Cleveland priest excommunicated for role in breakaway worship community


By Brian Roewe

Cleveland Bishop Richard Lennon has issued a decree formally excommunicating Fr. Robert Marrone, the pastor who followed his parishioners from St. Peter Church to the independent worship community that formed in the wake of their parish’s closing.

“It is with sadness I recognize that the Reverend Robert J. Marrone, a priest of the Diocese of Cleveland, has broken communion with the Catholic Church,” Lennon’s decree, issued Monday, reads. “He is found to have withdrawn submission to the pastors of the Church and from communion with the members of the Church subject to them.

“I hereby declare that by doing so freely and with knowledge, the Reverend Robert J. Marrone has incurred ipso facto the automatic penalty (latae sententiae) of excommunication as stated in canon 1364, [paragraph 1] of the Code of Canon Law,” he said.

Community of St. PeterThe decree accuses the priest of schism and forbids him from participation in celebrations of the sacraments or in public worship. Marrone can neither receive sacraments nor hold a position in any ecclesiastical office. Canon law allows him 10 days from his excommunication’s publishing to appeal the decree — in this case, until March 14.

Marrone addressed his status in a brief statement to members of the Community of St. Peter, stating the action “reflects the continuous pattern [in the diocese] which has marked the process of clustering, consolidation, closing, suppressions and reopening of parishes. I must, as I have stated repeatedly in the past, follow my conscience in this matter.”

Marrone expressed his gratitude to the community while reaffirming his commitment as their pastor-administrator.

“I will continue to serve the Community of Saint Peter as long as they call me to do so and as long as I am able to fulfill the responsibilities of the work entrusted to me,” he said.

The community scheduled a meeting for registered members only March 11 to discuss their pastor’s current status and future.

At posting time, Marrone had not responded to NCR’s request for comment.

In a statement accompanying his official decree, Lennon said, “The desired effect of excommunication is not to ban someone from the Church permanently. Rather it is a temporary status meant to be medicinal and to encourage the person to reconcile with the Church.”

He added that though excommunicated, Marrone remains a member of the church but has harmed his relationship with it and God through his actions, specifically holding a leadership position with the breakaway St. Peter community.

In March 2009, Lennon announced the closing of St. Peter Parish as part of a wave of closures across the diocese. In all, he shuttered 50-plus parishes and churches, primarily in response to decreasing membership and increasing costs.

Several parishioner groups appealed their cases to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy, and in March 2012, it ruled in favor of 11 parishes, saying Lennon improperly shuttered them and ordering their immediate reopening.

Among those was St. Peter, which, given its unique circumstances, presented a more difficult process than the others. Unwilling to disband as a community upon learning of their church’s closure, a large contingent of St. Peter parishioners chose instead to incorporate themselves in October 2009 as a group outside the diocese’s authority.

A year later in August, they gathered for the first time at their new worship site, a renovated warehouse on Euclid Street. Marrone celebrated the Mass despite his prohibition to publicly celebrate sacraments under the terms of his requested one-year leave from priestly ministry.

Lennon in his statement said he met with Marrone a month before that celebration but said the priest refused to talk. Further attempts to meet also proved futile.

In January 2011, Lennon took a first step toward action against Marrone, giving him a formal canonical warning that he must resign from leadership with the Community of St. Peter. Marrone declined.

In May, Lennon issued a “Declaration of Loss of Canonical Office,” which removed Marrone as pastor of St. Peter Parish and requested he reconcile with the diocese by leaving the Community of St. Peter or face suspension from ministry.

“I will not comply with your decree to leave the community of Saint Peter because I must, before all else, follow what my conscience dictates,” Marrone responded in a letter to Lennon.

A month after St. Peter Parish officially reopened, Lennon in October began the administrative penal process outlined by canon law, with a formal canonical warning sent to Marrone in late October.

Addressing the diocese, Lennon urged parishioners to pray for Marrone and pray that the incident could bring the diocese together.

“I pray that this action may be perceived by the faithful as an initiative to bring unity and peace to the Body of Christ,” he said.

Complete Article HERE!


Conclave: the secretive end to unannounced campaigns


By Tom Heneghan

The conclave to pick a Roman Catholic pope is the dramatic final stage of a secretive election process that quietly began weeks, months or even years ago.

POPE-SUCCESSION/STARTSome of the 115 cardinals who file into the Sistine Chapel for the election on Tuesday have been “papabile” – a possible pope – for years. Other names have surfaced only since Pope Benedict announced on February 11 that he would resign.

All of them, whether they seek the job or are put forward less willingly, will be subject to the same unpredictable dynamics that make conclaves among the most mysterious elections in the world.

Archbishop Piero Marini, master of ceremonies for the 2005 conclave, dated the start of pre-election canvassing this time round to February 28, when he saw cardinals chatting in small groups after bidding farewell to Pope Benedict in the Vatican.

“That’s when the preparation for the new pope began,” he told journalists while explaining the conclave rituals last week.

Italian theologian Massimo Faggioli said one of the main candidates, Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan, had prepared for years. He cited Oasis, a Christian-Muslim dialogue network Scola launched in 2004, as a platform that has boosted his chances.

“Scola is very smart and he has built his campaign for this conclave very carefully,” he said. “Now he is much better known internationally than the other Italians.”

Oasis, a Venice-based foundation respected for its work with the Muslim world, is much more than just a campaign vehicle, and has surely helped Scola burnish his international credentials.


All cardinals would deny campaigning for an election they believe is guided by the Holy Spirit. Stumping for votes is the best way to turn other electors against a candidate.

Instead, an ambitious cardinal takes part in Vatican synods to mingle with other prelates, visits colleagues regularly and delivers lectures that show off his wisdom and language skills. Publishing regularly is also advisable.

Once a pope has died or retired, “grand electors” emerge to discreetly promote candidates at pre-conclave meetings called general congregations where the cardinals gather to discuss the Church’s future and search for the man who could lead it.

Usually cardinals not running themselves, they work as “kingmakers” to line up votes in informal talks on the sidelines of those meetings, during dinners in their favourite restaurants around Rome and in the breaks between conclave voting sessions.

When cardinals met for their second conclave of 1978 after the sudden death of Pope John Paul I, Vienna’s Franz Koenig rallied the German-speaking cardinals, and Polish-American John Krol the U.S. prelates, to support Krakow’s Karol Wojtyla, who went on to become Pope John Paul II.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had support from Curia cardinals in 2005 and boosted his chances by ably leading the general congregation debates and denouncing “the dictatorship of relativism” in a Mass sermon just before the conclave began.


In the Sistine Chapel itself, cardinals pray, vote and wait for election results. No consultation is allowed in the Chapel but they can discuss options over meals in the residence behind St Peter’s Basilica where they stay during the conclave.

The first round of voting, on the afternoon they enter the conclave, is like a primary ballot where votes are scattered across a wide range of candidates. Some are courtesy votes, cast to flatter a friend before serious voting starts the next day.

Cardinals are sworn to secrecy, but a report in the Italian magazine Limes after the 2005 conclave said Ratzinger got a solid 47 votes in the first round, Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires got 10 and the rest were scattered among other names.

Votes began to switch in the second voting round the next morning, pushing Ratzinger’s count to 65 and Bergoglio’s to 35. Limes said the Argentinian was backed by several moderate German, U.S. and Latin American cardinals.

The third round just before lunch went 72 for Ratzinger and 40 for Bergoglio, according to Limes, and the German cardinal clinched it on the fourth round that afternoon with 84 votes.

Bergoglio’s tally sank in the fourth round to 26, indicating some supporters had jumped on the Ratzinger bandwagon. “Some apparently concluded this was the way the Holy Spirit was moving the election,” one cardinal said after the vote.

Among the many Roman sayings about popes is one that goes: “He who enters a conclave as a pope comes out as a cardinal.” That has not always proven true, however.

In 1939, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli entered the conclave the odds-on favourite. He fell one vote short of election on the second ballot and won it on the third to become Pope Pius XII.

Complete Article HERE!


Vatican spokesman brings flowers as women’s second-class status in church comes under scrutiny



The Vatican’s spokesman came to his press briefing Friday bearing flowers for female journalists to mark International Women’s Day. “On behalf of all of us men, congratulations and happy Women’s Day!” said a beaming Rev. Federico Lombardi.

women at the conclaveA heartfelt gesture, to be sure, but one that came a day after an awkward acknowledgement: The upcoming election of the pope will be an all-male affair — except for the women who cook for, clean up after and serve the 115 cardinals who will pick the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, half of them women.

Lombardi’s admission came when a reporter noted that one of the video clips the Vatican had provided of preparations in the Sistine Chapel featured a woman at a sewing machine, making the skirting for the tables where cardinals will sit. Aside from the seamstress, the reporter inquired, how many women are involved in the conclave process?

Lombardi said the total number wouldn’t be known until all Vatican personnel involved in the conclave take their oath of secrecy. But he noted that several women work at the Vatican’s Santa Marta hotel, where the cardinals will eat and sleep during the conclave, which begins on Tuesday.

For many observers, Lombardi’s comment was a tacit acknowledgment of what many consider women’s second-class status in Catholic Church, despite the fact they take a leading role in staffing Catholic schools, hospitals and other charitable institutions that are the cornerstone of the church’s social outreach.

“It is fine to sew and be a seamstress, but women have much to contribute to the political … health and well-being of the people on the planet,” said Janice Sevre-Duszynska, a member of the Roman Catholic Women Priests movement who says she was ordained a priest in 2008.

She and other members of the women’s ordination movement, as well as other dissident groups calling for greater participation of women in leadership positions in the church, have descended on Rome to try to have their voices heard in the papal election.

Lombardi noted that women’s role in the church was discussed Friday during the pre-conclave meetings that cardinals have attended this week to discuss the problems of the church and who should lead it.

He didn’t provide any details.

Complete Article HERE!


Church’s two-faced attitude to gays cruel


By Fintan O’Toole

A few years ago, I was on a studio-based television show. One of my fellow guests was a reasonably well-known Catholic priest. He was in a buoyant, perhaps reckless mood, pepped up by the adrenalin surge that comes with the nervous anticipation of a live appearance before the nation. And he was charmingly, delightfully camp.
He flirted harmlessly with everybody, made amusingly risqué comments to the make-up ladies about another male guest who had just sat in the same chair, created self-consciously exaggerated gestures with his hands. He was for all the world like Mary O’Rourke in a dog collar.

closeted priestsI watched on the television in the green room as he went live on air, riveted to see what the nation would make of this camp clerical persona. But the persona had vanished. The priest had performed an exorcism on himself. It would not be true to say that he was now a paragon of macho manliness. But there is a priestly demeanour – soft, asexual, unthreatening, controlled, precise – and he seemed to have just slipped it on like a mask. He was fluent and self-confident and charming, but all the campy exaggerations were gone. The charm was now bland, the body language stilted, the voice half an octave lower.

I have no idea whether or not the priest in question is gay and it’s none of my business anyway. Being camp doesn’t mean you’re gay and most gay men are not camp. But it was pretty clear, at least, that he was quite comfortable, behind the scenes, with a version of himself that matched a certain kind of gay male persona. And equally clear that he could switch that persona off at will, that he could be a different person on the altar, on the pulpit, in a parishoner’s home, on television. Maybe he had worked out some kind of compromise with himself and, if so, he seemed able to manage it with admirable agility.

Everybody who has had contact with clergy over the years knows that there are many, many priests who are gay. How could it be otherwise? At the very least, one would expect the same proportion of homosexuality in the priesthood as in the general population. But – and Colm Toibín has written particularly perceptively about this – the likelihood is that the proportion within the priesthood is actually significantly higher than among the general population of men.
Sexuality is a very troubling issue for young gay men, especially if they come from families where coming out would be impossible. The celibate priesthood seems to offer a refuge from those storms of doubt and guilt. Even when it becomes clear that the storms will not subside, the black suit and white collar create a decent disguise.

There’s no great shame in this. There are far worse sins than hypocrisy and if everyone who is hypocritical about sex were sent to hell, heaven would be an awfully lonely place. But it is awfully weird. It creates an institution that is very like the priest I encountered in the TV studios: with one face for the public, another in private. There may be some hermit in the mountains or anchorite in the desert who does not know that many, many priests, nuns, bishops and cardinals are gay. But for everyone else in the church, it’s just a fact – a fact that cannot be true.

How those who are gay cope with their situation is their own affair, but there are some public consequences to this strange doubleness. One of them is particularly paradoxical: it ups the ante in the game of homophobia. Knowing that many good priests are gay doesn’t result in tolerance and decency. It creates a perverse form of denial, that of protesting too much.

It is, alas, not at all accidental that Cardinal Keith O’Brien, alleged by four priests to have “attempted to touch, kiss or have sex” with them, has been the most hysterical denouncer of proposals to legalise gay marriage, which he compared to legalising slavery.gay--God Billboard

Even more damagingly, but just as paradoxically, the two-faced approach has fed into the church’s appalling responses to child sexual abuse. The confusion and evasion that surround the perfectly normal state of homosexuality generated an atmosphere in which all sex, whether with consenting adults or with victimised children, is treated on the same level, as a fall from grace and an administrative problem to be managed.

And, in the end, the church’s double life in relation to homosexuality is just cruel. Some priests manage maintaining two different personas very well. Some perhaps even take a kind of pleasure in it. But for some, even at the very top of the clerical tree, it is an appalling strain.

When the desire to touch and be touched, to love and be loved, is “inappropriate behaviour”, it must become appallingly hard to know what is and is not appropriate. In an age when covering up the inevitable outbreaks of desperate desire is increasingly impossible, the church must learn to embrace what is normal and natural.

Complete Article HERE!