me a candidate must have a foundation in the faith, to be a practicing Catholic” who goes to Mass and prays, he said, adding that if a young man knows nothing of the faith, “I don’t know what he’s looking for (in the Swiss Guard).”Because of the army’s ties to the Pope and to the Church, he said having a solid faith life is “fundamental,” and explained that it’s even possible “to help some on the path of faith” if they have only a minimal knowledge.In addition to being a line of defense for the Bishop of Rome, the Guard must also be “missionary,” he said, saying they must protect the Pope “with weapons, but also the faith. With prayer.”Graf, who has served as the 35th Commander of the Pontifical Swiss Guard since 2015, spoke at a press conference a day ahead of the official swearing-in of 40 new Swiss Guards, who take a special oath to defend and protect the Pope. With roughly 100 applicants for 30-35 spots each year, competition to be a Swiss Guard is tough, Graf said – there is a process of filtering the candidates in order to ween the list down to 40 or 50 people, who come to him for a final interview. After speaking with each of them for 15-20 minutes, “you know” who the real candidates are, he said. Those who are accepted serve for a minimum of two years, but can also stay in service for an additional year or two, which was the case for many guards during last year’s Jubilee of Mercy.With a motto of “Courage and Loyalty,” the Pontifical Swiss Guard currently has just over 110 members, making it the smallest, though oldest army in the world.The official swearing-in ceremony takes place each year on the anniversary of the May 6, 1527 battle that has come to be known as the Sack of Rome, and which was the most significant and deadly event in the history of the Swiss Guard.In the course of the battle, 147 guards lost their lives while fighting the army of the mutinous Holy Roman Empire in defense of Clement VII, who was able to escape through a secret passageway leading from the Vatican to Castel Sant’Angelo, which sits next to the Tiber River.As part of the schedule this year, the family members of the new guards prayed Vespers the evening of May 5 in the church of Santa Maria della Pieta in the Vatican’s Teutonic College. Later, the “deposition of the crown” ceremony took place in commemoration of the guards who died during the Sack of Rome.Before taking their official oath in the afternoon, the guards had 7:30 a.m. Mass with Cardinal Gerhard Muller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica. They then met with Pope Francis before getting ready for the swearing-in ceremony, which took place in the San Damasco courtyard of the apostolic palace and was attended by Graf and representatives of the Swiss Army and the Swiss government, as well as the Bishops Conference of Switzerland. During the event, each new recruit approaches the flag of the Swiss Guard when his name is called out. Firmly grasping the banner with his left hand, the new guard raises his right hand and opens three fingers as a sign of his faith in the Holy Trinity.As he holds up his fingers, the guard proclaims this oath: “I, (name), swear diligently and faithfully to abide by all that has just been read out to me, so grant me God and so help me his saints.”In English, the full oath reads: “I swear I will faithfully, loyally and honorably serve the Supreme Pontiff Francis and his legitimate successors, and also dedicate myself to them with all my strength, sacrificing if necessary also my life to defend them. I assume this same commitment with regard to the Sacred College of Cardinals whenever the see is vacant. Furthermore, I promise to the Commanding Captain and my other superiors respect, fidelity and obedience. This I swear! May God and our Holy Patrons assist me!”In comments to CNA, one of the new guards, Filippo Inches, spoke of the connection between his service and the faith, saying that “without doubt my faith has increased and has been fortified.” “Because living 24/7 in this environment, in the context of the Vatican, surrounded by all these monsignors, archbishops and the Pope himself; participating at least one or twice a week in one of his events, listening to his preaching – inevitably and involuntarily something sticks,” he said.Inches, who has served as a Swiss Guard for the past 11 months, is from the small Swiss town of Vacallo, which sits on the border with Italy, just 37 miles north of Milan. He took his official oath to protect and defend Pope Francis alongside 39 other guards this year.By serving in the small army, “you also realize increasingly how important the role of the Church is as an institution,” he said, suggesting that while the Church is often criticized from the outside, being on the inside shows a different story. “On the inside, you are aware of how many efforts are made to seek for dialogue, and peaceful solution to the various controversies and conflicts, whether on a political level, an economic level, cultural with different forums and also at the scientific level,” Inches said.The guard explained that he had wanted to join ever since he was young. He traveled to Rome often as a child, where he always noticed the Swiss Guard, but it wasn’t until he was studying humanities in university that he decided to jump into the “adventure” of becoming one. He said that for him, defending the Pope means “being a part of history” given the army’s ancient roots. “So belonging to this corps I am very proud,” he said, “you see the universality, both of the Church and of history.”Inches said he has had the opportunity to see the Pope and speak with him on several occasions during events or while standing guard outside his room.“It can happen that he greets you, extending his hand and exchanging some joke,” he said, adding that what moves him most is when he sees the Pope coming in and out of his room, because “he gives this look like there is always a certain familiarity between him and the guards.”In his speech to the guards and their families before the official swearing-in ceremony, Pope Francis told the guards that while they might not be called to give their lives like the 127 who died during the Sack of Rome, they are called “to another sacrifice no less arduous: to serve the power of faith.”“This is a true barrier to resist the various strengths and powers of this world and above all he who is the ‘prince of this world’,” the Pope said, telling the guards they are called to be “strong and valorous, sustained by faith in Christ and by his Word of salvation.”He invited them to live their time in Rome with “sincere brotherhood,” supporting each other in an exemplary Christian life that is “motivated and supported by your faith.” “I’m sure that the strongest push to come to Rome to fulfill this service was given to you precisely by your faith,” he said, explaining that their mission comes primarily from their baptism, which allows them to bear witness to their faith in Christ. He urged them to practice charitable service toward one another, being “missionary disciples” in the daily tasks which might seem repetitive, but to which “it is important to always give new meaning.”During his speech at the swearing-in, Graf noted that this year marks the 600th anniversary of the birth of one of the patron saints of the Swiss Guard, St. Nicholas of Flue, known as the “defensor Pacis et pater patriate,” or, “the defender of peace and the father of our country.” Other patron saints are St. Martin and St. Sebastian.Graf encouraged the guards to look to Scripture and the lives of the saints for examples of how to give their lives generously and with humility, saying “whoever wants to successfully guide must first learn how to love people.”He pointed to various economic and political crises taking place throughout Europe, including those of poverty, unemployment, terrorism, migration and “a growing Islamophobia,” which are causing “a certain sense of impotence and disorientation.”“Must not a cause for this crisis also be sought in the growing disappearance of faith, in the growing lack of God?” he asked.“Wake up, dear Christians!” he said. “The present world has a new need for examples, especially in our Europe.”“The present world needs simple and humble people who live and bear witness to the faith. People who carry out their daily duties with love, who pray and do penance,” he said, asking for both prayer and fasting, saying “you will be surprised at what you can do with that.”
May 8 17 4:56 AM
A week ago Saturday, the abbot of Daylesford Abbey, a Norbertine community near Philadelphia, emailed me requesting a meeting; he said he would rather not disclose its purpose. A few days later we met for coffee. Abbot Richard Antonucci started our conversation by saying that he'd heard that Jim Anderson and I had been legally married.
"I want you to believe this," he said: "I sincerely wish you many, many years of happiness together."Then he passed me a copy of a directive from Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia stating that members of same-sex couples should "not hold positions of responsibility in a parish, nor should they carry out any liturgical ministry or function." Richard said he intended to enforce the directive.Our talk was frank but friendly. I reminded him that the abbey is not a parish and nor is Chaput his superior. True enough, but, Richard tells me, all Catholic laypeople in the archdiocese are subject to Chaput's authority.I argued that I knew of local pastors choosing not to enforce the directive because of its injustice. Richard said he was unwilling to take the risk."You're the spiritual leader of the place I've been part of for 35 years," I said. "How do you counsel me?"Richard said that he hoped I might find it in my heart to remain in the abbey community.This pain of this decision can only be felt where there is love. Here's why it hurts: When I first came to Daylesford Abbey in 1981, I had just undergone what I later learned is called a conversion. Raised Catholic, educated in a parish school and at Jesuit prep school, I'd become disaffected with the church in college. Then, at 30, I got knocked off my horse and struck blind, so to speak, and returned to a church much different from the one I'd known as a kid. My discovery of Daylesford Abbey, with its refined architecture, enlightened preaching and ravishing liturgy, was a revelation within the revelation. Though I'd never seen the place before, when I entered its church for the first time, I had the uncanny feeling that I'd come home.In those early days, the abbey's liturgical director befriended me and put me to work immediately on special projects: revising a hymnal with an eye to amending sexist language; arranging a psalter and canticles to be used in the Daylesford Rite of the Hours. We likewise collaborated on liturgical events—the consecration of the Abbey's Church of the Assumption, a children's mass for Christmas morning, and the Good Friday Veneration of the Cross, a service that has since become Daylesford's signature. From the beginning, even before lectoring, mine has been a ministry of words. Even during the many years I lived in New Haven, I kept close to the Abbey. I was commissioned me to write a three-year cycle of penitential rites for its Sunday mass based on the scriptural readings for the day. In 1988, I became an affiliate ( one considering entering the order ); in 2001, an associate ( a layperson with an especially active role in the abbey's life ). During the declining years of my parents ( who loved the place ), the Abbey was a source of solace to me as caregiver. Two Norbertines celebrated my father's funeral.Lectoring has been a particular passion for me. On my conversion, I was drawn to the lectern because of the beauty of what I heard and my desire to know it better. A writer myself, I prepare my assignments as if I had written them, so that I can present them to the assembly with understanding and conviction. Forgive me if this sounds like a resume. My point is Charles Chaput knows none of this about me. Richard himself, who came to Daylesford in 2000, did not know how very long is my history there. Neither of these men know that Jim decided to be confirmed a Catholic after attending Pentecost mass at Daylesford, though Richard remembered fondly Jim's magnificent chanting of the Passion narratives, solo, from the Abbey pulpit on three consecutive Palm Sundays and Good Fridays.My meeting with the abbot on Oct. 20 was not first my first encounter with the episcopal directive. I'd read about it in the news some months before. Of course, it made me angry: It's very offensive. Chaput asserts that same-sex couples "offer a serious counter-witness to Catholic belief, which can only produce moral confusion in the community. Such a relationship cannot be accepted into the life of the parish without undermining the faith of the community, most notably the children"This strikes me as hypocritical, perhaps even cynical, especially the phrase concerning children: We remember that Benedict XVI appointed Chaput to Philadelphia in the midst of the legal consequences of disclosures of the history of clerical pedophilia in the archdiocese.In his administration, Chaput has crossed a line into alienating the laity whom he was entrusted to serve. He has advocated, even lobbied, against extending the Pennsylvania commonwealth's statute of limitation on crimes of sexual predation. Perhaps alienation is a deliberate strategy: like the failed pope who appointed him, the archbishop has spoken publically about the advantages of a "smaller, lighter" church.Since my meeting with Richard, I've gone through several phases of grief/betrayal, anger, self-pity, sorrow, and worst, I realize now, was a sense of shame and disgrace. These latter emotions are what victims of abuse are made to feel in its aftermath, but they're also familiar to gay men of my age. And I thought I was done with those—years and years ago.Archbishop's directive a great wrong to individuals and the church
"I want you to believe this," he said: "I sincerely wish you many, many years of happiness together."
Then he passed me a copy of a directive from Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia stating that members of same-sex couples should "not hold positions of responsibility in a parish, nor should they carry out any liturgical ministry or function."
Richard said he intended to enforce the directive.
Our talk was frank but friendly. I reminded him that the abbey is not a parish and nor is Chaput his superior. True enough, but, Richard tells me, all Catholic laypeople in the archdiocese are subject to Chaput's authority.I argued that I knew of local pastors choosing not to enforce the directive because of its injustice. Richard said he was unwilling to take the risk.
"You're the spiritual leader of the place I've been part of for 35 years," I said. "How do you counsel me?"
Richard said that he hoped I might find it in my heart to remain in the abbey community.
This pain of this decision can only be felt where there is love. Here's why it hurts: When I first came to Daylesford Abbey in 1981, I had just undergone what I later learned is called a conversion. Raised Catholic, educated in a parish school and at Jesuit prep school, I'd become disaffected with the church in college. Then, at 30, I got knocked off my horse and struck blind, so to speak, and returned to a church much different from the one I'd known as a kid.
My discovery of Daylesford Abbey, with its refined architecture, enlightened preaching and ravishing liturgy, was a revelation within the revelation. Though I'd never seen the place before, when I entered its church for the first time, I had the uncanny feeling that I'd come home.
In those early days, the abbey's liturgical director befriended me and put me to work immediately on special projects: revising a hymnal with an eye to amending sexist language; arranging a psalter and canticles to be used in the Daylesford Rite of the Hours. We likewise collaborated on liturgical events—the consecration of the Abbey's Church of the Assumption, a children's mass for Christmas morning, and the Good Friday Veneration of the Cross, a service that has since become Daylesford's signature.
From the beginning, even before lectoring, mine has been a ministry of words. Even during the many years I lived in New Haven, I kept close to the Abbey. I was commissioned me to write a three-year cycle of penitential rites for its Sunday mass based on the scriptural readings for the day. In 1988, I became an affiliate ( one considering entering the order ); in 2001, an associate ( a layperson with an especially active role in the abbey's life ).
During the declining years of my parents ( who loved the place ), the Abbey was a source of solace to me as caregiver. Two Norbertines celebrated my father's funeral.Lectoring has been a particular passion for me. On my conversion, I was drawn to the lectern because of the beauty of what I heard and my desire to know it better. A writer myself, I prepare my assignments as if I had written them, so that I can present them to the assembly with understanding and conviction. Forgive me if this sounds like a resume.
My point is Charles Chaput knows none of this about me. Richard himself, who came to Daylesford in 2000, did not know how very long is my history there. Neither of these men know that Jim decided to be confirmed a Catholic after attending Pentecost mass at Daylesford, though Richard remembered fondly Jim's magnificent chanting of the Passion narratives, solo, from the Abbey pulpit on three consecutive Palm Sundays and Good Fridays.
My meeting with the abbot on Oct. 20 was not first my first encounter with the episcopal directive. I'd read about it in the news some months before. Of course, it made me angry: It's very offensive. Chaput asserts that same-sex couples "offer a serious counter-witness to Catholic belief, which can only produce moral confusion in the community. Such a relationship cannot be accepted into the life of the parish without undermining the faith of the community, most notably the children
"This strikes me as hypocritical, perhaps even cynical, especially the phrase concerning children:
We remember that Benedict XVI appointed Chaput to Philadelphia in the midst of the legal consequences of disclosures of the history of clerical pedophilia in the archdiocese.In his administration, Chaput has crossed a line into alienating the laity whom he was entrusted to serve. He has advocated, even lobbied, against extending the Pennsylvania commonwealth's statute of limitation on crimes of sexual predation.
Perhaps alienation is a deliberate strategy: like the failed pope who appointed him, the archbishop has spoken publically about the advantages of a "smaller, lighter" church.
Since my meeting with Richard, I've gone through several phases of grief/betrayal, anger, self-pity, sorrow, and worst, I realize now, was a sense of shame and disgrace. These latter emotions are what victims of abuse are made to feel in its aftermath, but they're also familiar to gay men of my age. And I thought I was done with those—years and years ago.
Archbishop's directive a great wrong to individuals and the church
May 8 17 5:07 AM
There’s an episode of “The Simpsons” that pivots on the discovery of a fossil that appears to be in the form of an angel, which triggers a round of religious fervor until it’s revealed to be a publicity stunt for the opening of a new mall.This being America, the affair gave rise to a lawsuit in which a judge places a restraining order on science, ordering it to stay 500 years away from religion at all times. The scene reflected the popular conception that science and religion are natural enemies, and that things turn combustible whenever they intersect.Brother Guy Consolmagno, a Jesuit who directs the Vatican Observatory, has spent the better part of his career trying to debunk that view of things, and now he’s hosting a major conference that puts an exclamation point on the idea: A May 9-12 summit at the papal summer residence in Castelgandolfo, which is also home to the Vatican Observatory (to escape the distracting lights of Rome), on “Black Holes, Gravitational Waves and Space-Time Singularities.”“The Vatican Observatory was founded in 1891 by Pope Leo XIII to show that the Church supports good science, and to do that we have to have good science,” he said, arguing that’s what this gathering is about. He noted that among the speakers will be a former Nobel Prize winner in physics and a former Wolf Prize winner.Some two years in the works, the idea behind the conference is to bring together experts in both theoretical and observational cosmology, to ponder new questions arising from the discoveries of puzzling elements of the universe such as dark matter and dark energy.The gathering also marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Father Georges Lemaître, a Belgian priest, physicist and mathematician, who’s widely credited with founding the “Big Bang” theory to explain the origins of the physical universe.In a sense, Lemaître was a living reductio ad absurdum on the idea that religious faith is necessarily hostile to science. He taught at the Catholic University of Leuven and was a faithful Catholic priest, in addition to a brilliant physicist who pioneered many of the foundational concepts in modern cosmology, including the idea of an expanding universe.At a Vatican news conference on Monday, Jesuit Father Gabriele Gionti, organizer of the conference, suggested it’s the sort of thing that ought to push rational people to get past the idea of a rupture between a scientific and a religious way of seeing the world.“This fear of science people talk about is a myth,” Gionti said.“Lemaître always made a distinction between the beginnings of the universe and its origins,” he said. “The beginning of the universe is a scientific question, to be able to date with precision when things started.”“The origins of the universe, however, is a theologically charged question,” and answering it, he said, “has nothing at all to do with a scientific epistemology.”For his part, Consolmagno cautioned against a lazy tendency among many believers to handle the Big Bang theory by replying that God is the one who caused it - which both short-circuits further scientific investigation, he said, and also cheapens the concept of God.“If you look at God as merely the thing at started the Big Bang, then you get a nature god, like Jupiter throwing around lightning bolts,” he said.“That’s not a god I want to believe in,” he said. “There are many ideas of god, which means there are many gods I don’t believe in.”“We must believe in a God who is supernatural,” Consolmagno said. “We recognize God as the one who is responsible for existence, and our science tells us how he did it.”To unpack the point, Consolmagno made a quip that probably brings down the house at physicist parties.“Stephen Hawking said that he can explain God as a fluctuation in the primordial gravity field,” he said. “If you buy that, it means God is gravity … maybe that’s why Catholics celebrate Mass!”Most basically, Consolmagno said, it’s important to maintain the proper distinction between what science can prove, and what faith can add.“God is not something we arrive at the end of our science, it’s what we assume at the beginning,” he said, adding emphatically: “I am afraid of a God who can be proved by science, because I know my science well enough to not trust it!”Finally, Consolmagno called on scientists who are also believers to “come out of the closet” about it, sharing their scientific work with people in their churches and faith communities.“More scientists who are church-goers need to make their science known to their parishioners,” he said.“They should set up their telescopes in the church parking lot, or lead natural trails for youth groups,” Consolmagno said. “People in churches need to be reminded that science was an invention of medieval universities founded by the church, and that the logic of science comes out of the logic of theology.”“If there’s a rivalry,” he said, “it’s a sibling rivalry.”“It’s a crime against science to say that only atheists can do it,” he said, “because if that were true, it would eliminate so many wonderful scientists.”
May 8 17 6:04 AM
Vatican gets testimony from more Apuron accusersThe Vatican tribunal working on Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron’s canonical penal trial will be hearing testimony in California from John Toves, the first person to publicly accuse Apuron in 2014 of sexual abuse, of his cousin.Led by Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, the tribunal also received a written testimony from John Michael “Champ” Quinata, alleging that Apuron raped his brother, the now deceased former altar boy Joseph Anthony “Sonny” Quinata, when his brother was 9 years old.Champ Quinata said he’s willing to testify in person if and when necessary. He and his mother, Doris Y. Concepcion, visiting from Arizona, marked the 12th year death anniversary of Sonny Quinata with a Mass at Saint Jude Thaddeus Catholic Church in Sinajana Friday night.“The Vatican should defrock him (Apuron),” Champ Quinata said. “He should also go to jail for what he did. Nothing will bring back my brother but the church should continue its efforts to change for the better, and it goes deeper than just Apuron. I think my brother is happy where he is now, because everyone now knows what Apuron did to him when he’s a child.”Toves said he’s grateful that the Vatican reached out to him so he can personally tell them about Apuron’s alleged sexual abuse of Toves’ cousin, while his cousin was an altar boy at the cathedral, before Apuron became archbishop.“Oh my God, the Vatican is finally asking me to say my piece, when Apuron didn’t even want to listen to me or see me for years. That’s what I was thinking when I first received an email from the tribunal,” Toves told Pacific Daily News by phone on Sunday. “At the time, nobody wanted to believe the story about Apuron. I’m glad it’s all coming out now.”Toves said he’s scheduled to testify before the tribunal at the Archbishop’s Residence in San Francisco Monday, (Tuesday Guam time)."People are now finding ways to heal but that healing will be complete when Apuron is defrocked. He deserves to be defrocked or laicized for a multitude of crimes, both sexual in nature and leadership and embezzlement issues," Toves said.The tribunal also was scheduled to receive testimony from former altar boys Roy Quintanilla and Roland Sondia in Hawaii Saturday (Sunday Guam time). Sondia, living on Guam, left for Hawaii last week. Quintanilla lives in Honolulu. They are both accusing Apuron of sexually abusing them in Agat in the 1970s.Quintanilla and Sondia initially didn’t testify in February after their attorney, David Lujan, advised them not to give their testimony to the visiting Vatican tribunal without his presence as counsel. Lujan represents 45 individuals who filed clergy sex abuse civil cases against the Archdiocese of Agana, priests and other entities.The Vatican tribunal was on Guam Feb. 16-18. Although they didn't hear testimony from Sondia, they heard testimony from other witnesses, including Deacon Steve Martinez, the archdiocese's former sexual abuse response coordinator whom Apuron removed after bringing up clergy sex abuse issues that should have been addressed.Former altar boy Walter Denton, who accused Apuron of raping him in a church rectory when he was 13 in 1977, personally testified before the Vatican tribunal on March 17 also at the Archbishop’s Mansion in San Francisco.Concepcion also personally testified before the tribunal in March in Arizona.Every Sunday morning, the Laity Forward Movement, along with Concerned Catholics of Guam, holds a peaceful picket in front of the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagatna, calling for Apuron's removal as archbishop and his laicization.
Apuron church trial breaks new groundROME — Guam Archbishop Anthony Apuron isn’t the first high-ranking church official to be accused of sexual abuse, but his ongoing canonical trial at the Vatican is ground-breaking, according to experts.A new trial process for these types of allegations is in place under Pope Francis, and Apuron would be the first to be investigated and tried since its implementation.Former Agat altar boys Walter Denton, Roy Quintanilla, Roland Sondia, and the relatives of former altar boy Joseph “Sonny” Quinata have accused Apuron of child molestation and rape when he was parish priest in the late 1970s. Apuron has denied the allegations.The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith last October named Cardinal Raymond Burke the presiding judge in Apuron’s trial. Burke’s office did not reply to requests for comment.According to Iacopo Scaramuzzi, a Vatican expert who has written a book about Pope Francis called “Tango Vaticano,” Francis has completed a reform process started under Pope Benedict XVI that makes it possible for those accused of sexual abuse to face two trials: a canonical trial and a criminal trial. Previously, only the criminal trial was used.Once the process begins, it will be new territory for the church. The closest parallel is Polish Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, who was defrocked in 2014, following a canonical trial, for alleged sexual abuse cases in the Dominican Republic between 2008 and 2013.Wesolowski was set to be tried in a criminal case 2015 but he died before the trial could start.“An investigation showed that Wesolowski died of natural causes, though of course there has been a lot of speculation that it might have been a suicide or that he could have been poisoned,” said Robert Mickens, a long-time Vatican watcher and managing editor for “La Croix International.”Vatican officials said, as far as they know, Apuron’s trial is related to sex abuse allegations only. Apuron’s alleged mismanagement of the local church also had been brought to the attention of the Vatican by his critics on Guam.This will be the first full trial of its kind at the Vatican, as there are no other bishops or archbishops, from the United States or elsewhere, to have been investigated this way.Vatican representatives already have received testimony during interviews with Denton and Doris Concepcion, Quinata’s mother. Sondia and Quintanilla were scheduled to talk to Vatican officials on May 7.The trial is set to start in early summer, most likely June, according to Vatican officials. There is no word on how long it would take because there are few real precedents.The most severe result of the canonical trial would result in Apuron being defrocked, according to Vatican officials. A lesser “guilty” result would be that he be suspended, meaning he would still be considered clergy but not allowed to teach or celebrate Mass for the public.Whether or not Apuron would be allowed to retire and keep retirement benefits if found guilty will likely be determined only after the trials. But a Vatican official noted that the pensions of bishops and archbishops normally come from the diocese they represent, so that decision will likely be made by local officials on Guam."The Archdiocese of Agana shouldn’t even be supporting him now, much less in the future," said Laity Forward Movement President Lou Klitzkie. The group pickets Sunday mornings outside the Dulce Nombre ee Maria Cathedral-Basilica, calling for Apuron's removal from the priesthood. "The holy father can defrock Apuron. This is quite important to some of the picketers because, traditionally, bishops of Agana are interred in the cathedral when they die.""No one can trust him," said Concerned Catholics of Guam President David Sablan. "He has lost the trust and confidence of the people of the Archdiocese of Agana. It seems that he viewed himself above us all with his betrayal of our trust. It would be scandalous to ever bring him back to Guam as the Archbishop of Agana or even publicly administer the holy sacraments to the people."“Regardless of the outcome, this is a groundbreaking case,” said Father Alistair Sear, a retired church historian based in London. “There was a time when the higher reaches of the church were seen as untouchable (in sex abuse cases). That is no longer true.”Other church officials at least as high-ranking as Apuron have faced allegations related to sex abuse. Examples include:Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien, once the head of the Conference of Bishops, was accused of “inappropriate and predatory sexual conduct” in 2013. As a result of the charges he skipped the 2013 conclave that eventually elected Francis as pope. In 2015, Francis formally allowed O’Brien to keep his title of cardinal, but stripped him of the rights and privileges of the title;Belgian Archbishop Roger Vengheluwe was forced to resign amid sex abuse charges in 2010, but he was never formally investigated;Austria Bishop Kurt Krenn resigned in 2004 in a case involving child pornography trafficking. He was never formally investigated;Boston Cardinal Bernard Law was removed from his position but never investigated for allegedly helping cover up sex abuse cases involving priests in New England;There also are several cases of bishops allegedly covering up sex abuse by priests, as was the case with Law.
May 8 17 6:17 AM
Why Stephen Fry should be allowed to blaspheme as much as he wantsAh, it doesn't get better than this – Stephen Fry is being investigated for blasphemy. Where to start?Fry is a National Treasure, a brilliant comic talent who has won huge sympathy with his honesty over his mental illness. He's also gay, and has absolutely no sympathy with the sort of rancid homophobia purveyed by some sections of the Christian community. This may have contributed to his fiery denunciation of divinity on Gay Byrne's show in 2015, when – asked what he would say to God at the pearly gates – he replied he would say: 'How dare you create a world in which there is such misery?... It's not right. It's utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?'He added: 'The god who created this universe, if it was created by god, is quite clearly a maniac, an utter maniac, totally selfish.'His words arguably fell foul of Ireland's 2009 Defamation Act, which prohibits prohibits the 'publishing or uttering [of] matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion'. The action must be deliberate: the offender must also intend 'to cause such outrage'.However, there is more to the potential prosecution than meets the eye. There have been no prosecutions for blasphemy since the law was introduced. The person whose complaint forced the police to take up the issue admitted he was not personally offended by the comment. There's a widespread consensus that Fry will not be prosecuted.The 2009 act was introduced to plug a legislative gap, helpfully explained by Frank Cranmer on the Law and Religion blog. The Irish constitution forbids blasphemy, but no one had defined what, legally, that actually meant. So it was added into a reform of the law of defamation at a 'fairly late stage' as a tidying-up exercise.Ireland's Convention on the Constitution concluded in its Sixth Report, in 2014, that the offence of blasphemy should be removed from the Constitution. This requires a referendum, however, and it hasn't happened yet despite a government commitment to do so.What the Fry case shows is that the sooner it happens the better. Naturally, atheist organisations want rid of it, but so do Churches too: the Irish Council of Churches issued a statement in 2013 saying it was 'largely obselete' and would be better replaced by legislation against discrimination and hate crimes. It's even been suggested that the person who complained about Fry's comments might have done so to get the ball rolling again.It's hard to see why anyone would want to keep it. But here are three reasons why blasphemy laws in whatever form are terrible, terrible ideas.First, they are used as tools of oppression. Pakistan, where minorities including Christians are regularly hauled off to prison on specious blasphemy charges brought by disgruntled neighbours and a climate of intolerance has recently led to a suspected (Muslim) university student being lynched, cites Ireland as an example to follow. As Prof Heiner Bielefeldt, UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion, told Atheist Ireland: 'Those countries that continue to have an intimidating anti-blasphemy practice like to quote European countries to unmask Western hypocrisy.' A blasphemy law, which forbids speaking against a particular religion or creed, is fundamentally incompatible with human rights (as legislation that forbids hate speech or incitement to violence, including religious violence, is not).Second, they're theologically misguided. The idea that a particular creed can be enforced on a population by law, or that any expression of dissent from the religious norm should be punished, is a horrific abuse of both state and religious power. It is what happens when the religious authorities – of whatever religion – are co-opted by the state, and vice versa. It is an unholy marriage whose only aim is the maintenance and exercise of power. 'It's for your own good,' the religious partner will say, on the grounds that it alone possesses the spiritual truth that will guarantee access to heaven. But the result is the same: the individual's conscience is overruled on the grounds that other people know better.That is not how truth faith works, and Christians should have nothing to do with it. Yes, it may be painful to hear attacks on our faith – especially when they're ill-informed or clearly motivated by hatred (and Fry's is in a different category). But that's a problem for us, not for Jesus – who, lest it be forgotten, willingly submitted to verbal and physical abuse far beyond anything we are likely to witness. We don't need to defend God from attacks on him; that's not how it works. Faith is voluntary and free, or it's nothing at all.Third, attacks on faith – blasphemies, if you like – are great discussion starters. Fry's comments started a huge debate about God, evil and suffering, to which Christian commentators showed themselves fully equal (we've been doing this for 2,000 years, after all). The original video was viewed more than 7 million times. For every viewer who thought, 'Fry's so right', another may have thought, 'I wonder if Fry's right?' and looked for a Christian response.If Ireland is shamed into getting rid of its blasphemy law by the current furore, so much the better. But it's a dead letter anyway. The real effort should go into putting pressure on Pakistan and other countries where such laws are a deadly weapon of terror to repeal theirs.
May 9 17 12:16 AM
There is a whiff of history hanging over the gathering of the 22 bishops’ conferences of Latin America this week in San Salvador, more than a hint that this is a “favorable time” for the Church of that continent.True, this is only an “ordinary” assembly of CELAM, the Latin-American bishops’ council, of the sort that happens every four years. This means that unlike its five great continental “general conferences” since 1955 that issue historic documents, this gathering is mostly concerned with internal reports and discussions.But this is a special moment - the first such assembly under the first Latin-American pope on the tenth anniversary of the general conference of Aparecida, Brazil. Francis steered and led the concluding document of that general conference, which forms the backdrop to the “pastoral revolution” of his papacy. If nothing else, this week will recommit the Latin-American Church to that so-called “continental mission” - outgoing, pastoral, focused on the periphery - as both program and attitude.The May 9-15 assembly is happening in El Salvador, because it’s the centenary Thursday of the birth of Oscar Romero, Latin America’s most famous modern martyr, and icon of the “Church of the poor.”The former Archbishop of San Salvador, shot dead while celebrating Mass in March 1980 after speaking out against the bloody repression of the poor, was finally beatified two years ago, after Francis unblocked his cause, long stalled in Rome at the insistence of Salvador’s nuncio and ruling class. Francis is expected to declare Romero a saint later this year.This week is also the 50th anniversary of the 1968 CELAM assembly at Medellín that launched the Latin-American Church in its modern form, committing it to a historic task of liberation. Although the concept led to fierce disagreements in the wake of the Cuban revolution, the Latin-American bishops’ pledge to stand with their poor majority against all the threats to their wellbeing is now, arguably, firmer than ever.Bishop Juan Espinoza, the Council’s Mexican secretary-general, says the fact that this week’s meeting takes place in El Salvador under Romero’s shadow gives a special reason to recover that commitment.“This year, we are putting special emphasis in all our work in CELAM on promoting a poor Church for the poor,” he told Vatican Radio.Another significant item will be a second synod of all the Americas, the first of which took place 20 years ago this year. Ties between bishops north and south of the Rio Grande - organizational as well as of affection and kinship - have been growing ever stronger: CELAM’s projects receive most of their funding from the North-American bishops. A meeting on mercy in Bogotá, Colombia, last year was the biggest gathering of bishops of north and south since the 1997 synod that led to Ecclesia in America.This week’s meeting will have a contingent of bishops from the U.S. and Canada to discuss a new “synod of the Americas” - to take place not in Rome but in, say, Central America or Mexico. It would allow the Churches of north and south to speak with a single voice on key global issues such as immigration, climate change, violence, drugs and threats to marriage and family. Given that the Americas now contain close to half of all the world’s Catholics, their voice would be hard to ignore.It would also be a key step towards strengthening the voice of continent-wide bishops’ bodies, which Francis wants to see. In a globalized age when so many challenges cross borders yet which is seeing a return of nationalism and nativism, regional bishops’ gatherings will be an important prophetic platform. CELAM, by far the oldest and strongest of these bodies, is called to lead the way.Most of the discussions this week will have an internal focus, hearing from continental church initiatives. Among these, the formation of lay leaders will have a special prominence. Francis wants CELAM to resist clericalism and help form committed lay people imbued in Catholic social doctrine, to rescue politics on the continent from left-wing messiahs and neo-liberal technocrats.But he wants to see more lay leaders trained to serve local parishes. Concerned that too many Latin-American Catholics live in isolation from the Church, he has asked CELAM to help bishops’ conferences train local leaders and catechists, some of whom could be deacons.These trained “pastoral agents” would allow the multiplication of what in the Archdiocese of Bogotá, Colombia, are called “listening centers” - places where people can come to speak of their problems and pressures and be heard by a pastor or a lay person trained in discernment.CELAM has created a new training and formation body, the elaborately named CEBITEPAL (Pastoral-Biblical-Theological Center for Latin America), to focus its efforts. Within it, the so-called Social School (Escuela Social ) created last year has a kind of observatory function, to help the continent’s bishops coordinate responses to challenges such as climate change or drug-trafficking, and to teach social Catholic doctrine.All of this - and new financing for such initiatives - suggests that we’re likely to hear more from CELAM in the coming years. There’s nothing quite so energizing as to believe that now is a kairos, a favorable time - and there’s nowhere in the Church right now that feels that more than Latin America.
May 9 17 5:06 AM
Leo XIII’s remarks that Anglican orders are “absolutely null and utterly void” have been a major stumbling block to Catholic-Anglican unityOne of the Vatican’s top legal minds has opened the way for a revision of the Catholic position on Anglican orders by stressing they should not be written off as “invalid.” In a recently published book, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, calls into question Pope Leo XIII’s 1896 papal bull that Anglican orders are “absolutely null and utterly void.”“When someone is ordained in the Anglican Church and becomes a parish priest in a community, we cannot say that nothing has happened, that everything is ‘invalid’,” the cardinal says in volume of papers and discussions that took place in Rome as part of the “Malines Conversations,” an ecumenical forum. “This about the life of a person and what he has given …these things are so very relevant!” For decades Leo XIII’s remarks have proved to be one of the major stumbling blocks in Catholic-Anglican unity efforts, as it seemed to offer very little room for interpretation or revision. But the cardinal, whose department is charged with interpreting and revising Church laws, argued the Church today has a “a very rigid understanding of validity and invalidity” which could be revised on the Anglican ordination question. “The question of validity [regarding the non-recognition of Anglican orders, while the Pope would give pectoral crosses, rings or chalices to Anglican clergy], however, is not a matter of law but of doctrine,” he explains in a question and answer format. “We have had, and we still have a very rigid understanding of validity and invalidity: this is valid, and that is not valid. One should be able to say: ‘this is valid in a certain context, and that is valid another context’.”Cardinal Coccopalmerio also recalled Pope Paul VI’s meeting with then Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, in 1966. It was a famous meeting as the Pope gave the archbishop his episcopal ring and also, according to the cardinal, a chalice. “What does it mean when Pope Paul VI gave a chalice to the Archbishop of Canterbury? If it was to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, it was meant to be done validly, no?” he explains. “This is stronger than the pectoral cross, because a chalice is used not just for drinking but for celebrating the Eucharist. With these gestures the Catholic Church already intuits, recognises a reality.”Pope Francis has also pushed ahead with a number of symbolically important ecumenical initiatives such as travelling to Sweden to mark the 500th anniversary of the reformation. The Pope has also called for Christian denominations to act as if they are already untied and leave the theological disagreements to be resolved later. Yet the major difficulty for the Catholic Church in recognising Anglican clergy would be the perception of validating women priests, something that was strongly ruled against by John Paul II. The new collection of papers also includes the records of two discussions that took place between Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI - when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - and the former Anglican Bishop of the Diocese in Europe, Geoffrey Rowell. On Anglican orders, Bishop Rowell quotes Cardinal Ratzinger as saying: “we cannot do anything about Leo XIII’s words but there are, however, other ways of looking at things.”While the Ratzinger does not follow up with any suggestions, he does accept that Anglican eucharist services have value.“When an ecclesial community, with its ordained ministry, in obedience to the Lord’s command, celebrates the eucharist, the faithful are caught into the heavenly places, and there feed on Christ,” he says. Elsewhere in his contribution, Cardinal Coccopalmerio distinguishes between the “differences” and “divisions” between Christians: the latter, he stresses, should only be over fundamental things such as the divinity of Christ. “Today, Churches are divided, or, rather, they say that they are divided because they lack common elements which, however, are not fundamental because they are not a matter of faith,” he explains. “We say: ‘you don’t have this reality, which is a matter of faith, and therefore you are divided from me. But in fact it isn’t a matter of faith, you only pretend it to be.”While a revision of Leo XIII’s position on Anglican orders would be a milestone, the cardinal also stresses the situation is currently somewhat “unclear.”
May 9 17 5:18 AM
Vatican celebrates Big Bang to dispel faith-science conflict VATICAN CITY (AP) -- The Vatican is celebrating the big-bang theory. That's not as out of this world as it sounds.The Vatican Observatory has invited leading scientists and cosmologists to talk black holes, gravitational waves and space-time singularities as it honors the late Jesuit cosmologist considered one of the fathers of the idea that the universe began with a gigantic explosion.The Tuesday-Friday conference honoring Monsignor George Lemaitre is being held at the Vatican Observatory, founded by Pope Leo XIII in 1891 to help correct the notion that the Roman Catholic Church was hostile to science. The perception has persisted in some circles since Galileo's heresy trial 400 years ago, even though the observatory and Catholic universities around the globe have produced top-notch science over the centuries.In 1927, Lemaitre was the first to explain that the receding of distant galaxies was the result of the expansion of the universe, a result he obtained by solving equations of Einstein's theory of general relativity.Lemaitre's theory was known as the "primeval atom," but it is more commonly known today as the big-bang theory."He understood that looking backward in time, the universe should have been originally in a state of high energy density, compressed to a point like an original atom from which everything started," according to a press release from the Observatory.The head of the Vatican Observatory, Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, says Lemaitre's research proves that you can believe in God and the big-bang theory."Lemaitre himself was very careful to remind people - including Pope Pius XII - that the creative act of God is not something that happened 13.8 billion years ago. It's something that happens continually," Consolmagno said Monday.Believing merely that God created the big bang means "you've reduced God to a nature god, like Jupiter throwing lightning bolts. That's not the God that we as Christians believe in," he said.Christians, he said, believe in a supernatural God who is responsible for the existence of the universe, while "our science tells us how he did it."
May 10 17 5:06 AM
Macron, the Vatican and Catholic FranceThe French president not only has a range of executive powers over the country but also a number of religious titles - some of which date back centuries.The Vatican has not reacted to last Sunday's election of Emmanuel Macron. The diplomatic custom is to wait for the official inauguration of the new president. And that is when the pope is expected to send a congratulatory telegram.But as Macron is due to attend the G7 summit in Taormina, Sicily on May 26-27, the question of a visit to Rome may arise.Also new to the G7, US President Donald Trump will take advantage of his first European trip to meet the pope on May 24th. And for his first trip to Italy, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will also come to the Vatican. Franco-Vatican relationsSince Rome is much closer to France than it is to North America, Macron might visit the pope at a later date, which would give him an opportunity to renew an existing invitation for the pope to visit France.The country's outgoing president, Francois Hollande, was in office for two years before visiting the Vatican. His first meeting with Francis was cordial, but nothing more. And he regretted having to deal with a pope who was still unfamiliar with the major international issues of the day.Over time, however, relations between the two men improved, as evidenced by a particularly friendly exchange on March 24 when Francis received participants at the European summit. The pope even gave Hollande a peck on the cheek, something he did not bestow on Angela Merkel! Canon many times overDuring his three visits to the Vatican, Francois Hollande never officially took up his title of First and Only Honorary Canon of the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, the pope's cathedral in Rome.This tradition goes back to 1482 and Louis XI. It was renewed in 1604 by Henri IV. After having renounced Protestantism, Henry decided to donate the Benedictine abbey in Clairac, as well as its income, to the basilica.By way of thanks, the Lateran chapter created the canonical title and pledged to celebrate its anniversary every year on December 13. During this Mass of Saint Lucia, the French ambassador to the Holy See, in the name of the president of France, receives praise and liturgical honors.Today, a Frenchman, Monsignor Louis Duval-Arnould, 84, a priest of the diocese of Paris, is a member of the Lateran Chapter, where he officially bears the title of Prefect of Clairac Abbey.While all French presidents have in theory received the title, it fell into oblivion until René Coty revived the honor in 1957.Charles de Gaulle went to Rome to receive it in 1967, as did Valéry Giscard d’Estaing in 1978, Jacques Chirac in 1996 and Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007.However, Georges Pompidou, François Mitterrand and François Hollande did not.Numerous honorific titles are attached to the French presidency, including bishop of Urgell in Spain and co-prince of Andorra. Several of these have religious associations. These include:- Proto-canon of Embrun Cathedral, which was first awarded to Louis XIII. De Gaulle was the last French head of state to acknowledge it;- Honorary canon of the St John of Maurienne Cathedral, a title demanded by Francois I during the invasion of Savoy in 1536;- Proto-canon of the Our Lady of Cléry Basilica, which pope Sixtus IV awarded to Louis XI and which confers the right to sit in the cathedral’s choir and to wear a surplice and fur cape; and- Honorary canon of cathedrals in Mans, Angers, Lyon, Cahors and Chalon, and of churches in Poitiers, Tours, and Paris. These titles were inherited from the monarchy. The president of France also has the right, when the apostolic nuncio in Paris is made a cardinal, to give him his biretta (a square-rigged cap with three peaks). In 1957 President Vincent Auriol gave the red hat to Cardinal Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, the man who then became Pope John XXIII. And Charles de Gaulle gave Cardinal Paolo Marella his biretta in 1959.But this tradition was discontinued once the pope began doing the biretta honors during public consistories. For example, in 1988 François Mitterrand did not place one on the head of Angelo Felici, the last papal nuncio to be made a cardinal while serving in Paris.
- Proto-canon of Embrun Cathedral, which was first awarded to Louis XIII. De Gaulle was the last French head of state to acknowledge it;- Honorary canon of the St John of Maurienne Cathedral, a title demanded by Francois I during the invasion of Savoy in 1536;- Proto-canon of the Our Lady of Cléry Basilica, which pope Sixtus IV awarded to Louis XI and which confers the right to sit in the cathedral’s choir and to wear a surplice and fur cape; and- Honorary canon of cathedrals in Mans, Angers, Lyon, Cahors and Chalon, and of churches in Poitiers, Tours, and Paris. These titles were inherited from the monarchy.
May 10 17 7:00 AM
Nine U.S. seminarians studying in Rome, loaded with peanut butter sandwiches, power bars, Gatorade, grit and prayer, ran relay-style across the Italian peninsula to raise funds for displaced families in Iraq.Warm-up included a pre-dawn Mass May 6 at the Pontifical North American College where the students live, followed by packing two vans with nine runners, two drivers and protein- and carb-rich provisions, Christian Huebner of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., told Catholic News Service May 4.One van headed to the Mediterranean Sea near Fiumicino and the other van went east to the Adriatic Sea.“When we arrive, we dip a finger in the water and run to the middle” of the peninsula, which is about 240 miles across, he said. The students meet up in the middle by evening “in some random parking lot” as long as it had a gas station and pizzeria to replenish tanks and tummies.He said the men take turns running one leg of five to nine miles to a planned checkpoint and then the finishing runner would “slap hands” to hand-off the virtual baton to the next runner in the relay.The men stretched and rested in the moving van, encouraging the one on the road along the way, he said.The one-day run raised more than $15,000 dollars, in part thanks to an anonymous donor who matched every dollar pledged. The money goes to the pontifical foundation, Aid to the Church in Need, which will use the funding to continue a program that feeds some of the 12,000 displaced families from Mosul living in Irbil.The Chaldean Catholic Archeparchy of Irbil, in conjunction with other aid agencies, is the largest provider of aid to the displaced families in that area, the seminarians said on their .The Chaldean Church organizes pastoral programs, runs seven schools that are open to displaced children and provides food aid, said the donor page on the www.ChurchInNeed.org site.This was the third year a group of U.S. seminarians - led by Deacon Michael Zimmerman of the Archdiocese of Boston - got together to do a fundraising run for a common cause. Past efforts raised money for a seminary in Haiti, a pro-life center in the United Kingdom and the Syriac Catholic Church, Huebner said.Unfortunately, he said, Zimmerman, the run’s founder, had to miss this year’s run because of a soccer injury.The biggest and most important aim of the relay run, Huebner said, was supplying prayer for and solidarity with those who are suffering.“One thing the Holy Father says,” is the importance of “taking prayer with you along the way” every day, and the “Roman Run” does that, he said, with prayer being a part of the training, fundraising and race.“We use the opportunity to encourage people to a life in prayer, no matter where we find ourselves in life,” Huebner said. “Prayer can soak into any part of life like a sponge.”
May 11 17 10:49 AM
A Vatican tribunal weighing sex-abuse charges against Archbishop Anthony Apuron has taken testimony from the last in a series of accusers.John Toves, who was the first man to make public charges against Archbishop Apuron, testified for Vatican investigators at a hearing in San Francisco on May 8. Toves said that he was informed he was the final accuser to present testimony.The Vatican tribunal, headed by Cardinal Raymond Burke, has taken testimony from witnesses in Agana, Guam—where Archbishop Apuron was installed as archbishop in 1986—and in San Francisco. Vatican sources have said that the tribunal is likely to issue a judgment by this summer.Archbishop Apuron was relieved of all pastoral responsibilities last June, after several young men complained that he had molested them. Pope Francis appointed an American prelate, Archbishop Michael Byrnes, as coadjutor archbishop “with special faculties” to lead the Guam archdiocese until the case is resolved.
May 11 17 10:24 PM
May 12 17 5:44 AM
Continental DriftIl Tevere è più largo. Students of Italian history are familiar with the metaphoric expression describing the ever-growing distance between the Vatican and Italian politics: “The Tiber has become wider.” The distance between the papacy and the country it once ruled has been recalculated under every pontificate since the kingdom of Italy came into being in 1861. And under Pope Francis, the Tiber is perhaps the widest it’s been, thanks to his papacy’s hands-off attitude towards Italian politics.But the widening of the Tiber is little compared to the spreading of the world’s oceans. The “Catholic Pangea” itself is breaking up, undergoing a kind of continental drift. The expanding gap between Rome and the world is perhaps best symbolized by the growing distance between Rome and the U.S. Catholic church, itself owing to the uncomfortable relationship between Francis and many American bishops—among other things.First, there’s a gap in time between American Catholicism and the pontificate of Francis—not just the six- or nine-hour differences in time zones but what seems like a six- or nine-century difference in historical time. Institutional American Catholicism is longing for a relationship to a political power that is more medieval than modern or postmodern, hoping for protection from the persecution it feels in having lost cultural hegemony. This can be seen in the medieval understanding of religious liberty that has obtained since the beginning of the legal fight against certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act eight years ago. It resembles libertas Ecclesiae, the “freedom of the Church” to rule on the faithful as subjects, more than it does the concept of religious liberty laid out in Dignitatis Humanae, which is based on the freedom of conscience of the individual believer. It is an example of the “interrupted reception” of Vatican II in the U.S. Church. Vatican II tried to deal with the end of Tridentinism; its rejection brings us back not to Trent but even earlier, to a medieval Christendom as the past to which Roman Catholics ought to refer as the golden age.Second, there is a “space gap,” a change in the spatial relations between the most Christian nation in the world and the Rome of the pope. Catholics are not immune to the political-ideological split between nationalism and globalism. It is a rift that will have a deep impact on the political, cultural, and spiritual imagination of Catholics worldwide, because of the difference between Catholicism, with its double local-universal vision, and other religious traditions. During these last seventy years, Catholicism and Americanism have been two different but mostly friendly—at the institutional level at least—forms of universalism. The election of Donald Trump is more a sign of the crisis in the relationship between Catholic universalism and Americanism than the cause. Consider the trajectory of white American evangelicalism: does the “evangelicalization” of U.S. Catholicism signal a more nationalist American Catholicism? (The upcoming meeting between Trump and Francis is taking place against the backdrop of a relationship between American Catholicism and the Vatican that was already changing before the election of the president.)But beyond the “Christian America vs. secularized Europe” narrative there is a larger reality: both the U.S. and Europe are becoming more marginal, politically and in terms of global Christianity. This is even more true for Italy, and for Rome. Despite all-Francis, all-the-time media coverage of the pope, the role of Rome has changed for Catholics. The connection is now more emotional than intellectual, more spiritual and mystical than theological. What Francis does in Rome, what happens at the Vatican today, has less of an institutional impact on the lives of Catholics worldwide, including (if not especially) American Catholics. This has to do with the papally induced standstill of the Roman Curia. We’re still waiting for reform; it’s become the Godot of Francis’s pontificate. But it also has to do with the fragmentation of theological higher education in Rome. The canon of the “Roman theology” or “curial theology”—in the sense of a theology delivering the message of the pope in office or the theology expressed by the Roman Curia—was much more easily identifiable until just a few years ago. This is no longer true.On the one hand, Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s distance from academic theology and the beginning of the post-Ratzinger Church liberated energies for a long time repressed; Catholic theologians today live in an academic environment that is clearly much more free than before. On the other hand, Catholic theology taught in pontifical universities in Rome is no longer hegemonic. Rome is still an indispensable hub for many kinds of Catholic business (career, fund-raising, media, politics, etc.), but it has lost much of its power to attract, shape, and project Catholic thought worldwide. One reason is the post-Vatican II globalization of theology; Latin America, Africa, and Asia are now themselves sources of new scholarship. Another reason is that militant and strong, identity-shaping Catholic doctrine is taught today not in pontifical universities, but in the new seminaries of Catholic movements like Opus Dei, the Legionaries of Christ, and Neo-Catechumenal Way. If these new universities have to be in some way physically present in Rome, it is not for the same reasons and in the same way the pontifical universities and the colleges of the religious orders have been there for centuries. The most important reason, however, is that the well-endowed centers for theological research are very close to the centers of political and economic power, which have no interest in sponsoring research on the theology of this particular pope (especially Laudato si’). These centers (such as the Acton Institute, as well as some of the business schools in Catholic universities) are more like political think tanks than universities, and they might replace the role of Catholic universities, in Rome and elsewhere. This would not be a step forward.On all three of these issues, American Catholicism plays an important role, more than any other church worldwide. The magisterial intervention in what Leo XIII called the “Americanist crisis” of 1899—a growing alignment between the theological and political culture of liberal American Catholics and American democracy—strengthened the ultramontanist stream within U.S. Catholicism. Looking at this new Americanism today, it is clear that papal Rome has far less control and influence than it did then, and committed Catholics no longer look to Rome with the same eyes. While this is something many liberal American Catholics wanted and hoped for, especially under John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the diminished voice of the pope in local churches also means greater, perhaps more dangerous exposure to the winds of nationalism—both political and theological.
May 13 17 6:42 AM
Cardinal George Pell accused of sexually abusing two choirboys, book claimsVatican’s financial chief, who has always denied wrongdoing, faces fresh allegations of abuse, relating to his time as archbishop of MelbourneNew allegations of child abuse are being levelled against Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s financial chief and the most senior figure in the Australian Catholic church.Fairfax Media has reported claims contained in a new book, Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell, that he sexually abused two choirboys at St Patrick’s cathedral after becoming archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s.The author Louise Milligan first flagged these claims on the ABC’s 7.30 Report in July last year. But according to Fairfax Milligan’s book, to be released on Monday, contains details of the accusations that have not been made public before.After the 7.30 Report Pell accused the ABC of conducting a “scandalous smear campaign.”Cardinal Pell’s office issued a statement on Saturday saying the cardinal had “not been notified by the Victorian Office of Public Prosecutions or Victoria police of the status of their investigations, which have been underway since at least February 2016.”“Cardinal Pell will not seek to interfere in the course of justice by responding to the allegations made by Melbourne University Press (publisher of Milligan’s book) and media outlets today, other than to restate that any allegations of child abuse made against him are completely false,” the statement said.“He repeats his vehement and consistent denials of any and all such accusations, and stands by all the evidence he has given to the royal commission.”The boys, students at St Kevin’s College, sang in the cathedral choir and were allegedly abused by the archbishop in a room somewhere in the precincts of the cathedral. They left the choir and the school shortly afterwards.Milligan claims one of the choirboys died of a drug overdose in 2014. His mother was subsequently told by the second boy that they had been abused by Pell when they were teenagers at the cathedral.Milligan writes that both spoke to the Sano taskforce established to investigate allegations that emerged during a parliamentary inquiry in Victoria and the later royal commission into child abuse.Pell has now been accused of abusing boys at three stages of his career: as a seminarian, a priest and as archbishop of Melbourne.He has denied all these allegations on a number of occasions. No charges have ever been laid against him in relation to them. The cardinal, prefect of the secretariat for the economy at the Vatican, has stated that he willingly co-operated with the detectives of the Victoria police when they interviewed him in Rome in October last year.Sano has also investigated allegations that as a young priest Pell abused boys in the swimming pool of his hometown Ballarat. Pell also denies these allegations.Milligan writes that Pell and his defenders have been able to “bat off or gloss over” the swimming pool allegations by casting them as “horseplay or a bit of rough and tumble … The story of [the choirboys] has no such ambiguity. If these allegations are true, they point to utter, sinful hypocrisy.”Citing ill health, Pell declined to return to Australia to give evidence to the royal commission in person last year and instead gave evidence by videolink from Rome. In February this year the Australian senate called on the cardinal to return home “to assist the Victorian police and office of public prosecutions with their investigation into these matters.”Pell dismissed the parliamentary resolution as “an interference on the part of the Senate in the due process of the Victoria Police investigation.”According to reports, the police have now twice sent briefs of evidence concerning Pell to the Victorian office of public prosecutions.The Guardian is not claiming Cardinal Pell is guilty of any allegations of sex abuse, only that they have been investigated by police.Operation Sano continues.The Guardian contacted the Vatican, Pell’s office in Rome and his office in Australia for comment.
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