A New Path for Catholicism?

By Tom Shacklock

With 66.4% of voters saying yes to abortion  in Ireland’s referendum, the Catholic Church has felt its significant political influence over the Irish population diminish. This referendum repeals a ban dating back to 1861, reinforced by the 1983 referendum instituting the constitution’s Eighth Amendment. The changes for Catholicism can be seen further in recent comments from Pope Francis. He assured a gay Chilean and sexual abuse victim Juan Carlos Cruz that God made him and loves him the way he is. Thus, May 2018 appears to be another turning point in the Catholic Church’s global influence.

The repeal of the Eighth Amendment marks a progressive step forward in the recognition of women’s rights and respect for the LGBTQ community. In Ireland’s referendum, those who voted yes to repeal the Eighth Amendment included those of all ages and genders, many of whom would have once opposed abortion. For example, two elderly ladies stated, ‘The church always told us what to do and now it’s time for us‘. They rejected a law that has caused numerous Irish women needing abortion to travel to the UK, where abortion is legal, or face serious medical situations, such as in the tragic case of Savita Halappanavar’s death in 2012. The health-based pro-choice arguments have thus outdone and delegitimised the pro-life arguments driven by religion.

This a victory – or rather a relief – for women and families previously neglected by Ireland’s conservative legislation, but it should not be something to lament for the Church itself. The Irish population has not abandoned Catholicism as a religion, as 78.3% of Irish people still identified themselves as Catholic in 2016. Catholicism, as a religion and a culture, still runs in Irish people’s blood. The nation’s Catholic institution should not feel bound to retreat into the shadows of modern secularism. Rather, it needs to accept a change in its role, priorities and identity. The May referendum simply shook the Catholic Church as an institution of power. Catholicism in Ireland can now serve less as a tool to control people’s lives, and more as a system of faith and worship.

A leading figure advocating this modern outlook on the Church’s role in Ireland is Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin. He has recently expressed progressive views on a number of social issues, including the need to accept same-sex marriage in 2015. Regarding the abortion referendum, he acknowledged that the church had been seen as ‘weak in compassion’ by the Irish public. However, he has added to his criticism a suggestion of a new path for the church in Irish society. This entails a different interpretation of the Christian concept of ‘pro-life’. He appropriately argues that ‘pro-life’ means supporting marginalised, impoverished and suffering people. His approach could positively revive the role of the church in Ireland, if other priests and bishops are willing to follow his steps.

When the church expresses its dismay over the legalisation of abortion and same-sex marriage, it forgets its main purposes in society. As Archbishop Martin indicated, this purpose should be to actively provide support and charity when people want and need it, and to guide those who have invested strong beliefs in God on a deep, personal level. If the majority of the Irish public have stated, with their conscience, that abortion is no longer a sin worth worrying about, the church needs to accept this reality. The majority of the Irish public is as Catholic as the priests and bishops running the Church. There is no reason, when this same public demands that abortion be legalised, why abortion should undermine the many other, more meaningful values of Catholicism.

The Pope increasingly recognises this necessity to change the church’s mentality. Unfortunately, his acceptance of homosexuality is not all that progressive, since he has not really endorsed homosexual activity. However, his comments signalled the Catholic Church’s step back from criticising its followers for matters that not even the most conservative of religious figures should consider to be as grave as real global problems today. Following these developments this May, the more religious institutions accept progressive ideas, the more they can restore the image of themselves as bringers of hope and good.

Complete Article HERE!

‘I’m following the call’

Winona Catholic church, led by a woman, celebrates 10th anniversary

Ten years ago, a Winona woman decided God’s calling was more important than being in good standing with her church.

She made a bold move. An illegal move as far as the Catholic Church as an institution was concerned.

She became a Catholic priest.

Kathy Redig, a hospital chaplain of 20 years at Winona Health, was ordained in 2008 by the Roman Catholic Women Priests.

She then established, with the help of her supporters, the All Are One Roman Catholic Church, which offers Mass on Sundays in the Lutheran Campus Center in the same building as Mugby Junction on Huff Street. Today it celebrated its 10-year anniversary as a church with a reception that’s open to the public from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. after Mass.

“It’s really humbling when I think of the good things that have happened in these 10 years,” Redig said. “It’s just a blessing.”

Redig is a valid priest, meaning she was ordained by a bishop who falls within the apostolic succession in the Roman Catholic Church — a church hierarchy that passes down priesthood after a candidate has gone through an extensive process.

But Redig’s existence as a priest is illegal, because the church’s law, Canon Law 1024, states only men can become priests — the Vatican last month again reemphasized that law.

“A lot of people thought we were going rogue,” Redig said. “But if one really truly believes and respects that we are all created equally then we should have the opportunity to serve.”

The Daily News reached out to Bishop John M. Quinn and the Diocese of Winona-Rochester multiple times in a variety of ways for comment but was unsuccessful.

“It’s really humbling when I think of the good things that have happened in these 10 years,” Redig said. “It’s just a blessing.”

Redig is a valid priest, meaning she was ordained by a bishop who falls within the apostolic succession in the Roman Catholic Church — a church hierarchy that passes down priesthood after a candidate has gone through an extensive process.

But Redig’s existence as a priest is illegal, because the church’s law, Canon Law 1024, states only men can become priests — the Vatican last month again reemphasized that law.

“A lot of people thought we were going rogue,” Redig said. “But if one really truly believes and respects that we are all created equally then we should have the opportunity to serve.”

The Daily News reached out to Bishop John M. Quinn and the Diocese of Winona-Rochester multiple times in a variety of ways for comment but was unsuccessful.

‘No one up there that looked like me’

A lifelong Catholic, Redig about 25 years ago began to feel a disconnect with some aspects of the Roman Catholic Church.

“As a woman I would look at the altar and there was no one up there that looked like me,” she said.

She would ask questions about it. The answers were always the same.

“The statement that always came down was that Jesus didn’t choose any women — which isn’t true — and that women do not image Jesus,” she explained. “Jesus did choose women. A woman was the first one to announce the resurrection.”

She also felt a disconnect with the male centered language used in church services. So again she asked.

“Well God is male — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” the priests would tell her. “So the language for God is going to be that.”

Now that Redig has studied more, she said that also isn’t true.

Bishop Patricia Fresen, left, presents Kathy Redig as a newly ordained priest during Mass at Winona State University in 2008.

Excommunicated but ordained

Redig began the process to be ordained through the Roman Catholic Women Priests — a group started by seven women in 2002 who were ordained by three valid and legal Bishops who were willing to put their reputation on the line to stand behind the women and their efforts.

Two weeks before being ordained, Redig went to speak to the then current bishop — Bishop Bernard J. Harrington — to ask if he would like to ordain her.

He said no.

Then he handed her a letter that would pull Redig’s certification to be a hospital chaplain.

And there was one more thing.

“He said, you know you’ll be excommunicated (from the Catholic Church),” Redig recalled.

She continued to step forward along the journey she felt pulled to and in May of 2008 she was ordained in Kryzsko Commons at Winona State University by Bishop Patricia Fresen.

The support surrounding her was immense, she said. Some of that support was public. And other support was behind private doors.

Shannon Hanzel, a parishioner at All Are One and a friend of Redig, said some people were scared to attend or support the church once it was established, because of possible repercussions. Some worried they would lose a job that was connected to the Catholic Church or catholic schools. Others were scared of being excommunicated.

“Fear was stopping people,” Redig said.

But it didn’t stop everyone.
“In the Old Testament, the spirit, Sophia, is spoken of,” Redig said. “The scriptures speak of God in feminine terms, but the men of church choose not to speak of that.”

After years of questions and getting no satisfying answers, the moment came when she felt pulled to become a priest.

On a beautiful sunny Saturday morning, Redig was washing clothes and reflecting about church, the disconnection, and her love for God.

She turned to her husband and said, “I think the only way we’ll find a church that connects with us if we do it ourselves,” she recalled.

Her husband stopped what he was doing. He looked into her eyes. He agreed with her. They made the decision together that’s what they would do.

“After I made the decision there was a great deal of peace,” she said. “And peace is a sign of the Spirit.”

‘All are welcome in this place’

On a recent Sunday, the All Are One Roman Catholic Church was filled with about 20 parishioners who sang, recited and worshiped with Redig.

Dressed in a white robe, a white cord around her waist, and a single hair clip holding her hair from her face, Redig led the group in song. Drowning out the music in the coffee shop next door, a single phrase of their song rang throughout the room.

“All are welcome in this place,” they sang in harmony.

Among those singing, was Dick Dahl — a Catholic priest who attends the church and fills in Redig’s spot when she’s gone.

“She really exemplifies what being a priest is and what being a Christian is,” Dahl said. “I have such a respect for her and what she’s doing and what she stands for. I think of Martin Luther King when he marched in defiance of unjust laws and was put in jail.”

Hanzel agrees.

“Kathy is extremely pastoral,” Hanzel said. “Her story is really one of courage.”

The congregation gives 75 percent of the money collected — totaling about $3,500 a quarter — to charities and initiatives in the city, country and world including Doctors Without Borders, the Women’s Resource Center of Winona, Islamic Center of Winona and more. Also, each week the congregation collects food for the food shelf.

“This is a tremendously generous congregation and we try to use that to give back to the people who need it,” Hanzel said.

Parishioner Lou Guillou said Redig is inspirational is so many ways.

“She is a valuable priest,” he said.

Guillou added that, in some ways, he appreciates what women priests bring to the table more than their counterparts.

“In distributing communion, they always take it last, rather than taking it first and then giving everyone else,” Guillou said. “They serve everyone else and take last. It’s just a simple thing of bringing in the feminine aspect.”

Redig is a good person, Guillou said with conviction.

In talking about Redig, Hanzel said she hopes one day that women are openly accepted as priests by the Catholic Church.

“I don’t think I’ll see women be treated equally in my life, but I hope during my daughter’s life it will be a reality,” she said.

But in the meantime, Redig will continue to be a valid, yet illegal, Catholic priest.

“I am very much following the model of Jesus,” Redig said. “I’m following the call I’ve heard.”

Complete Article HERE!

Vatican at crossroads in handling clergy sexual abuse cases

Pope Francis greets those who turned out to see him in Santiago, Chile, on Jan. 15, 2018.

By

Pope Francis did an about-face last month and denounced the widespread coverup of sexual abuse by priests in Chile, prompting all 34 of the country’s bishops to offer their resignations.

He has said he was not receiving “truthful and balanced” information from the bishops, and on Thursday he released a letter to all Chileans declaring “never again” to “the culture of abuse and the system of coverup that allows it to perpetuate.”

The Vatican also announced the pope was sending a team of prelates to Chile to “advance the process of reparation and healing of abuse victims.”

But the pope has not revealed his plans for the church officials who ignored or actively covered up the abuse.

He faces competing demands. Prominent abuse-victims-turned-activists have demanded sweeping prosecutions under canon law, and some analysts agree that such accountability is the only way to restore public faith in the church. But one key figure in the scandal, Chilean Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz, is extremely close to the pope, and if church prosecutions stack up in Chile, Francis may find too few untainted candidates to replace the accused.

One senior Vatican official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Francis may start replacing bishops in the next few weeks.

The first to go, according to the official, are likely to be the four bishops who trained under Fernando Karadima, the Chilean priest at the center of the scandal, and have been accused of witnessing or covering up his abuse. Karadima abused scores of boys during the 1980s and 1990s and in 2011 was sentenced by the Vatican to a life of penance, banning him from public ministry to repent for his sins and pray for his victims.

One Vatican expert predicted Francis would ultimately accept the resignations of almost half of the bishops.

“To the four Karadima students, we can add four others who are over 75 and due for retirement,” said Luis Badilla, a Chilean journalist who lives in Rome and edits the website Il Sismografo, which reports on the Vatican. “That’s eight and that will happen fast, while another five or six replacements will take longer.”

Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati of Santiago celebrates Mass at the Metropolitan Cathedral in the Chilean capital on May 18, 2018.

Robert Mickens, editor of the Catholic newspaper La Croix International, said the Vatican’s ambassador to Chile was also in danger of losing his job for allegedly keeping Francis in the dark over the extent of abuse by priests in Chile.

The big question though is whether those moves will be enough to placate the victims and Chileans whose faith in the church has been shaken.

“Resignations are a good step, but that is the minimum,” said Juan Carlos Cruz, who was abused by Karadima in the 1980s and who over the last decade has emerged as a key advocate for justice. “If there is a case to respond to in canon law, I expect punishments.”

He and other activists said those punishments must also extend to Errazuriz, who was the top bishop of Chile from 1998 to 2010 and ignored reports of abuse by Karadima until the victims went public. He has been accused of actively covering up for Karadima and working to discredit the priest’s accusers.

“He is as evil as you can get, and I would like to see him punished,” said Cruz, 51, who now lives in Philadelphia and works as a brand manager for a multinational company.

In emails to Chilean Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati in 2013 and 2014, which were leaked to the Chilean press, Errazuriz refers to Cruz as a “serpent.” The emails seem to show the cardinal blocking a 2014 effort to get Cruz appointed to a papal commission on clergy abuse worldwide.

Marie Collins, an Irish abuse victim and advocate who served on the commission, also called on the pope to investigate and prosecute Errazuriz for his alleged role in the coverup.

“You can see from the emails he has no compunction in working behind the scenes at the Vatican to silence a victim,” she said.

But prosecuting Errazuriz may prove too much for the pope. The two men are close, their friendship dating to a 2007 conference of Latin American bishops that was held in Brazil. Since 2013, Errazuriz has been the pope’s right-hand man on the so-called C9 committee for Vatican reform, which Francis established to shake up the Vatican’s opaque bureaucracy.

Badilla said he expected Errazuriz would be eased off the committee when Francis next reshuffles members, though the pope may be less likely to single out such a high official for blame.

Still, the pope’s actions last month are part of a dramatic U-turn.

Francis is widely seen as a reformer working to bring the church in line with modern society, but he has long been criticized for paying lip service to combating abuse without truly understanding its pervasiveness.

In a visit to Chile in January, he accused Karadima’s victims of peddling “slander” and publicly supported Juan Barros, a Chilean bishop who faces accusations that he witnessed abuse by Karadima and did nothing to stop it.

A month later, Francis sent an investigator to talk to those victims.

In Cruz’s view, the pope realized the church was in danger of losing more followers if he failed to act.

The first indication of that came when fewer people than expected turned out for his visit to Chile. Another wake-up call came later that month when U.S. Cardinal Sean O’Malley said Francis’ “slander” accusation had created “great pain” for the victims.

After the 2,300-page investigative report was completed — its conclusions have not been made public — Francis invited Cruz and two other Karadima victims to meet with him in Rome.

Cruz said that he told Francis: “You could be the most amazing pope in the world if you stop this.”

“I think he was listening,” Cruz said.

Two weeks after the meeting, the pope met with Chile’s bishops and accused them of destroying evidence of abuse and putting church investigators under pressure to play down accusations.

Not only did that spur the bishops to offer their resignations, it also prompted calls for the Vatican to revive plans to create a tribunal within the church to punish bishops for covering up abuse. The pope dropped the plan in 2016, promising instead to beef up existing procedures for sanctioning bishops. Critics accused the pope of bowing to pressure from other Vatican officials.

In an editorial last month, the National Catholic Reporter wrote: “The shock of these mass resignations creates an opportunity and momentum that Francis should seize upon to implement the tribunal he proposed three years ago. No more delays. He should act now.”

Collins, who was serving on the papal commission investigating abuse, resigned in protest when the tribunal plans were scrapped.

She remained skeptical that the pope would act aggressively.

“If he won’t use that procedure to handle bishops in Chile, I doubt it will ever be used,” she said.

Collins pointed to Australian Archbishop Philip Wilson, who was found guilty in a civil court last month of covering up child sex abuse in the 1970s by a priest in New South Wales.

“Wilson has now been convicted but has yet to be sanctioned by the church,” she said.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope Francis’ cunning long game

By Damon Linker

Pope Francis’ stealth reform of the Roman Catholic Church shows no sign of slowing down — and may even be accelerating.

Stealth is key here. If the pope had declared earlier this month that henceforth the Roman Catholic Church would authoritatively teach that homosexuals should be happy being gay, that God made them homosexual, and that God himself (along with the pope) loves them just the way they are, it would have been a massive story in the history of Catholicism — and one that quite likely would have precipitated a major schism, with conservative bishops and priests (mainly in North America and Africa) formally breaking from Rome.

But because word of the pope saying these things comes to us second hand, in a report of a private conversation between Francis and a gay man named Juan Carlos Cruz who is also a victim of the clerical sex abuse crisis in Chile, the utterance will go down as just the latest example of the pope making unorthodox statements in settings in which he has plausible deniability and in which he can claim he was speaking as a pastor rather than as an expositor of the church’s official dogmas and doctrines.

Most popes view themselves as caretakers of the church’s authoritative teachings on faith and morals. When it comes to homosexuality, they would therefore be inclined to reaffirm the position laid out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which clearly states that homosexual desires are “intrinsically disordered” because they are not oriented to the end of procreation. (The same is true of masturbation and other non-procreative sex acts.)

If Pope Francis were a straightforward reformer, he would seek to change church doctrine regardless of the potentially dire consequences for church unity. But Francis is well aware of the limits of his power and the danger of pushing too far too fast. So he has set out on a different, and distinctive, path.

We first saw it early in his pontificate when the pope spoke to reporters about his views on homosexuality. In contrast to Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), who declared in a 1986 letter to the bishops of the church that same-sex desires aim toward an “intrinsic moral evil,” Francis told the press that “if someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

It continued in September 2014 with a marriage ceremony over which Francis presided at St Peter’s. Some of the 20 couples involved had been previously married, while others had given birth to children out of wedlock or lived with their fiancées before marriage. That prior behavior placed them firmly out of step with the requirements of Catholic doctrine, and yet the pope participated and blessed the marriages.

And on it has gone, through the notorious footnote in the apostolic exhortation that was published at the conclusion of the 2015 Synod on the Family, seeming to give priests the pastoral leeway to offer the sacrament of communion to parishioners who have been divorced and remarried without receiving an annulment of their first marriages. It has made headlines most recently when an elderly Italian journalist asserted that in an interview with Francis the pope had denied the dogma of hell.

And now there is Francis’ apparent elaboration of his latitudinarian beliefs about homosexuality.

What unites all of these examples is a distinctive approach to church dogma and doctrine. Instead of acting as an expositor of these core teachings of the church, the pope selectively diverges from them in his actions and statements without deigning to change the teachings themselves. The implicit message is the same in every case: The pope himself thinks it’s possible to be a member of the church in good standing while failing to abide by all of the institution’s rules.

This is significantly different than the pope acknowledging that everyone is a sinner and will therefore break the rules from time to time. That standard view presumes that the divergence from the rule is a failing that requires repentance and reconciliation (the sacrament of confession), along with the intention on the part of the sinner to do better next time. Francis’ position is different — implying that the lack of conformity to church teaching is acceptable, requiring no change or improvement in behavior.

Juan Carlos Cruz is gay, that’s how God made him, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But of course church teaching contradicts this. Which puts Pope Francis in the position of effectively promulgating two truths — implicitly affirming the official, harsher doctrine while subtly undermining it with a less stringent pastoral teaching. Instead of seeking to change the underlying rules, which would risk divisiveness and even schism, he shows that it’s perfectly alright for a priest or layperson to diverge from or ignore the rule in the name of welcoming as many people as possible to Christ’s church.

Conservative Catholics like Ross Douthat (the author of a new book on this very topic) worry that Francis’ fudging of doctrinal truth will have bad consequences for the church because it simply defers a necessary debate about what the church actually believes. Better to have the argument sooner rather than later.

But I think the pope’s strategy for a longer game displays greater psychological acuity — and Machiavellian cunning. Francis may be betting that once the church stops preaching those doctrines that conflict most severely with modern moral norms, the number of people who uphold and revere them will decline rapidly (within a generation or two). Once that has happened, officially changing the doctrine will be much easier and much less likely to provoke a schism (or at least a major one) than it is in the present.

That’s the great advantage of pursuing a strategy of stealth reform: The seed planted now with a minimum of conflict bears fruits in the future with even less.

It’s never been more obvious that this is precisely what Pope Francis has in mind.

Complete Article HERE!

Australian Archbishop Found Guilty In Cover-Up Of Child Sex Abuse

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Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson has been found guilty of concealing child sex abuse by a fellow priest that he first learned of in the 1970s.

Wilson, 67, the senior-most Catholic cleric ever to be charged with concealing abuse, has been diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s disease. He denied under oath last month that two former altar boys told him of abuse by another priest, Father Jim Fletcher, in the 1970s, at a church in East Maitland, New South Wales. Fletcher, who was found guilty on multiple counts of sexual assault of boys in 2004, died of a stroke in jail two years later.

Wilson’s verdict was handed down by Magistrate Robert Stone in Newcastle Local Court at the conclusion of the eight-day trial.

The archbishop showed no emotion as the verdict was read inside a packed courtroom, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

Wilson’s sentence is expected on June 19.

Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson

According to Australia’s ABC, “As part of his defence, Wilson’s legal team tried to argue that as child sexual abuse was not considered a serious crime in the 1970s, it was not worthy of being reported to authorities.”

Outside the courtroom, abuse survivor Peter Gogarty said the verdict was one of the most significant in Australian history.

“On behalf of all of the victims — who have been abused in this country and elsewhere — I just want to say what an enormous relief it is that the people who let this happen are finally being brought to account,” he told ABC.

The court’s decision comes as Australia grapples with another high-level priest abuse case — Cardinal George Pell was ordered earlier this month to stand trial in Melbourne on charges involving allegations of abuse that date back decades.

In Wilson’s trial, Peter Creigh, a former altar boy testified that in 1976 he told Wilson, then a junior priest in East Maitland, that Fletcher had abused him.

Prosecutors had to prove that Wilson should have remembered the conversations with Creigh — who was 15 when he first spoke with Wilson of the abuse five years before — and another altar boy, whose name has not been made public, at the time of Fletcher’s trial in 2004, the Herald reports.

The Australian reports that “… it’s alleged then Wilson should have had knowledge or belief that Mr Creigh was the victim of a serious offence committed by Fletcher, based on what he had been told in 1976.”

Wilson said he had no recollection of the conversations. He told the court that if they did take place, he would have remembered it.

“I think it is unlikely because the nature of the evidence was so graphic,” Wilson told the magistrate. “I don’t think I would have forgotten that.”

Wilson, asked by his lawyer if he had any suspicions about Fletcher at the time, said he had none.

Creigh testified that he believed Wilson would take action against Fletcher, but that nothing was done.

The magistrate said he did not accept that Wilson could not remember the conversations with the altar boys in the 1970s.

In an emailed statement to the media, Wilson said he was disappointed by the verdict and that he would consult his attorneys to decide a next step.

Amid worldwide allegations of long-standing abuse in the church, Australia last year published a landmark study of the problem in that country.

The far-reaching report, which took five years to complete, interviewed more than 8,000 people who shared their experiences of abuse and 2,500 cases were referred to police as a result.

Among its recommendations, the report said the church should lift its celibacy requirement for priests and be required to report evidence of abuse revealed in confession.

Complete Article HERE!