Vatican synod calls for a more welcoming Catholic Church

Bishops chat at the end of the afternoon session of the synod in Vatican City on Oct. 24.

Deeply divided clerics at a landmark Vatican summit echoed the more inclusive tone of Pope Francis on Saturday, extending more welcoming language to divorced and gay Catholics but stopping short of calling for clear alterations in policy and leaving the extent of any change in the hands of the mercurial pontiff.

The meeting — known as a synod — marked the culmination of a two-year process to recalibrate the faith’s approach to families in the 21st century and broke new ground by tackling issues once considered taboo in the Roman Catholic Church. In the most significant pronouncement, the clerics cracked open the door for divorced and remarried Catholics, who the church teaches are technically living in adultery, to receive Communion — a sacrament from which they are currently officially barred.

But the synod did not explicitly condone a change either, leaving Francis room to interpret the will of his hierarchy. The document also recognized the “dignity” of homosexuals, while also saying there was not even a “remote” similarity between same-sex unions and “God’s design on matrimony and family.”

The final communiqué, while a significant bellwether of the hierarchy’s thinking, nevertheless amounts only to a recommendation to Francis. As pope in the benevolent autocracy that is Vatican City, Francis now has the final say.

Liberals at the synod were pragmatic, saying they were impressed they got as far as they did given significant conservative resistance. But the staunch opposition to fast change suggested how difficult it may now be for Francis to translate his revolutionary style into substance.

It also puts him in a highly difficult position. If he fails to change the status quo, he risks disappointing liberal Catholics — as well as many non-Catholics — who have heralded him worldwide as an agent of change. Yet going too far beyond the recommendations could alienate many in his own divided church, triggering an even stronger backlash among conservatives — some of whom are already openly questioning the direction of his papacy.

“What the pope has to do now is take all of this in and decide how to we use it,” said Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington. “He may decide to use bits and pieces in different ways.”

Complete Article HERE!

UN committee blasts Vatican on sex abuse, abortion

By Nicole Winfield

The Vatican “systematically” adopted policies that allowed priests to rape and molest tens of thousands of children over decades, a U.N. human rights committee said Wednesday, urging it to open its files on pedophiles and bishops who concealed their crimes.

st petersIn a devastating report hailed by victims, the U.N. committee severely criticized the Holy See for its attitudes toward homosexuality, contraception and abortion and said it should change its own canon law to ensure children’s rights and their access to health care are guaranteed. The Vatican promptly objected.

The report puts renewed pressure on Pope Francis to move decisively on the abuse front and make good on pledges to create a Vatican commission to study sex abuse and recommend best practices to fight it. The commission was announced at the spur of the moment in December, but few details have been released since then.

The committee issued its recommendations after subjecting the Holy See to a daylong interrogation last month on its implementation of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, the key U.N. treaty on child protection, which the Holy See ratified in 1990.

Critically, the committee rejected the Vatican’s longstanding argument that it doesn’t control bishops or their abusive priests, saying the Holy See was responsible for implementing the treaty not just in the Vatican City State but around the world “as the supreme power of the Catholic Church through individuals and institutions placed under its authority.”

In its report, the committee blasted the “code of silence” that has long been used to keep victims quiet, saying the Holy See had “systematically placed preservation of the reputation of the church and the alleged offender over the protection of child victims.” It called on the Holy See to provide compensation to victims and hold accountable not just the abusers but also those who covered up their crimes.

“The committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by, and the impunity of, the perpetrators,” the report said.

It called for Francis’ nascent abuse commission to conduct an independent investigation of all cases of priestly abuse and the way the Catholic hierarchy has responded over time, and urged the Holy See to establish clear rules for the mandatory reporting of abuse to police and to support laws that allow victims to report crimes even after the statute of limitations has expired.

No Catholic bishop has ever been sanctioned by the Vatican for sheltering an abusive priest, and only in 2010 did the Holy See direct bishops to report abusers to police where law enforcement requires it. Vatican officials have acknowledged that bishop accountability remains a major problem and have suggested that under Francis, things might begin to change.

The committee’s recommendations are non-binding and there is no enforcement mechanism. Rather, the U.N. asked the Vatican to implement the recommendations and report back by 2017. The Vatican was 14 years late submitting its most recent report.

While most attention has focused on child sex abuse, the committee’s recommendations extended far beyond, into issues about discrimination against children and their rights to adequate health care, issues that touch on core church teaching about life and sexual morals.

The committee, for example, urged the Vatican to amend its canon law to identify circumstances where access to abortion can be permitted for children, such as to save the life of a young mother. It urged the Holy See to ensure that sex education, including access to information about contraception and preventing HIV, is mandatory in Catholic schools. It called for the Holy See to use its moral authority to condemn discrimination against homosexual children or children raised by same-sex couples.

The Vatican said it would study the report and in a statement reiterated its commitment to defending and protecting children’s rights that are enshrined in the treaty. But it took issue with the committee’s recommendations to change core church teaching on life.

“The Holy See does, however, regret to see in some points of the concluding observations an attempt to interfere with Catholic Church teaching on the dignity of human person and in the exercise of religious freedom,” the Vatican said.

Church teaching holds that life begins at conception; the Vatican therefore opposes abortion and artificial contraception. The Vatican has a history of diplomatic confrontation with the United Nations over such issues.

Austen Ivereigh, coordinator of Catholic Voices, a church advocacy group, said the report was a “shocking display of ignorance and high-handedness.”

He said it failed to acknowledge the progress that has been made in recent years and that the Catholic Church in many places is now considered a leader in safeguarding children. And he noted that the committee seemed unable to grasp the distinction between the responsibilities and jurisdiction of the Holy See, and local churches on the ground.

“It takes no account of the particularities of the Holy See, treating it as if it were the HQ of a multinational corporation,” he said in an email.

But victims groups hailed the report as a wake-up call to secular law enforcement officials to investigate the abuse and cover-up and prosecute church officials who are still protecting predator priests.

“This report gives hope to the hundreds of thousands of deeply wounded and still suffering clergy sex abuse victims across the world,” said Barbara Blaine, president of the main U.S. victim’s group SNAP. “Now it’s up to secular officials to follow the U.N.’s lead and step in to safeguard the vulnerable because Catholic officials are either incapable or unwilling to do so.”

Complete Article HERE!

Cardinal O’Malley bars talk by priest over views

File under: We Don’t need no stinkin’ discussion on the topics.

 

 

by Lisa Wangsness

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley is banning an Austrian priest from speaking at a Catholic parish in Dedham because the priest advocates ordaining women and making celibacy optional, stances that place him in opposition to church teachings.

Father Helmut SchüllerThe Rev. Helmut Schuller was invited to speak at St. Susanna Parish July 17 as part of a 15-city tour of the United States called “The Catholic Tipping Point: Conversations with Helmut Schuller,” sponsored by a coalition of reform-minded Catholic organizations, including Voice of the Faithful, based in Needham.

But O’Malley has declared he will not allow anyone to speak on church property who advocates beliefs in conflict with church doctrine.

As a result, the coalition that invited Schuller has moved its event to a nearby Unitarian Universalist church.

Schuller is the founder of the Austrian Priests’ Initiative, which advocates allowing women and married people to become priests and greater lay participation as ways of addressing a priest shortage. About 1 in 10 Austrian priests are members, the Austrian Independent newspaper reported; priests’ groups have sprung up in several countries, including Ireland and the United States, and Schuller has said he hopes the movement will spread worldwide.

Terrence C. Donilon, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said in a statement released to the Globe: “It is the policy of the Archdiocese of Boston, and the generally accepted practice in dioceses across the country, not to permit individuals to conduct speaking engagements in Catholic parishes or at church events when those individuals promote positions that are contrary to Catholic teachings.”

Leaders of the coalition that invited Schuller expressed dismay with O’Malley’s decision.

“Cardinal O’Malley is known to be a pastoral person and certainly as someone who is dealing with the ravages of the priest shortage in Boston, I would have hoped he would be more sympathetic” to Schuller’s message, said Sister Chris Schenk, executive director of Future Church, which advocates opening ordination to all baptized Catholics. “Laypeople have to be able to have a voice and a venue to talk about their honest concerns and questions, and to just refuse any Catholic venue for this conversation to take place sends a very, very sad message.”

Larry Bloom, a deacon and director of adult faith formation at St. Susanna, said his parish has a longstanding relationship with Voice of the Faithful, and when that group needed a venue for Schuller’s talk, he did some research. “I found out he was a priest, I found out he had a parish, I found out that he was in good standing with the Archdiocese of Vienna, and then I called them back and said sure,” he said.O’Malley

When Auxiliary Bishop Walter J. Edyvean told him O’Malley would not allow Schuller to speak, Bloom said it was the first time in his 11 years at the parish that the archdiocese had taken such an action.

Bloom said he was not upset. “The archbishop has the right to have his own thoughts on the matter,” he said, “and he has a lot more to think about than we do at our own parish.”

Schuller’s group, the Austrian Priests’ Initiative, organized a “Call to Disobedience” that was signed by several hundred priests two years ago who pledged to begin serving communion to any Christian of goodwill, including non-Catholics and the divorced and remarried; to advocate for ordination of women and married people; to let trained laity preach, including women; and to oppose closing parishes.

“We will advocate that every parish has a presiding leader, man or woman, married or unmarried, full time or part time,” the manifesto says. “Rather than consolidating parishes, we call for a new image of the priest.”

A fledgling American priests’ organization is meeting in Seattle and discussing a series of reforms, but on the whole, US priests have been less willing to challenge the status quo so boldly.

“It seems to me there is much more of a willingness in Europe, even among the hierarchy, to discuss some of these issues,” said Francis Schussler Fiorenza, professor of Roman Catholic theological studies at Harvard Divinity School. “O’Malley tends to be very theologically conservative and seems to be disinclined to allow open discussion in church venues.”

A survey by the Oekonsult polling group conducted last year found that nearly 90 percent of Austrians supported Schuller’s plan to take the initiative global, according to the Austrian Independent.

The Vatican stripped Schuller of his title of monsignor in late 2012, although he remains an active priest. Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, archbishop of Vienna, said he was “shocked” when the call to disobedience went out. In May he told the Italian newspaper La Stampa that the priests involved could face discipline, the Independent reported.

Schuller, the former head of the aid agency Caritas Austria, served as vicar general of the Archdiocese of Vienna in the mid- to late 1990s under Schonborn, who fired him in 1999 for reasons that are unclear. He is now a parish priest in Probstdorf, just east of Vienna. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, a gay and lesbian Catholic advocacy group cosponsoring Schuller’s tour, said she was particularly upset about O’Malley’s decision because the cardinal had been tapped by Pope Francis to sit on a panel of prelates from around the world who will advise him on overhauling church governance.

“Here we are trying to bring a resource for conversation about church governance to the area, and we’re not allowed to have the conversation in Catholic space,” she said.

O’Malley has already offered his own answer to the priest shortage, a bold and risky effort, now in its pilot phase, to group Boston’s 288 parishes into 135 collaboratives, each of which will share a single team of priests, staff, and lay leaders. By using money and priests’ time more efficiently and then focusing on evangelization, parishes can become stronger and more vibrant, the cardinal has said, leading to more young men entering the priesthood. The Archdiocese of Boston has 285 active priests and projects that will decline to 200 by 2022, though it hopes the new plan will bolster those numbers.

Schenk said the only other city where Schuller is scheduled to speak at a Catholic parish is Detroit. Other appearances are slated for Protestant churches or other venues.

Complete Article HERE!

German Catholics vent their dissatisfaction with the Church

A study on Germany’s Catholic community reveals the discontent of faithful with the ecclesiastical institution. But proposals for solutions are lacking

By ALESSANDRO ALVIANI

sad lonely popeThe Pope’s ecclesiastical policies are “backward-looking” and suspected of trying to take the Church back to the pre-Second Vatican Council period. As for the Church’s leaders, they are “cut off from reality, reactionary and obstructionist.”

This is the opinion German faithful have of Benedict XVI and the Catholic Church according to a study by Sinus Institute and consulting agency MDG (which the German Church controls). In-depth interviews were conducted with 100 Catholics from different social backgrounds. According to the study, which picks up on a similar one carried out in 2005, German faithful are convinced that today’s Church finds itself in a “desolate situation” and the most obvious manifestation of this is the sex abuse scandal.

The authors of the study wrote that the scandal seriously damaged the image of the Church, even in the eyes of the most fervent Catholics, whose faith was deeply shaken. The scandal was seen as confirmation of the Church’s “modernization deficit”. The Church lost a great deal of credibility not just as a result of the accusations of paedophilia made against it but also because many believe it dealt with the abuse issue inadequately.

Internal dogma and rules that had been tacitly accepted until about a year ago are now openly criticised by faithful. Criticisms range from complaints about “discrimination against women” and celibacy, to the condemnation of homosexuality, contraception and sex outside wedlock, to the marginalisation of lay people involved in Church life.

Another factor that is creating animosity, is the organisational restructuring that is taking place in Germany, with a number of parishes being merged because of the shortage in parish priests, for example.

The study also shows the Church’s detachment from the weakest sections of society: it would make no difference to the lower social classes if the Church ceased to exist.

Despite their criticisms, however, faithful still look to the Church for “spiritual guidance” and “meaning”. The majority of them do not want to lose their Catholic identity and few consider leaving the Church.

So what do German faithful expect from the Church? They want lay people involved in the Church to play a greater role; they want more women in leadership roles; the possibility for women to be ordained priests; the elimination of celibacy; a different attitude towards sexuality and contraception; the sacraments to be administrated to all Christians, regardless of their denomination or sexual identity; less ostentation and less abuse of power and a greater focus on God’s love and love for one’s neighbour.

Complete Article HERE!

The Vatican Implosion

Robert C. Mickens, Vatican correspondent and columnist for “The Tablet,” speaks about The Vatican’s implosion and what it means for Catholics.