Pope to US bishops: It’s about love as much as doctrine

US bishops applauded as Pope Francis entered St. Matthew's Cathedral in Washington, DC for a midday prayer and speech Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015. (AP Photo)
US bishops applauded as Pope Francis entered St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, DC for a midday prayer and speech Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015.

By Michael O’Loughlin

In a speech to 300 US bishops in an historic Washington cathedral, Pope Francis encouraged the prelates to soften their approach to the faithful while continuing their mission of spreading the loving message of Jesus Christ.

“Harsh and divisive language does not befit the tongue of a pastor; it has no place in his heart,” he said. “Although it may momentarily seem to win the day, only the enduring allure of goodness and love remains truly convincing.”

In a lengthy speech delivered in Italian at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, Francis said he did “not come to judge you or to lecture,” but “in the freedom of love, to speak to you as a brother among brothers.”

Pope Francis addresses US bishops

Francis is perceived as a progressive in the Church, not because he has altered Catholic teaching, but because of his style of leadership, and he spoke about that style here.

The job of a bishop, he said, “is not about preaching complicated doctrines, but joyfully proclaiming Christ who died and rose for our sake. The style of our mission should make our hearers feel that the message we preach is meant for us.”

“Bishops need to be lucidly aware of the battle between light and darkness being fought in this world,” he said. “Woe to us, however, if we make of the cross a banner of worldly struggles and fail to realize that the price of lasting victory is allowing ourselves to be wounded and consumed.”

The pope, who has encouraged an open debate in the Church about a range of hot-button issues related to family life — such as Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics and the Church’s attitude to gays and lesbians — said that dialogue is an essential component of a bishop’s ministry.

“The path ahead, then,” he said in relation to societal challenges, “is dialogue among yourselves, dialogue in your presbyterates, dialogue with lay persons, dialogue with families, dialogue with society. I cannot ever tire of encouraging you to dialogue fearlessly.”

After refraining from mentioning the issue explicitly at a White House ceremony earlier that morning, Francis placed abortion alongside a litany of issues that he said bishops must confront.

“The innocent victim of abortion, children who die of hunger or from bombings, immigrants who drown in the search for a better tomorrow, the elderly or the sick who are considered a burden, the victims of terrorism, wars, violence and drug trafficking, the environment devastated by man’s predatory relationship with nature – at stake in all of this is the gift of God, of which we are noble stewards but not masters,” he said. “It is wrong, then, to look the other way or to remain silent.”

About 300 prelates, sporting scarlet (cardinals) and violet (bishops) zucchettos, filled the pews at the cathedral to hear the pope’s message.

After remarks from Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington and Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, the assembly rose to its feet and applauded Francis. He was then interrupted several times during his speech by applause.

Although most of the service was conducted in English, Francis prayed in Latin and gave his address in Italian.

The Vatican has yet to confirm if Francis will meet with victims of clergy sexual abuse, a precedent started by the pope’s predecessor, Benedict XVI.

Francis touched on the issue with bishops by praising them for their efforts to make the Church safe for children.

“I realize how much the pain of recent years has weighed upon you, and I have supported your generous commitment to bring healing to victims – in the knowledge that in healing, we, too, are healed – and to work to ensure that such crimes will never be repeated,” he said.

The pope cited the “vast material and spiritual, cultural and political, historical and human, scientific and technological resources” of the United States, and called on the Church here to be a “humble home, a family fire which attracts men and women through the attractive light and warmth of love.”

Francis praised the bishops’ commitment “to the cause of life and that of the family” as well as the Church’s network of Catholic schools and hospitals.

He concluded his address with a reflection on immigration, noting that the United States is “facing this stream of Latin immigration which affects many of your dioceses.”

“Not only as the Bishop of Rome, but also as a pastor from the South, I feel the need to thank and encourage you,” he said. “Perhaps it will not be easy for you to look into their soul; perhaps you will be challenged by their diversity. But know that they also possess resources meant to be shared. So do not be afraid to welcome them.”

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Gay Catholics’ message to Pope Francis ahead of US visit



“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”001

With those words in 2014, Pope Francis seemed, to some observers at least, to signal a shift in attitudes within the Catholic Church towards same-sex relationships.

Many LGBT Catholics remain unconvinced about how much has changed and want to hear what the Pontiff has to say on the issue during his first visit to the US this week.

The BBC spoke to members of Dignity, an LGBT Catholic group which was expelled by the Vatican and now holds Mass in the premises of the Episcopal church of St John’s the Village in New York.
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In Defiance Of The Church, Some Catholic Women Seek Priesthood

By Jeff Brady

Rev. Caryl Johnson (center) oversees communion at St. Mary Magdalene Community in Drexel Hill, Pa., as parishioners Janet Hamm and Jim Kalb assist. Unlike most traditional Roman Catholic services, a gluten-free bread and alcohol-free wine are offered.
Rev. Caryl Johnson (center) oversees communion at St. Mary Magdalene Community in Drexel Hill, Pa., as parishioners Janet Hamm and Jim Kalb assist. Unlike most traditional Roman Catholic services, a gluten-free bread and alcohol-free wine are offered.

Sunday morning services at St. Mary Magdalene Community in Drexel Hill, Pa., look different than a typical Roman Catholic mass. The homily is interactive, there’s gluten-free communion bread and the priest is a woman.

Caryl Johnson calls herself a priest but technically she was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church. That happened automatically in 2011 when she was ordained by the group Roman Catholic Womenpriests.

The organization acknowledges that it’s violating church requirements but says the ban on female priests is unjust. So far the group has ordained 188 women around the world.

For many Catholic women there’s a big gap between what they believe and church dogma. Birth control is an example: the church bans it, but a recent poll from the Pew Research Center shows nearly 79 percent of Catholic women think they should be allowed to use it. Fifty-eight percent also think the church should ordain women.

Johnson says for more than three decades she struggled with the church ban on female priests. She tried to live within the rules — taking on expanded ministry roles as women were allowed to perform them. But it wasn’t enough. Johnson says she felt a spiritual call to become a priest that she couldn’t ignore any longer.

“I had a decision to make,” says Johnson, “Am I going to follow the spirit of God and do what God asks no matter what the cost? Or am I going to follow a rule?”

These days the Catholic church has difficulty recruiting enough men to be priests. Johnson is among those who believe opening ordination to women and married people could help address that problem.

Pope Francis though has flatly rejected opening the priesthood to women.

And there are women in the church who oppose it, too.

Referring to female priests like Johnson, Rebecca Woodhull, president of the National Council of Catholic Women says, “They are not Catholic priests. They can call themselves that but it would be — maybe — with a small ‘c’ and not a capital ‘C.’ ”

Like Pope Francis, Woodhull says she supports gender equality in issues such as workplace pay. But she says in the Catholic church, men and women have different roles, and she believes there are good reasons for that.

“Women have special ‘charisms’ — special talents — that are just endemic to the female person,” Woodhull says. “Pope John Paul called it ‘the feminine genius.’ ”

Woodhull says those include sensitivity and tenderness, traits well-suited to roles set aside for women in the church such as becoming a nun. That said she does support recent moves to put women in other leadership positions.

Last year Pope Francis appointed Luzia Premoli, superior general of the Combonian Missionary Sisters, to a high-ranking missionary group called the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. It’s the first time a woman has held such a high position in the church.

Moves like that have made Pope Francis popular with the more liberal wing of the Catholic church.

Outside St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Evanston, Ill. after a recent Sunday mass, Barbara Marian, 73, interrupted a reporter who asked her about Pope Francis saying, “Oh, don’t we love him? Don’t we love him?”

Marian is a longtime activist in favor of ordaining women. She and her husband drive nearly two hours to worship at “St. Nick’s,” which is widely seen as one of the more liberal parishes in the region.

Even though Catholic church dogma hasn’t changed much under Pope Francis, Marian says he has changed the tone of dialogue and she thinks that’s a good start.

“The funny thing is when the tone opens the door and we can sit down and listen to each other, we both go away smarter, more humble, more understanding,” Marian says. And she hopes that will lead to change in the church.

When Pope Francis visits the U.S. later this month he’s not scheduled to speak specifically about the role of women in the church, but some hope he will. Just a few days before he arrives in Philadelphia, the group Women’s Ordination Worldwide will hold its annual conference there. Organizers expect hundreds of activists who want the Catholic church to ordain women to attend.

Complete Article HERE!

Gay and celibate, Ron Belgau is the official face of gay Catholicism for Pope Francis’ visit

File under: It Boggles The Mind


Ron Belgau has the distinction of being the only openly gay person invited to speak about homosexuality during the World Meeting Families, which leads up to the grand finale of the papal visit in Philadelphia. Photo courtesy of Ron Belgau
Ron Belgau has the distinction of being the only openly gay person invited to speak about homosexuality during the World Meeting of Families, which leads up to the grand finale of the papal visit in Philadelphia.

Of all the delicate issues that Pope Francis will face when he makes his first visit to the U.S. this month, none may pose as many risks to his enduring popular appeal as the question of the Catholic Church’s approach to gays and lesbians. And no one knows the perils better than Ron Belgau.

That’s because Belgau has the distinction of being the only openly gay person invited to speak about homosexuality during a Vatican-approved convention, the World Meeting of Families, which leads up to the grand finale of the papal visit in Philadelphia.

The meeting, held every three years in a different city around the world, is in fact the underlying reason Francis is making his Sept. 22-27 trip. His predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, pledged to attend before he resigned.

U.S. laws and American attitudes — especially those of Catholics — are rapidly growing more accommodating to gays and gay rights, and Francis has repeatedly signaled that he wants the church to be more inclusive of LGBT people, even if he is not changing any doctrines.

But many Catholics leaders are upset at the legal changes and uneasy with the pope’s approach.

Their statements, plus repeated stories of gays and lesbians getting fired from church jobs — including the recent example of a teacher dismissed from a Catholic school in suburban Philadelphia over her marriage to her partner — have ramped up demands for Francis to meet with gay Catholics in the U.S. or to speak more extensively about his own approach.

Enter Belgau, 40, who will have the chance — and challenge — of leading a session on homosexuality at the World Meeting of Families on Sept. 24, two days before Francis arrives in Philadelphia.

“This is a very, very large issue to try to tackle in one hourlong panel discussion,” Belgau said with a laugh, and a bit of understatement, during a phone interview from his home in Washington state.

Belgau, a writer and lecturer, will be presenting, together with his mother, a panel on “Homosexuality in the Family,” one of dozens of workshops and panels — most focused on safer and more orthodox topics — that will draw some 18,000 attendees and volunteers to the four-day event. (The papal visit itself is expected to draw as many as 1.5 million pilgrims and tourists to the city.)

Belgau admitted that “there’s a lot of pressure” in trying to address the many aspects of such a contentious issue, but he says that he is determined that his remarks not be “a speech just to Catholics who agree with me.”

That shouldn’t be a problem, given that Catholics on both right and left have frequently criticized him.

Many liberals are uncomfortable with Belgau’s commitment to being celibate, which he sees as the ideal for gays who, like himself, follow a “traditional Christian sexual ethic” that says homosexual activity is sinful.

Belgau curates a blog, “Spiritual Friendship,” along with New Testament professor Wesley Hill, that focuses on how gay Christians can live chaste and celibate lives, especially through strong friendships that focus on spiritual growth.

While Belgau readily acknowledges that his path is not one every gay Catholic could follow — “I’m not banging people over the head with that” — some gays and lesbians go further and say his ideal denies LGBT believers a central aspect of human experience.

They argue the church has to find ways to accept sexually active LGBT members, and  the World Meeting of Families ought to allow Catholics whose views differ from Belgau’s to offer their voices.

As evidence, they point to the fact that LGBT-friendly Catholic groups were denied applications to purchase exhibit space or offer presentations. And a leading ministry to gay Catholics was barred by Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput from running a workshop at a local parish. The New Ways Ministry will instead hold the seminar at a Methodist church.

When asked about the rejections, Chaput, a leader of the U.S. hierarchy’s conservative wing, said “we don’t want to provide a platform at the meeting for people to lobby for a position contrary to the life of our church.” Chaput also backed the recent firing of Margie Winters from a Catholic school run by nuns, saying the move “showed character and common sense.”

Many conservatives, on the other hand, aren’t happy with Belgau because they actually think he is too squishy on church teaching on homosexuality.

They don’t like the fact that he accepts his sexual orientation as part of his identity (Belgau calls the practice of conversion therapy “appalling”), or that he is even talking openly about being gay and Catholic.

There are “certain people who say we shouldn’t talk about this but who almost can’t stop” talking about it, Belgau said. They insist on giving their own views on homosexuality, he said, “but then if I try to talk about my own experience they say, ‘We shouldn’t be talking about this.’”

Belgau insisted that there is no way the church, or the World Meeting of Families, can avoid the topic. It’s a huge issue in the U.S., and if the Philadelphia meeting had not included anything “that itself would have been a major source of news coverage.”

Also, while he says he understood the enormous demands on the organizers of the World Meeting of Families, he does wish other gays and lesbians with other viewpoints could have been heard. (Equally Blessed, a ministry for LGBT Catholics, says 14 of its member families had signed up as participants at the World Meeting of Families.)

And Belgau is among those who hope that Francis will talk about gay and lesbian Catholics when he visits.

For his part, Belgau will try to echo and elaborate what the pope has already said about being more welcoming and inclusive. The title of his talk, “Always Consider the Person,” is a quote from the pope.

“My biggest theme would simply be moving away from the culture wars’ focus on ‘us versus them,’ and saying, respond to people as people,” Belgau said.

Too often, he said, gay Catholics are treated differently from others in the church. He said, for example, he wants to encourage parents “to respond to their (gay) children as people rather than as an extension of the culture wars.”

“There’s way more focus on gays and lesbians who fall short of the ideal than there is on straight Catholics who fall short of the ideal,” he said.

“I have heard of cases of women being dismissed for having a child out of wedlock, but as far as I can recall I’ve never heard of a case of a male teacher being dismissed for having had a child out of wedlock,” he added. Likewise, he said, there is a lot of attention on a gay teacher “but there’s no public outrage about a teacher who doesn’t go to Mass.”

“It’s a concern to me that the reasoning is protecting the Catholic identity of a school,” he said. “But it seems to shake out that single women who get pregnant and gays and lesbians tend to bear the brunt of this maintaining Catholic identity.”

Belgau acknowledged that the audience at the World Meeting of Families will be “more orthodox Catholics” who may be uncomfortable with some of his views.

But, he added, “I think in some ways those who have been hurt by the church, those alienated by the church or in some way outside the church, are a more important audience.”


Complete Article HERE!

Chile Catholic Church rocked by e-mail scandal

Pope Francis walked with Chile's Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati to a session of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican last fall. Private e-mails show that Ezzati and his predecessor, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz, tried to block a victim of sex-abuse by a pedophile priest from joining the papal commission. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis walked with Chile’s Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati to a session of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican last fall. Private e-mails show that Ezzati and his predecessor, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz, tried to block a victim of sex-abuse by a pedophile priest from joining the papal commission.

By Eva Vergara

The Catholic Church in Chile has been rocked by another scandal surrounding its most infamous pedophile.

Leaked e-mails between the archbishop of Santiago and his predecessor show how they conspired to block a well-known abuse survivor from being named to Pope Francis’ sex abuse commission, fearing it would damage the Church.

Local newspaper El Mostrador this week published the e-mail exchanges between the current archbishop, Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, and his predecessor, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz. The Santiago archdiocese confirmed their authenticity.

In the e-mails, dated 2013 and 2014, the two men discussed the key Vatican cardinals they needed to consult to try to prevent Juan Carlos Cruz from being invited to speak at a meeting of Anglophone bishops on sex abuse.

“I hope we can prevent lies from finding space between those who belong to the same Church,” Ezzati wrote to Errazuri.

Cruz was sexually abused by the Rev. Fernando Karadima, a charismatic preacher whom the Vatican sanctioned to a lifetime of penance and prayer for having abused young boys.

Karadima had a huge following and led a parish in Santiago for nearly six decades before allegations against him came to light in April 2010. Two months later Errazuriz forwarded allegations to the Vatican.

Victims say allegations against Karadima were first reported to Errazuriz in 2003, but that he ignored them. Errazuriz, who is one of Francis’ nine key cardinal advisers, has acknowledged in court testimony that he failed to act on several abuse allegations because he believed them to be untrue.

Cruz has been outspoken in accusing Errazuriz of covering up for Karadima’s crimes.

Cruz’s activism prompted Marie Collins, an Irish survivor of abuse and one of the founding members of Francis’ sex abuse advisory panel, to propose him for membership in the group.

On Friday, she said she was “disgusted” at the cardinals’ attitude and said it would be discussed by the commission.

“Personally I am disgusted at the attitude displayed by these leaders in the church to the Pontifical Commission and to a survivor of abuse,” Collins said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

Ezzati’s office has said the e-mails were a private exchange of opinion, though it acknowledged the decision on the nomination was the Vatican’s to make.

The e-mails have been harshly criticized in Chile, with some politicians calling on Ezzati to cancel his annual “Te Deum” address, when Church leaders traditionally tell politicians what is ailing society. Others have urged him to resign.

The e-mail scandal comes months after Francis himself was criticized by Collins and other commission members for nominating a Karadima protégé to be bishop of the southern Chilean city of Osorno, even though victims said the prelate knew of Karadima’s crimes and did nothing.

Complete Article HERE!