06/23/17

Illinois Catholic bishop decrees no Holy Communion, funerals for same-sex couples

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Bishop Thomas Paprocki leads the Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Ill.

The bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Ill., is calling on priests there to deny Holy Communion and even funeral rites to people in same-sex unions unless they show “some signs of repentance” for their relationships before death.

The decree by Bishop Thomas Paprocki also said that people “living publicly” in same-sex marriages may not receive the sacrament of confirmation or be admitted to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, a process by which many converts become Catholic, preparing them for baptism and confirmation.

At the same time, Paprocki said that children living with a Catholic parent or parents in a same-sex marriage may be baptized. But when it comes to same-sex unions, priests cannot bless couples, church property cannot be used for ceremonies and diocesan employees are forbidden from participating, the decree said.

The bishop’s decree has not yet been made public by the diocese, but was sent to clergy and diocesan staff in an email last week. That email, in turn, was shared with other clergy around the country, as well as Catholic LGBT organizations, which posted the document and condemned it as unduly harsh, particularly in light of Pope Francis’s more compassionate posture.

“Although some other bishops and dioceses have instituted similar policies in part, this document is mean-spirited and hurtful in the extreme,” Christopher Pett, incoming president of DignityUSA, said in a news release by the organization that rallies the church for full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics.

Although same-sex marriages have been legal across the United States since the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, the decree reiterates church teaching that marriage is a “covenant between one man and one woman.” The church’s official catechism states that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”

Four years ago, after gay marriage was legally recognized in Illinois, Paprocki “performed an exorcism in response to the law, suggesting politicians were ‘morally complicit’ in assisting the sins of same-sex couples,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

The 64-year-old bishop, trained as a lawyer as well as priest, has served the Springfield diocese since 2010. He was previously a priest and auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Chicago, and is known for his passion for running and penchant for playing hockey.

In a statement provided to The Post, the bishop said of the decree: “These norms are necessary in light of changes in the law and in our culture regarding these issues.” The decree states:

Jesus Christ himself affirmed the privileged place of marriage in human and Christian society by raising it to the dignity of a sacrament. Consequently, the church not only has the authority, but the serious obligation to affirm its authentic teaching on marriage to preserve and foster the sacred value of the married state.

Last year, the pope released a 256-page document, “The Joy of Love,” which affirmed the church’s traditional views on marriage, as The Post reported. At the same time, the pope said unconventional unions are not without their “constructive elements.” He called on the church’s clergy to be pastoral and not to use doctrine as a weapon.

Other clergy have also embraced a more welcoming approach. Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, the archbishop of Newark, recently welcomed dozens of gay and lesbian Catholics to worship. “I am Joseph your brother,” Tobin told the group, according to a New York Times report. “I am your brother, as a disciple of Jesus. I am your brother, as a sinner who finds mercy with the Lord.”

The Rev. James Martin’s latest book — “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the L.G.B.T. Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion and Sensitivity” — also calls for a gentler approach. Of the Paprocki decree, the noted Jesuit author, said in a pointed Facebook post:

If bishops ban members of same-sex marriages from receiving a Catholic funeral, they also have to be consistent. They must also ban divorced and remarried Catholics who have not received annulments, women who has or man who fathers a child out of wedlock, members of straight couples who are living together before marriage, and anyone using birth control. For those are all against church teaching as well. Moreover, they must ban anyone who does not care for the poor, or care for the environment, and anyone who supports torture, for those are church teachings too. More basically, they must ban people who are not loving, not forgiving and not merciful, for these represent the teachings of Jesus, the most fundamental of all church teachings. To focus only on LGBT people, without a similar focus on the moral and sexual behavior of straight people is, in the words of the Catechism, a “sign of unjust discrimination.”

Complete Article HERE!

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06/18/17

A tale of two Cardinals: One offering welcome to LGBT Catholics and one withholding it

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Cardinal_Dolan

By Cahir O’Doherty

Four years ago Pope Francis stunned the Catholic world by declaring “if a person is gay and seeks out the Lord and is willing, who am I to judge that person?”

You’re the pope, came the answer – and if you’re going to take judging gay people off the table, then shouldn’t the church?

The implications of Francis’ statement are profound and are playing out internationally at a pace that – by the glacial standards of the church – might be called breakneck.

Here in the U.S. two prominent Irish American cardinals are already offering widely differing responses to the pope’s dramatic change in tone, if admittedly not in doctrine.

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, 65, was profiled this week in The New York Times for welcoming a group of openly gay people to mass.

An invitation “by a leader of Cardinal Tobin’s standing in the Roman Catholic Church in this country would have been unthinkable even five years ago,” the Times states, undeniably.

Tobin, who hails from Detroit, is Irish American on both sides and “is among a small but growing group of bishops changing how the American church relates to its gay members,” the Times says. “They are seeking to be more inclusive and signaling to subordinate priests that they should do the same.”

But in New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, 67, appears to be resisting any reconsideration in tone or doctrine over gays. This week he signaled he would take a different approach by publicly endorsing Daniel Mattson’s controversial new book, “Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay, How I Reclaimed My Sexual Identity and Found Peace.”

Mattson, a writer and public speaker, admits he is only attracted to the same sex but he refuses to call himself gay. In his new book he writes he only made “peace” with his same-sex attractions and his religious faith by embracing a life of chastity.

Cardinal Tobin

Paraphrasing Elisabeth Elliot, Mattson writes: “When a man or woman, a boy or girl, accepts the way of loneliness for Christ’s sake, there are cosmic ramifications. That person, in a secret transaction with God, actually does something for the life of the world. This seems almost inconceivable, yet it is true, for it is one part of the mystery of suffering which has been revealed to us.”

For “the life of the world”, Mattson has decided to remain chaste and embrace loneliness “in a transaction” with God. Although he admittedly still “suffers” from same sex attractions, his self-imposed chastity makes it impossible for him to express that part of himself, ever.

Dolan was effusive in his praise for Mattson’s sobering decision this week. “Mattson… shares with us how he has come to understand and accept God’s loving plan for his life, as well as the beauty and richness of the Church’s teaching on chastity…”

For Dolan and Mattson the “beauty and richness” of an LGBT orientation is only to be found in its total abnegation.

Given how apparently hard line he is on the matter, it’s no wonder Dolan was up with the larks to appear on CBS’s “This Morning” four years ago in a visit that clearly intended to reassure conservative Catholics it was business as usual regarding gay people, despite Francis’ surprising change in tone.

Now, four years later, if you’re LGBT and Catholic, the kind of welcome you receive in any Catholic church depends on which Catholic church you’re sitting in.

“The church must say it’s sorry for not having comported itself well many times, many times,” Francis said in his now famous interview four years ago.

“I believe that the church not only must say it’s sorry… to this person that is gay that it has offended,” said the pope. “But it must say it’s sorry to the poor, also, to mistreated women, to children forced to work.”

“When I say the church: Christians,” Francis later clarified. “The church is holy. We are the sinners.”

For Cardinal Tobin the very Irish act of offering welcome, which is extended to one and all, is a deep expression of his private faith in public action.

“The word I use is welcome,” Tobin told the Times. “These are people that have not felt welcome in other places. My prayer for them is that they do. Today in the Catholic Church, we read a passage that says you have to be able to give a reason for your hope. And I’m praying that this pilgrimage for them, and really for the whole church, is a reason for hope.”

Conservative clergy members have suggested that alongside Tobin’s welcome to gay Catholics he should have offered them a stern challenge to consider their ways, but the Cardinal demurred.

“That sounds a little backhanded to me,” he said. “It was appropriate to welcome people to come and pray and call them who they were. And later on, we can talk.”

After the Mass, he received “a fair amount of visceral hate mail from fellow Catholics,” Tobin says. One parishioner even went so far as to organize a letter-writing campaign calling on other bishops to “correct” him.

“And there’s a lot to correct in me, without a doubt,” Cardinal Tobin told the Times. “But not for welcoming people. No.”

For over two and a half decades gays were a line in the sand issue for the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee – and an unasked for complication to Dolan’s own ministry.

Having finally squared that circle, it’s remarkable to see the LGBT issue has lost none of it’s ability to divide Irish Americans and the Church from each other, even when the Irish Americans in question are high-ranking members of the Church themselves.

Complete Article HERE!

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06/8/17

Church of Scotland just voted to allow same-sex marriage

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The Scottish Episcopal Church has become the first Anglican church in the UK to approve same-sex marriage.

by Lewis Corner

The Bishops, Clergy and Laity in the House of Synod all voted in favour to marry gay and lesbian couples in their churches.

The decisive vote saw the House of Bishops vote 4-1 in favour, the House of Clergy 42-20 in favour, and the House of Laity 50-12 in favour.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Scotland since December 2014, but an exemption in the law meant that individual churches were able to choose whether or not they wanted to perform such unions.

However, gay Christian couples will now be able to get married in a church in Scotland if they chose to do so.

The Church of Scotland’s decision comes after the Church of England released a report back in January that upheld their view that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

They added that there was still “little support for changing the Church of England’s teaching on marriage.”

However, the church’s democratic governing body rejected a call for continued opposition to same-sex marriage in February.

It meant that the Bishops have had to go away and produce a brand new report on the issue.

Hopefully the progress in Scotland will steer them in the right direction…

Complete Article HERE!

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06/4/17

Rev. Fuller is not your average Roman Catholic priest

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by NANCY FORNASIERO

Rev. Fuller, pastor of a newly formed faith community in Pickering, has been revising, refining and rehearsing the homily for this weekend’s inaugural mass at St. Mary of Magdalene the First Apostle Catholic Faith Community.

Inspiration came from Scripture (Acts 2:17-18): “God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. … Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.”

The passage connects the theme of Pentecost – a feast day celebrated in all Christian churches this weekend – to gender equality and inclusivity, issues close to Rev. Fuller’s heart.

But Rev. Fuller is no ordinary Catholic priest prepping to preach to his flock; rather this is Rev. Roberta Fuller, an ordained Roman Catholic Woman Priest (RCWP). The petite septuagenarian and retired high-school teacher is regarded by some as a courageous spiritual leader and by others as a disrespectful dissident.

Ordained in 2011, Rev. Fuller maintains she has as legitimate a claim to the priesthood as any male Catholic priest. The Vatican disagrees and warns that sacraments performed by women priests are just “simulations.” Women priests are forbidden to serve in any official capacity and in 2007 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under Pope Benedict XVI, decreed automatic excommunication against anyone “who attempts to confer a sacred order on a woman, and the woman who attempts to receive a sacred order.”

Neil MacCarthy, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Toronto, says that the parish’s home, Dunbarton-Fairport United Church, reflects the illegitimacy of Rev. Fuller’s congregation.

“The very fact that their services take place in a United Church should be a clear indication that what is happening is not, in any way, sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church.”

There are 12 women Catholic priests in Canada (and some 300 worldwide); many hold their masses in sympathetic United churches. Rev. Fuller launched a similar progressive community, Church of the Beatitudes, in the Toronto neighbourhood of Roncesvalles in 2014. The parish attracted a devoted, if modestly sized, flock varying in size from week to week, with 40 at most in attendance. Sometimes there were as few as half a dozen in the pews. She is hoping for more robust attendance in this new community. The Pickering services will be held the first and third Saturday of the month.

Rev. Fuller rejects the notion that her ordination and calling are illegitimate. “That’s simply not true,” she says. “Despite what some bishops lead the faithful to believe, we follow and honour Roman Catholic tradition and the liturgy of the church.

“We are ordained in apostolic succession just like any priest.”

The RCWP movement was born in 2002 when a Catholic bishop (known as Bishop X to protect his identity) broke with tradition and ordained seven women. Guided by his own conscience, he conducted the ceremony on a boat on the Danube River to avoid diocesan jurisdiction and interference. These original women priests are often referred to as “the Danube Seven.” Apostolic succession comes into play because Bishop X, who had been ordained by another bishop in good standing, is linked to a line of bishops that goes back to the time of the Apostles. Supporters argue this lineage now extends to the rebellious women on the Danube and all their successors.

Rev. Fuller, who isn’t too concerned about canon law and Vatican pronouncements, remains focused on her mission: “to foster loving, supportive communities where all are welcomed at the table.” On the invitation to the inaugural mass, she describes St. Mary Magdalene as a “radically reform, inclusive parish that celebrates all sacraments and serves the community while working for gender equity and social justice for every woman, man and child.”

Rev. Fuller believes that too many people – the LGBTQ community, and divorced and remarried Catholics – have been made to feel like second-class Catholics for too long.

Jeff Doucette, pastor at Dunbarton-Fairport United Church, says his own ministry is totally aligned to Rev. Fuller’s vision of inclusiveness. “When I heard Roberta needed a place, I immediately wanted to support her. I felt confident that our board would agree, and I was right. They voted unanimously to allow her to celebrate mass here.”

Rev. Doucette is a former Roman Catholic priest who left, in part, because of the chasm between his own beliefs around justice and those of the church. He met Rev. Fuller after he read about her original parish in Toronto and, impressed by what she was doing, decided to go meet her.

“It floors me that the Catholic Church is still so rigid about this,” he says. “We have amazing women leading our United Church congregations. And there are incredible Catholic women, with authentic callings, who can bring a whole side to the gospel that we as men can never bring. Leaving them out of the equation is like asking the church to breathe with one lung.”

It frustrates Rev. Fuller immensely that women are willing to serve and yet the church instead recruits male clergy from all over the world – many with limited English-language skills and a cultural disconnect with their parishioners. “When I was studying theology at St. Michael’s College [in the University of Toronto], I met so many capable qualified young women who could fill the priest shortage. But the door is shut to them.”

People often ask Rev. Fuller, a life-long feminist and human-rights activist, why she keeps struggling with an institution as patriarchal as the Roman Catholic Church, particularly when she could easily step into a leadership position in almost any other Christian denomination.

“I stay because I’m a Roman Catholic. I have the right to remain a Roman Catholic. I believe we all have the right to equality both in and outside of the church.”

Complete Article HERE!

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06/2/17

Church saw sharp rise in clergy sex abuse victims who came forward last year

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The number of victims who brought new claims of sexual abuse by clergy rose sharply last year, fueled in large part by a surge of allegations from Minnesota, according to a report released Thursday by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

That state temporarily lifted its statute of limitations in 2013 to allow alleged victims older than 24 to sue for past abuse, and the deadline to file such claims was in late May 2016, according to the report. The deadline is believed to have prompted a rush of last-minute filings.

The annual report from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which covers July 2015 to June 2016, said 911 victims came forward with allegations the church deemed credible, the vast majority of which were from adults who said they were abused when they were children.

That was up from 384 in the previous 12-month span, and it marked the highest total since 1,083 victims came forward in 2004, the first year the bishops conference published an annual report on the topic amid the fallout of the abuse crisis that was exposed in the early 2000s.

“I am grateful that allegations are being reported,” Deacon Bernie Nojadera, executive director of the conference’s Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection, wrote in the report. “I am grateful that alleged victims are being treated with sensitivity and care. I am grateful that alleged offenders are offered treatment and supervision. But much work is still needed.

“May God bless our victims/survivors and our endeavors toward healing, justice, and peace,” he added.

The report did not break down the number of complaints in the most recent year that came from Minnesota but said they were a “substantial portion.”

The report also noted that the November 2015 release of the movie “Spotlight,’’ which recounted The Boston Globe’s investigation of the clergy-abuse crisis, “helped bring the issue back into the mind of the general public.’’

“As the movie illustrates, it was because of a few brave individuals who had the courage to come forward that the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church was brought to light,” the report says.

Victims who came forward during the most recent reporting year included 26 minors, the report said.

The report’s definition of “minors” included people under age 18 or anyone who “habitually lacks the use of reason.”

As of June 30, 2016, two of the 26 cases had been substantiated, while 11 had been deemed unsubstantiated by church officials. The rest remained under investigation, the report said.

The offenders in the substantiated cases were removed from ministry, as were 26 other priests or deacons accused of past abuse, officials said.

The report did not break down the location of the allegations but said its data was based on information from all 196 diocese and eparchies of the bishops conference, which includes the Archdiocese of Boston, and from 180 of the 232 religious institutes of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men.

The latest figures mean that between 1950 and June 2016, more than 18,500 people nationwide made clergy abuse allegations deemed credible by US Catholic officials, and more than 6,700 clerics have been accused of abuse, church records show.

Activists have questioned whether the church’s count of clergy sex abuse victims is lower than the actual total.

The abuse crisis has cost the church billions of dollars.

Between 1950 and June 2016, about $3.7 billion was spent on settlement-related costs, including $141 million during the most recent year, according to the church.

Complete Article HERE!

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