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 “He is found to have withdrawn submission to the pastors of the Church and from communion with the members of the Church subject to them.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.
The 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!
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.
Some 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!
BY NICOLE WINFIELD
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.
A 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!
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.
I 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.
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!
As a matter of urgency, the new pope must extend the gift of marriage to all priesthood candidates. Failure to do that will mean, in less than a generation, a priesthood comprised solely of social misfits and emotionally damaged refugees from reality.
By Kevin McKenna
Of all the theories advanced explaining why the Catholic priesthood attracts so many young gay men, this is the most valid: it is a direct consequence of the church’s official attitude to homosexuality and the way that this has insinuated itself into the fabric of what we might call a traditional Catholic family with its roots in Ireland.
In such an upbringing homosexuality is still treated as the sum of all sins. Catholic families long ago found a way of dealing with abortion, extramarital sex and divorce, the other three horsemen of the Catholic apocalypse, whenever they occurred close to home, but not homosexuality.
The others could all be processed and interpreted as very human failings stemming from the powerful instinct of physical desire and our need for affection and love. The Christian virtues of understanding, compassion and forgiveness are built to outlast initial shock and hurt in these “acceptable” moral failings. Not so homosexuality.
For how many Catholic parents have secretly prayed that their son “does not turn out gay” or obsess about their response if the eldest boy shows no interest in football and insists on taking a shower every day and buying all his own clothes? The church’s pastoral care and guidance for its own gay community is nonexistent. Catholic gays are non-people in my church; they are “los desaparecidos” and one day many of us will be called to account for how we have treated them.
The church has nothing to say to a child reared in these circumstances and who is beginning to encounter issues with his sexual identity. And so, by a perverse irony, the Catholic priesthood becomes a viable option for him. For what better way to submerge your “problem sexuality” than by committing yourself to a life of celibacy and a lifetime of reflection on the burden that God has deemed you must bear for your redemption and his glory?
Neither of these, though, explains why a church which has become a haven for homosexual men has become so obsessive about warning the rest of us about the dangers of gay sex.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Britain’s most senior Catholic cleric, has been accused of “inappropriate behaviour” towards four priests, stretching back 30-odd years. Thus far he has refused to “deny” the claims, merely to “contest” them. The press office for the Catholic church in Scotland, by way of explanation, lamely insists that the cardinal does not know the identity of his accusers, nor the details of which he is being accused.
Has such behaviour occurred so many times that the cardinal simply has trouble recalling specific instances? Or might he genuinely think that what the priests describe as “inappropriate behaviour” was merely a misunderstanding arising from an encounter with an over-affectionate and tactile boss?
The sullen “no comments” and “I can’t help you” are curious, too. This is an organisation that has become the church’s de facto witchfinder-generals, ever vigilant for examples of anti-Catholicism and never missing an opportunity to portray this country as bigoted and backward.
Like the entire hierarchy of the global Catholic church, they are in complete denial about a culture of sexual dysfunction that has been operating at its core for several decades. Hardly a year passes without an example of grotesque sexual behaviour, both homosexual and heterosexual, by a priest or bishop in the church.
The damage to the church is incalculable. In response to last week’s Observer story, the historian Tom Devine, a Catholic, described it as the church’s biggest crisis since the Reformation. It means that the Scottish Catholic church has lost all authority to speak on matters of human relationships until it at least recognises the root of the problem. Quite simply, the Catholic hierarchy in Scotland is no longer fit for purpose. It hasn’t been for a long time now: its default position is denial and concealment before accusing its critics of being motivated by bigotry.
The Vatican says it will investigate the complaints of the cardinal’s accusers. I have very little faith that an inquiry conducted in another country and of indeterminate legal structure and under the authority of another old man in Rome – identity, as yet, unknown – will deliver anything resembling a just outcome.
Nothing less than a full-scale investigation into the structure and leadership of the Scottish Catholic church will suffice to begin the task of recovering its lost authority. The commission to oversee this must be headed by an overseas cardinal of impeccable character and must comprise clergy and lay people in equal measure.
As a matter of urgency, the new pope must extend the gift of marriage to all priesthood candidates. Failure to do that will mean, in less than a generation, a priesthood comprised solely of social misfits and emotionally damaged refugees from reality. Ordinary Catholics have been incessantly grossly betrayed by the Catholic hierarchy. It is time we ignored the weekly collection plate until we receive some answers.
Complete Article HERE!
By Lisa Miller
Recent events prompt a stating of the obvious. The Roman Catholic Church is not now, nor has it ever been, a democracy. It values neither free speech nor freedom of the press. Its leaders are not elected officials, so they do not sweat opinion polls. Roman Catholic bishops and cardinals do not represent the interests of their members, and members, if dissatisfied with their leadership, cannot vote those leaders out. The next pope, the Vatican press office continually reminds us, will be selected not by the 115 cardinals who will soon be sequestered in the Sistine Chapel, but by God.
But in the 21st century, this blatant disregard of democratic principles rankles. Even the cardinals from the United States showed uncharacteristic irritation when their daily news conferences in Rome were canceled last week. Italian newspapers had published leaked accounts of the closed-door meetings at which the voting cardinals are gathering pre-conclave and painted the leadership of the church as divided, rancorous and political. No one accused the Americans of leaking outright, but the news conferences abruptly stopped, and the U.S. cardinals weren’t happy. “In true old-style Catholic school teacher fashion, someone talks and everybody stays after school,” Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the Associated Press.
After decades of sex scandals, financial improprieties and rumors of further financial scandals to come, the American cardinals had been demanding more transparency from the church’s governing body, the Curia. “Obviously, we want to know and learn as much as we can relative to governance in the Church, and the Curia is part of that issue,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston. “So, certainly we want to discuss and learn what we can, and I think that will go on as long as the cardinals feel they need the information.”
When their news conferences were shut down, the USCCB issued a news release: “The U.S. Cardinals are committed to transparency.” Others in the College of Cardinals, the statement seemed to be saying, not so much.
Transparency is not just a post-Enlightenment, democratic ideal. It’s a post-Watergate value, learned the hard way. Corrupt leaders betray the faith and trust of generations to come. Healing and renewed trust in authority happens only when all the secrets have finally been revealed. No one understands this better than Americans, who have gotten used to seeing their government and business leaders apologize, express remorse, and — sometimes cynically, sometimes not — remediate their sins before re-committing themselves to power. The church’s continued refusal to do this after wave upon wave of revelations of abuse of innocents and corporate malfeasance infuriates even her most loyal members.
Institutions as wide-ranging as Google and the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia have made transparency a core value. A group called Transparency International ranks countries on the basis of the perceived corruption in their governments. (The United States is 19th, after the United Kingdom but before Chile.) How is it in a world such as this, the men at the Vatican’s highest levels continue to close ranks and insist not only on their own authority but also on their own moral privilege? How is it that the church can continue to be faced with evidence that it abused children and insist that it protects the weak and the vulnerable?
A rereading of Jonathan Haidt’s wonderful book “The Righteous Mind” (just out in paperback) is illuminating here. Groups of like-minded people reinforce their own beliefs. And worse. They convince themselves that those beliefs are moral, even righteous. Individuals “lie, cheat and cut corners quite often when we think we can get away with it,” he writes, “and then we use our moral thinking to manage our reputations and justify ourselves to others. We believe our own post hoc reasoning so thoroughly that we end up self-righteously convinced of our own virtue.”
Groups are worse. Evolutionarily speaking, “group selection pulls for cooperation, for the ability to suppress antisocial behavior and spur individuals to act in ways that benefit their groups. Group-serving behaviors sometimes impose a terrible cost on outsiders.” In other words, in the most powerful groups, people work together — suppressing individual quirks and desires — to protect the group. And then they overlay that group-serving behavior with a moral righteousness that explains and exonerates their ruthlessness. Democratic values — openness, transparency, diversity, free exchange of ideas — do not come naturally to groups, Haidt explains. The brilliance of the American experiment is that it created the freedom for many different groups to thrive.
But then Haidt issues this warning, which the men who run the church would do well to heed: The most effective groups take good care of the people within them.
And the group known as the Catholic Church includes all of its believers, not just the cardinals.
Complete Article HERE!
Opposition to female ordination and the prohibition on marriage for priests are among the factors causing an exodus from the Catholic Church.
By: Leslie Scrivener
Joanna Manning, former nun, award-winning religion teacher, advocate for the poor and activist-intellectual, was battle-weary.
For decades she had challenged the Catholic Church, arguing for women’s ordination, the right of priests to marry and accountability in repeated sexual abuse crises.
She is now a priest in the Anglican Church.
“I did go through a period of grieving for the loss of the vision I’d grown up with after Vatican II,” says Manning, now 69, referring to the 1962-1965 council to modernize the church. “But the church hierarchy had shut down and retreated . . .”
Critics say the Catholic Church hierarchy is disconnected from many if not most of its followers on issues of reform. Theologian Hans Kung writes that a recent poll in Germany shows 85 per cent of Catholics say priests should be allowed to marry, 79 per cent say divorced persons should have permission to remarry in the church and 75 per cent favour ordaining women.
“There’s a catastrophic shortage of priests, in Europe and in Latin America and Africa,” Kung wrote in the New York Times last week. “Huge numbers have left the church or gone into ‘internal emigration,’ especially in the industrialized countries.”
Around the world there are 49,000 parishes without a resident priest pastor.
The question, says Kung, author of the forthcoming book Can the Church Still Be Saved? , is whether cardinals, gathering to elect a new pope — likely in the next 10 days — will discuss progressive issues, or be “muzzled, as they were at the last conclave, in 2005, to keep them in line.”
In Canada many churches have closed and priests have been brought in from other countries to serve. The Catholic Register has reported that in the Archdiocese of Halifax, elderly priests have been brought out of retirement to serve in parishes.
In the sprawling diocese of London, 42 Catholic churches — including half those in Windsor — closed between 2006 and 2008. About one-third of the remaining parishes are “clustered” or share a priest. Declining attendance, the shortage of priests and the high costs of maintaining old buildings have all contributed to the shuttering, says Connie Paré, the diocese’s director of pastoral planning. “It was a very painful process.”
Speaking from her Bloor West home, Manning recalls of her break with Catholicism that she “had put too much energy into something in which I could see no future.” Her spiky white hair, jeans and purple jacket, worn with a clerical collar, contribute to her youthful appearance. “At my age I could no longer give my life over to resisting.”
She looked elsewhere for a place to practise her faith and found, about 10 years ago, San Lorenzo Anglican church on Dufferin St., which has a Spanish-speaking congregation.
“I’d been in exile and alien in my own church,” says Manning, who received horrific hate mail for her views. “Finally, I’d found a place where I was accepted for who I was without having to check anything at the door, including my brain.”
About five years after she joined the San Lorenzo community, Manning, who is single and has two adult sons and two grandchildren, was unprepared when her fellow parishioners suggested she consider the Anglican priesthood. “It was like I was surprised by the Spirit.”
Women have been ordained as Anglican priests in Canada since 1976.
Manning was ordained in 2011. More than half of those who attended the service were Catholic.
Among them was Ted Schmidt, retired teacher, author and former editor of the Catholic New Times. “This was a woman so far ahead of the institutional leadership she would be shot as the enemy,” says Ted Schmidt, a church progressive. “She’s a prophetic person.”
Manning now works as an assistant curate at two parishes, the inner city All Saints Sherbourne and All Saints Kingsway. She finds herself living with a “deep, abiding joy. A place where I can exercise all my gifts.”
She compares her present state to 10 years ago. “My energies were being drained by struggle. I felt a real outsider. I’d been rejected and was on the fringes of the church. Today my energy is so positive, I feel a flowering . . . at my age to have a second chance to do God’s work in the world.”
The Anglican Church has also attracted Catholic men who wanted to marry and raise families as much as they wanted to be priests. The Rev. Canon Joseph Asselin has been the rector of St. Cuthbert’s Anglican Church in Oakville for the past 13 years.
He was raised Catholic — and was a student of Ted Schmidt — and was so committed that as a young person never once missed Sunday mass over 20 years. His mother continues to attend mass up to four times a week.
Asselin was steeped in Catholic social teaching, he says, and was taught to challenge the culture of consumerism and materialism. His experiences in the church were positive. “I was so happy to have healthy role models and mentors.”
But he could never consider being a priest in the Catholic Church. “This could never happen because I always wanted to be a husband and father. Probably, what I find the greatest joy in is being a father.”
He and his wife, Maureen, an elementary school teacher, have a teenage daughter and son, whose photos adorn his church office.
“The Catholic Church is turning its back on a lot of people who have a genuine calling to be priests, and they are the poorer for it,” says Asselin, 49. “No surprise,” he adds, “women can have the same calling.”
He counts many Catholics in his congregation and has married divorced Catholics who do not want to go through painful, lengthy annulments.
“I am able to relate to families here, with all the joys and challenges of being in a family,” he says.
He adds that the Anglican Church has options for men who feel the calling to live celibate lives as monks.
“When you see priests not leading sexually health lives, it saddens me, because they have been asked to a live a life that is not really for them.”
A radical option for Catholic women who feel called to the priesthood is to be ordained in the Catholic Church.
The price is excommunication.
Monica Kilburn-Smith, a 52-year-old Calgary hospice chaplain and mother of two, is a member of the Roman Catholic Womenpriests group, and was ordained in 2008. “The first priests and bishops in our movement were ordained by male bishops in full communion with Rome, who did this out of their own conviction/conscience that it was wrong for women to be refused this sacrament,” she explains.
Pope John Paul II said that the church has no authority to ordain women, using the argument that the first apostles were all men.
Later, Pope Benedict XVI declared that anyone taking in a woman’s ordination was committing a grave sin.
Kilburn-Smith’s St. Brigid of Kildare Catholic Faith Community is growing, she says, with 200 on the mailing list and up to 60 coming to a monthly service held in a United church. By the fall she hopes to say mass twice monthly.
“When women come to mass for the first time and see a woman in vestments and all that represents, on the surface and at deeper levels, it hits them and makes them cry,” says Kilburn-Smith. “It’s not about me; it’s seeing a woman as a person as a representative of God.”
The movement is not just about getting women into the priesthood, but also about a renewed church for the 21st century.
Why not leave the church and join a denomination that ordains women? “To leave women’s voices out just seems wrong,” Kilburn-Smith says.
“If you see something isn’t right, and you feel called in your own faith, why would you go? The Anglican Church changed because women were ordained. It didn’t come from the hierarchy.”
Complete Article HERE!
File under: Cut Your Nose Off To Spite Your Face!
By Lauren Markoe
Five key Catholic bishops are opposing the newly authorized Violence Against Women Act for fear it will subvert traditional views of marriage and gender, and compromise the religious freedom of groups that aid victims of human trafficking.
The act, to be signed into law by President Obama on Thursday (March 7), is intended to protect women from domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking, and allows the federal government to spend money to treat victims and prosecute offenders.
But for the first time since the original act became law in 1994, it spells out that no person may be excluded from the law’s protections because of “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” — specifically covering lesbian, transgender and bisexual women.
That language disturbs several bishops who head key committees within the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that deal with, among other issues, marriage, the laity, youth and religious liberty.
“These two classifications are unnecessary to establish the just protections due to all persons. They undermine the meaning and importance of sexual difference,” the bishops said in a statement released by the USCCB on Wednesday.
“They are unjustly exploited for purposes of marriage redefinition, and marriage is the only institution that unites a man and a woman with each other and with any children born from their union,” the statement continued.
The bishops also take issue with the lack of “conscience protection” for faith-based groups that help victims of human trafficking, an addition they sought after the Obama administration decided in 2011 to discontinue funding for a Catholic group that works with trafficking victims, many of whom were forced to work as prostitutes.
The administration instead funded other groups that, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, could provide a full range of women’s health services, including referrals for contraception or abortion, both of which the Catholic Church opposes.
“Conscience protections are needed in this legislation to ensure that these service providers are not required to violate their bona fide religious beliefs as a condition for serving the needy,” reads the statement of the bishops, who have supported previous versions of the act.
The statement was signed by:
— Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development
— Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage
— Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth
— Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty
— Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the Committee on Migration
The bill passed the Senate 78 to 22 on Feb. 12, and the House passed it on Feb. 28 on a vote of 286 to 138, with no Democrats in opposition. Some Republicans objected to the bill for reasons similar to the bishops’.
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As a conclave gathers to elect a pope, many in the Catholic church want change
WANTED: man of God; good at languages; preferably under 75; extensive pastoral experience; no record of covering up clerical sex abuse, deeply spiritual and, mentally, tough as old boots. It is a lot to ask, but that is the emerging profile of the man many of his fellow-cardinals would like to see replace Benedict XVI as the next pope.
On March 4th the princes of the church began a series of preliminary “general congregations”, the first step to electing a pontiff. They have much to discuss. After four sessions, they had still not—as expected—fixed a date for the Conclave, the electoral college, made up of cardinals below the age of 80, which will actually choose the next pope.
The papal spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said the members of the general congregation, who include older cardinals, are not “hurrying things”. By March 6th, when they adjourned, the assembly had heard 51 speeches. As Father Lombardi tactfully put it, they spoke “freely and with rather effective colour”. That is code for candour—even bluntness. Indeed, given the crises the church faces, delicacy might seem remiss.
The procedure is usually to identify the main threats facing the church and then find the cardinal best able to deal with them. Of the subjects cited by Father Lombardi, half concerned the Vatican itself. Deeper questions include the loss of religious faith in Europe; the challenge from evangelical Protestantism in Latin America; persecution of Christians in the Middle East and clerical sex abuse. But none is as pressing as the turmoil in the Roman Curia, the church’s central administration.
Benedict, intellectually fearless yet personally timid, was unable to keep order. Many in Rome believe that was the true reason for his departure. The Curia has become a battleground. Prelates loyal to the secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who in many cases were appointed by him or come from his native region of Piedmont, are at furious odds with papal diplomats who resented the appointment of a secretary of state with no knowledge of their business. Other feuds abound too. The leaking of documents by the pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, though apparently motivated by genuine dismay at decisions taken in the Vatican, was entwined with this venomous plotting and squabbling.
Following the will of God
The findings of an investigative panel of three cardinals will cast a long shadow over the conclave. Last month an Italian newspaper wrote of a ring of gay prelates, some being blackmailed by outsiders. In the first general congregation, three cardinals—reportedly all Europeans—demanded (in vain) access to the findings. If the report will indeed be kept secret until it is handed to the new pope, it is unclear who made that decision. Secrecy fosters suspicions that the contents are dreadful.
The episode may also strengthen the resolve of the mainly English- and German-speaking cardinals who want a vigorous pope to clean up the Curia. This was last reformed under Paul VI, who reigned from 1963 to 1978. Cardinal George Pell, the burly archbishop of Sydney, said he wanted “a strategist, a decision-maker, a planner, somebody who has got strong pastoral capacities already demonstrated so that he can take a grip of the situation.”
For I have sinned
Among those watching the decision making in Rome with apprehension, fear and optimism is the Catholic priesthood. In many countries, their declining and ageing ranks are beset by the revelation of past scandals—both at the parish and at the top. This week Scotland’s most senior cleric, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, admitted that his sexual conduct at times “has fallen below the standards” expected of him. A radio interview by his former counterpart in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, marked by a nervous laugh and opaque language, compounded the ire.
Victims of sexual abuse believe the reckoning has barely begun. They want not just proper investigation, but apologies and punishments—and in some cases cash. For them, Benedict exemplified the secretive, cautious response that aggravated the misconduct. It will be hard for any new pope to meet their expectations.
Along with frustrations of church politics and shame about misconduct, attendance at mass is falling. In America it has declined by over a third since 1960. In Britain data from the 2011 census show a similar trend, with numbers of Christians down 12 percentage points since 2001. Average Sunday attendance has fallen for the past 20 years. In mostly Catholic Italy only 39% attend on a monthly basis.
But parish life goes on. Timothy Radcliffe, the former head of the Dominican order, says priests are mostly happy, albeit overstretched. After a peak of 110 vocations in England and Wales in 1996, the figure dropped to a mere 19 in 2006. But this year 38 ordinations are expected. In a reversal of the old days of Western missionaries, many were born overseas. Father Stephen Wang, of Allen Hall seminary in London, counts men from Africa, India and Australia in this year’s cohort of 54.
Movements such as “Youth 2000” and World Youth Day encourage vocations through what has been called “evangelical Catholicism”, says Father Wang, in which the faith is “more confident” about presenting itself. Traditionalist groups such as the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter or the Institute of Christ the King are attracting younger members. The provost of the Brompton Oratory, a traditionalist church in central London, is Father Julian Large, a 43-year-old former journalist who draws a youthful following.
The brighter shore
In some respects the woes of the church in the West seem far away from the parts of the world where it is thriving. In a leafy sanctuary from the heat and frenzy of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire’s biggest city, Father Aurel da Silva sits under a tree on the tidy front lawn of a monastery. On the wall behind him hangs an oversize portrait of Michel Nielly, who a half-century ago established it as a beachhead for the Dominican order. Today it houses some 30 seminarians from across the region and its small wooden chapel attracts Abidjan’s elites for Sunday mass.
Near the guardhouse, employees raise money for local charities by selling mushrooms that grow in the monastery’s garden. Ceramic water filters distributed to the poor are also displayed prominently. A pink leaflet posted on a bulletin board advertises job-training programmes for unemployed youth. When violence engulfed Côte d’Ivoire after its disputed 2010 presidential election, the towering St Paul’s cathedral in the heart of Abidjan sheltered nearly 2,000 people.
The rapidly growing African Catholic church, says Father da Silva, has great ambitions as a social force. But autonomy must be the watchword. The doctrinal debates and papal intrigue in Rome hardly concern him. “I haven’t spent time in Rome, but I don’t need to,” he says. “What I do here is more important.”
Some of his seminarians have softer attitudes to the Vatican, but they insist that the church’s social message is secondary: spirituality comes first. The African church is no hotbed of liberalism. Its leading contender for the papacy, the Ghanaian cardinal Peter Turkson, is widely regarded as a conservative in the mold of Benedict.
But one of Father da Silva’s older colleagues stakes out a more radical position. The church must evolve, he says. His priorities are: the end of clerical celibacy, women’s ordination, and, above all, greater tolerance for dissent: “You have to accept other people’s way of thinking.”
Those views chime across continents and oceans. In the beautiful, desolate west of Ireland is the village of Moygownagh, the home parish of Father Brendan Hoban. He is a co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests, which aspires to represent the 2m Irish people who attend mass at least once a month. It is campaigning for an end to celibacy, “inclusive ministry” (code for women priests) and a rethinking of sexual teaching, especially on contraception.
Nearly a quarter of Ireland’s 4,500 priests (and probably a higher share of its able-bodied, energetic ones) has joined. It is in touch with similar bodies in Austria, where a grass-roots initiative among priests incurred a papal rebuke last year, as well as France, the Czech Republic, Australia and the United States.
The Irish association has special credibility. It speaks for a country where the hierarchy is reeling from horrific revelations about abuse in church-run institutions and clerical cover-ups, but where the population, despite the onrush of secularism, remains relatively pious by the standards of the rich world.
The village exemplifies both the crisis and strength of Irish Catholicism. Half of its residents attend weekly mass and most of the remainder look to the church for rites of passage, from first communion to anniversary masses for the dead. Despite the recession, generous donations are paying for church refurbishment.
Moygownagh belongs to a small diocese with 32 priests serving 22 parishes; that number sounds high, and it reflects a flood of vocations in the 1960s and 1970s. But only seven priests are under 55. Father Hoban is nearly 65. When he retires, he expects that the village will be left without a priest of its own for the first time in centuries. In his parents’ time, he recalls, a local farming family would be proud if a son joined the priesthood. Now, he says, even a “faithful Catholic family might panic” if a son announced a similar vocation. “They would feel he was embarking on a life of stress, isolation and low social prestige.”
Almost all the church’s recent woes can be ascribed, in Father Hoban’s view, to the top-down decision-making which has marked the past two papacies. Like many Catholic liberals, he feels that the trouble started when the church hierarchy hijacked the devolutionary reforms of the second Vatican council and blocked change or implemented it badly.
The result, viewed from an Irish village, is that “Rome doesn’t listen to the national bishops; the bishops don’t tell Rome the truth because Rome doesn’t want to hear it; the bishops don’t listen to the priests, the priests haven’t listened enough to the people.” With lay involvement, the child-abuse cover-ups would not have happened. He does not want the church to be “literally democratic”, but nor should it “preserve structures inherited from the Roman empire.”
What do priests of his school expect from the conclave? “In some ways we don’t hope for that much, because all the cardinals have been appointed under the present order. But we hope that some can see the dysfunctionality of the Vatican in its present form…the cardinals need to bite the bullet and appoint somebody who can challenge the Curia.”
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