01/28/18

Meet the 71-year-old Catholic priest who wants his church to repeal the celibacy rule

Father Tony Flannery

by Peter Swindon

A CONTROVERSIAL Catholic priest has claimed the vow of celibacy is one of the causes of clerical child abuse and called on the church to repeal the ancient law.

Father Tony Flannery will deliver a lecture at the University of Edinburgh next month entitled “Celibacy, sexuality and the crisis in the priesthood” when he will also demand the ordination of women.

The Catholic Church forbids women from joining the priesthood and men who are ordained must promise not to have sex, a rule which Flannery claims is deterring young men.

The Catholic Church has distanced itself from Flannery, denied that the celibacy rule was off-putting and said there were 12 priests ordained in Scotland last year, the highest number in 20 years.

Flannery was suspended by the church in 2012 and threatened with ex-communication unless he stayed silent, but he is set to bring his message to Scotland on February 28 and risk further sanctions by the church.

Speaking exclusively to the Sunday Herald, he said: “The rule on celibacy has to be changed because it is not working. Fewer and fewer young men are interested in becoming priests because the oath of celibacy is a big deterrent.

“Catholic priests could marry up until the 13th century. It’s purely a church regulation and as such it can be changed.

“In my experience, for a lot of priests, celibacy has been a struggle which can lead to difficulties, such as addictive behaviours.”

Flannery went on to say celibacy can be “a factor” in clerical child abuse cases. “It’s something that should be examined carefully by the Catholic church,” he said.

“The Australian investigation into child sexual abuse in institutions, in the final summing up which came out a month ago, suggests compulsory celibacy was a factor. One of the recommendations they made was the Catholic church lift the rule on compulsory celibacy.”

Flannery, who lives in Killimordaly in County Galway, was ordained more than 40 years ago and took the vow of celibacy, but he would not confirm whether he had adhered to the rule. “I have many relationships, but I don’t want to go into my personal life,” he said. “One thing I will say is I am a 71-year-old man so…”

Flannery also wants to see an end to the patriarchy which governs the church and decrees that women can’t be priests.

“I am fully supportive of the ordination of women,” he said. “I want women to have full equality in the church. At the moment women have no voice in decision-making in the church. That is so wrong and outdated that it has to change. I see women as essential for the credibility of the Catholic church going forward.”

A spokesman for the Catholic church said: “Ordination and decision-making are completely different things – the former is not a pre-requisite for the latter.”

When asked about celibacy the church spokesman added: “To suggest celibacy is a deterrent to vocations is demonstrably not true…in Scotland the number of men studying for the priesthood has increased every year for the last 10 years. In 2017 there were 12 ordinations of priests in Scotland, the highest figure in 20 years. There are currently 18 seminarians studying for the priesthood, the highest figure for over a decade.”

Flannery’s views led to sanctions by the church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was founded in 1542 to defend the church from heresy.

Flannery said: “I am no longer allowed to minister publicly as a priest. That happened six years ago. As a consequence, I have been on the fringes of the church. It’s affected my opinion of the Vatican.

“My main dispute there wasn’t so much that they objected to things I had written. I don’t mind that. The authority structure has the right to question people. My main problem was the process in which the Vatican dealt with me was totally unjust.

“I had no opportunity to defend myself. I was never told who accused me or the nature of the allegation. I was never communicated with directly by the Vatican. There was no court of appeal.”

A church spokesman said: “The Vatican processes are far from unjust and ensure the right of defence for all involved.”

FLANNERY COULD FACE PROTESTS BY CATHOLIC STUDENTS AT EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY

Diego Maria Malara, a lecturer in social anthropology, is organising Flannery’s visit and expects opposition. He said: “Father Flannery’s scheduled appearance at the University in February will be boycotted by more conservative members of the Catholic Student Union, but many of Edinburgh’s Catholics will welcome the chance to hear this charismatic speaker, who represents the progressive side of the Catholic Church.”

Maya Mayblin, who is also a lecturer in social anthropology, invited Flannery to speak. She is researching how sexuality affects the lives of Catholic priests.

She said: “Father Flannery is one of relatively few people within the church to have addressed this issue directly and publicly, so I think people will be very interested in what he has to say. I haven’t encountered any opposition and my hope is that even those who disagree him will want to attend his talk.

“Father Flannery is an important figure because he’s in a position to give voice to opinions which lots of priests hold, but are unable to express due to something of a culture of silence within the priesthood.

“The church is a very centralised institution, so any divergent voice, especially from a priest, can seem troubling to the institution.”

The Sunday Herald contacted the University of Edinburgh’s Catholic Students’ Union for comment, but did not receive a response.

Flannery said: “If they turn up with placards and try to interrupt me I would find it hilarious.”

Complete Article HERE!

01/21/18

Cardinal Sean O’Malley chastises Pope Francis on Chile abuse

Says comments ‘abandon’ survivors

NOT ALL ‘CALUMNY’: Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, shown with Pope Francis in this 2015 photo, criticized the pontiff for his remarks disparaging Chilean sex abuse claims.

By Brian Dowling

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, a top adviser to Pope Francis, rebuked the pontiff’s disparaging remarks targeting Chilean abuse claims, saying the comments “abandon” survivors of the church’s sex abuse crisis to “discredited exile.”

In a strongly worded statement rebuking Francis’ comments, Boston’s archbishop said the remarks were clearly “a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy or any other perpetrator.”

“Words that convey the message ‘if you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed’ abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile,” O’Malley said in a statement.

Francis was leaving Chile Thursday when he accused victims of the country’s most notorious pedophile priest of having slandered another bishop, Juan Barros, by claiming Barros covered up the abuse from the Rev. Fernando Karadima.

“The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I’ll speak,” Francis told Chilean journalists in the northern city of Iquique. “There is not one shred of proof against him. It’s all calumny. Is that clear?”

The remarks shocked Chileans, drew immediate outrage from victims and their advocates and once again raised the question of whether the 81-year-old Argentine Jesuit “gets it” when it comes to sex abuse.

After cutting deep into Francis’ statement, O’Malley insisted the pope does understand the Church’s abuse crisis that’s still unfolding in many parts of the world.

“Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the Church and its clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones,” O’Malley said.

Attorney Mitchell Garabedian, whose Boston firm has represented hundreds of clergy sexual abuse victims, said O’Malley’s comment about the pope “indicates the Church is circling the wagons tighter than ever.”

“Why don’t Pope Francis and Cardinal O’Malley step up to the plate and accept full responsibility and help victims try to heal?” Garabedian told the Herald. “Instead of providing hope and faith, Pope Francis and Cardinal O’Malley have provided pain and more pain to victims. It indicates how little the Church cares about victims healing, preventing clergy sex abuse and making the world a safer place for children.”

O’Malley headed Francis’ much-touted committee for the protection of minors until it lapsed last month after its initial three-year mandate expired. Francis has not named new members, and the committee’s future remains unclear.

O’Malley, who took over as Boston archbishop from the disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law after the sex abuse scandal exploded there in 2002, was traveling to Peru yesterday to meet with the pope. His spokesman said the trip was previously scheduled. Francis will leave today to return to Rome.

Complete Article HERE!

01/21/18

Most American Catholic women are ready for female deacons -survey

By Lorraine Caballero

The majority of Catholic women in America are open to the idea of ordaining women as permanent deacons in the church, a new survey commissioned by America Media has found.

According to the survey conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in partnership with survey firm GfK, 60 percent of American Catholic women are ready for the possibility that women could be inducted as permanent deacons. While Pope Francis has already clarified that having female priests might not be possible, he has expressed an interest in studying the possibility of having women serve as deacons, The Huffington Post noted.

The America Media survey found that 21 percent of Catholic women in the U.S. said they may support the idea of having female deacons in the Church but still want to study it before they make a final decision. However, 7 percent rejected the thought of ordaining women as deacons.

In addition, the poll found that Catholic women who went to hear Mass every week were less likely to agree to the idea of female deacons compared with those who attended infrequently. Still, 53 percent of the weekly attendees said “yes” to the idea.

Dr. Phyllis Zagano, who is part of the Vatican commission looking thorougly at the matter and is the best known advocate for female deacons, said the Catholic Church is still not ready to have female priests. During a talk at Yale University in 2013, she said priesthood and being a deacon were “two separate ministries,” The Catholic Herald reported.

In addition, Dr. Zagano said she could not find anything that said women had once been ordained as priests and added that none of her work supports the idea. However, she said the history of the Catholic Church favors the idea of ordaining women as deacons even though there are those who argue that the role of “deaconesses” in the early Church was different from that of today’s notion.

Complete Article HERE!

01/20/18

New Survey: Catholic Women “Disengaged & Disengaging” — And Don’t Listen to US Bishops

By

Nearly five years into Pope Francis papacy, with its great expectations for a revival of Catholicism among the flagging faithful, a new large-scale survey of American Catholic women finds the flock faithful but disengaged from the rituals of the church and eager for a greater female presence in its institutions.

The survey of some 1,500 self-identified Catholic women was conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University for America magazine.

The survey found that while 98 percent of American Catholic women say they believe in God in some way, only about one-third (35%) attend mass even fairly regularly, and just under one-third (30%) say they attend confession once a year, which is a significant repudiation of the bedrock obligations of Catholicism by women who call themselves Catholic.

“While Catholic women remain affiliated with the church, they are disengaged and disengaging,” said Rev. Matt Malone, S.J., editor in chief of America, who called the survey a “wake-up call” for the U.S. Catholic leadership.

“We are at a crisis point” in American Catholicism, Notre Dame professor Kathleen Sprows Cummings told America, noting that historically “it’s always been the women who are more engaged” in the church.

And levels of engagement were even lower for women born after Vatican II, with fewer than 20% attending mass once a week. Overall, only 35% of Catholic women said attending mass weekly was very important to their sense of being a Catholic. The most important factors to respondents’ sense of being Catholic was “helping the poor” and “receiving the Eucharist/Holy Communion,” with nearly half (45%) saying both were very important to their sense of being Catholic.

Despite low levels of regular engagement with the obligatory rituals of the church, 82% of the respondents said they never had considered leaving the church. Twelve percent of the women surveyed had considered leaving the church for a time, while six percent had left but returned—most commonly because they had disagreed with the church’s stance on a particular issue, often regarding sexuality and reproductive rights, and the status of women in the church.

Overall, women were fairly satisfied with their level of inclusion in their local churches. A total of 57% said the priests in their parish did a good job of including women in the parish community and half felt women were well-represented on parish councils and in lay ministry positions. However, the survey also showed that women clearly were looking for greater formal inclusion in the ministry of the church. Sixty percent of the women surveyed supported women being ordained permanent deacons, which had been raised as a possibility by Pope Francis, while another 33% weren’t sure; only 7% of women opposed the ordination of women as deacons.

Women of the Baby Boom generation showed the most support for women deacons, with 65% registering approval, while Millennials showed the lowest levels of support, at 53%. And just over 50% of women who attend mass weekly support women deacons.

In another sign that Millennial Catholic women may be trending more conservative then their mothers and grandmothers—possibly because so many more progressive-leaning women have left the church—one-quarter (26%) report using natural family planning as a method of contraception, which is the second-highest rate following women born before the availability of modern contraceptives.

Politically, the women who responded to the survey trended Democratic. Some 60% were either Democratic (41%) or leaned Democratic (18%), while just under one-quarter (24%) were Republican and 14% leaned Republican. Three-quarters of the Catholic women surveyed said they planned to vote in the 2018 mid-term elections, which the survey notes would be equivalent to 18.7 million voters. More Catholic women said they intend to vote for Democrats (55%) than Republicans (37%).

Republican Catholic women were three times more likely than Catholic Democratic women to say that Catholic social teaching would help them decide how to vote, but even then only 20% looked to Catholic social teaching. Not surprisingly, 38% of Republican Catholic women said “protecting life” was very important to their sense of being a Catholic, while for Democratic Catholic women, “helping the poor” was most important, with 52% citing this value. Neither Democratic nor Republican women pay much attention to the statements of the U.S. bishops, with only 7% saying they were helpful in deciding how to vote.

For Democratic women the specific Catholic teaching that was important to them and likely to effect how they voted was on care for the environment, with 47% saying it affected how they voted. For Republican women, the most important teaching that affected how they voted was on abortion, with 51% citing this teaching, making it the single most salient teaching on Catholic voting behavior. The least important issue across the board was the church’s teaching on artificial birth control.

The survey portrays a church in which not only are many of its followers deeply disengaged from the sacramental life of the church, but as divided as American society in general over key social issues.