Methodist clergy vow to defy church…

200 Illinois Methodist clergy vow to defy church, bless same-sex unions

June 26, 2011|By Manya A. Brachear, Tribune reporter

More than 200 United Methodist clergy in Illinois have pledged to flout church policy and bless unions for same-sex couples, putting their jobs, homes and callings in jeopardy if couples take advantage of their offer.

Methodists in the Northern Illinois Conference also called on the global church to impose no more than a 24-hour suspension for clergy who defy the policy.


Listen to those sinned against

An underlying theme of the shameful story of clerical sex abuse in the Catholic Church has been the neglect of the victims. At last this is changing, and next year’s intense study of the whole issue being organised at the Gregorian University in Rome will mark a watershed in the way this aspect is treated. The proposed symposium has the support of the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William Levada, and will bring together experts and those with pastoral experience in the field.

So far there are no plans to include victims themselves, which would be a loss. It is not simply that they need to be heard as part of a possible healing process. The marginalisation of victims represented a mindset whose origins lay in traditions of Catholic spirituality that emphasised the avoidance of sin and the recovery of sinners through penance and repentance. That mindset implied that the real tragedy of an act of sexual abuse by a priest lay in the defilement of the priestly office by the commission of an act of unchastity, rather than a grave and possibly permanent psychological injury inflicted upon an innocent and defenceless child.

Those with that mindset, blinded by the lesser evil, could not see the greater. It meant the Church, in response to acts of abuse that came to official notice, gave priority to the treatment of the transgressor and forgot about the one transgressed. This was the very essence of the clericalist deformity of ways of thinking and acting in the Church that prepared the way for all the scandals of cover-up, denial and deception.

By no means everyone in the Church has learned this lesson. The Rosminian order has failed to respond adequately to reve­lations of sexual abuse at one of its institutions in Africa. One priest involved was one of the best-known Catholic priests in London, the late Fr Kit Cunningham of St Etheldreda’s, Ely Place. Before he died, he even returned his MBE to Buckingham Palace because he felt it had been awarded under false pretences. Those whom he had served and who had loved him in London have found it hard to believe he was capable of such crimes: perhaps the knowledge of his own depravity could have added to his sensitivity as a pastor; it almost certainly lay behind his heavy drinking. It was only the surfacing of some of his victims years later, however, that exposed his true history to public view. The Cunningham case confirms what a unique and essential service to the Church victims proffer, yet it is one that the Church has barely recognised.

One key speaker at the Gregorian event will be Baroness (Sheila) Hollins, the former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists who took part in the pontifical visitation of the Irish Catholic Church. She has played a central role in placing victims at the centre of the Church’s concern. She has said that in her professional experience, men who become child abusers were invariably abused themselves when they were children. This raises the question, urgently calling for further research, into how many priest abusers were themselves abused in childhood (but not necessarily by priests). If this import­ant link in the chain of causality has been missed, that is one more damaging consequence of marginalising the victims.

no theological reasons for excluding women from the priesthood

There will be women a priest «when God wills», for the moment it is better «not to raise the issue». But there is «no fundamental obstacle», from «a theological perspective», for women to say mass on the altar. It is, instead, a «tradition» that dates back from the time of Jesus. This was said by Cardinal Jose da Cruz Policarpo, seventy-five year old Patriarch of Lisbon, who has just been confirmed for another two years at the head of the diocese of the Portuguese capital.

Polycarpo released a lengthy interview to the monthly «OA», the magazine of the Portuguese Order of Attorneys. He explained that with respect to women priests «the position of the Catholic Church is very much based on the Gospel, it does not have the independence of a political party or a government. It is based on fidelity to the Gospel, to the person of Jesus and to a very strong tradition received from the Apostles».

«John Paul II – continued Polycarp – at one point seemed to settle the matter». Reference is in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (1994), one of the shortest documents of John Paul II, with which the Pope, after the decision of the Anglican Communion to open to women priests, reaffirmed that the Catholic Church would never do so.

«I think – said Cardinal Polycarp – that the matter cannot be resolved like this. Theologically there is no fundamental obstacle (to women priests, ed.), let’s just say that there’s this tradition: it has never been done otherwise».

When asked by the interviewer, curious of the affirmation made by the cardinal that there are theological reasons against women priests, Polycarpo replied: «I think that there is no fundamental obstacle. It is a fundamental equality of all members of the Church. The problem is a strong tradition that comes from Jesus and the ease with which the Reformed churches have granted priesthood to women».

The Patriarch of Lisbon also explained that he believed the demand for women priests is a «false problem», because the same girls that pose the question, when he retorts if they would be willing to become priests, shake their head.

The statements made by the Portuguese Cardinal are intended to cause discussions. A year after the letter of John Paul II a question was in fact posed (dubium) to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and secretary Tarcisio Bertone.

He wondered whether «the doctrine according to which the Church has no authority to confer priestly ordination on women, proposed in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, was to be considered permanent, to be regarded as belonging to the deposit of fait». The answer, approved by Pope John Paul II, was «yes».

The Congregation explained that «this teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded in the Word of God written and constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church from the beginning, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium», and therefore «must always be kept, everywhere and by all the faithful, because it belongs to the deposit of faith».

Call To Action Names Leadership Award Winner

Call To Action is pleased to announce that Margaret Mary McBride, RSM will be the recipient of the 2011 Leadership Award at this year’s conference!

Sr. Margaret, an administrator at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, assisted in the decision to save the life of a patient who was pregnant and suffering from pulmonary hypertension.

Medical providers determined that death of both the 27-year-old woman and her 11-week-old fetus would occur unless the pregnancy was terminated.  Sr. Margaret, as part of the hospital’s ethics committee, agreed to the abortion that saved the woman’s life.

Call To Action’s board recognizes Sr. Margaret’s careful work with a complex issue, her courage in a time of censorship and public pressure, and her witness to the need to stand firm in the face of opposition while striving to protect life in all its venues.

Priest pleads not guilty to aiding jailed mobster

A Roman Catholic priest pleaded not guilty today to federal charges he tried to help Outfit hit man Frank Calabrese Sr. spirit a family violin away from the federal government after it had seized the imprisoned mobster’s possessions.

The Rev. Eugene Klein, 62, who wore a black suit and his priest collar, was released on $20,000 bond after he made his initial appearance in federal court in Chicago following the charges earlier this month.

After court, Klein’s lawyer ridiculed the government case as “preposterous.”