The curse of clericalism

— The Catholic Church must act now to address the sins of the past

By Michael W. Higgins

In just one week in January, it seemed as if all the grief and shame was unleashed again. Every media outlet was covering one story after another about the Catholic Church and the cumulative effect was dispiriting and demoralizing.

There was the decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, which declined to hear a final appeal from the Archdiocese of St. John’s concerning its liability over the abuse of children at Mount Cashel Orphanage; there was the rising clamour for the resignation of Vincent Nichols, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster (the premier Catholic prelate in England), following a report chronicling his failure to deal with abuse cases while Archbishop of Birmingham; there was the final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes in Ireland, with its searing indictment of ecclesial neglect and cruelty; and there was the uncontained outrage in Cologne, Germany, over the obstinate refusal of its Cardinal Archbishop, Rainer Maria Woelki, to make public the findings of an investigation he commissioned into abuses in the archdiocese.

So when does it end? When will the toxin that is clericalism – the corrosive pattern of entitlement and abuse of power by clergy – be purged? How does the institutional church move on when it cannot stanch the flow of allegations? Certainly the contributing factors are many – and some are outside the immediate boundaries of church life. But what progress can be made if there is still resistance to full disclosure, to acknowledging the sins of the past in a manner that is genuinely contrite and not choreographed by lawyers and actuaries, when many officials, fatigued and defensive, simply want to escape the relentless pull of accountability?

By means of various studies, surveys, commissions and academic panels, we have a good if not comprehensive understanding of the roots of many of the problems we consider to be the marks of clericalism: the absence of psycho-sexual maturity, truncated emotional growth, the perks of prestige (at least among some in the Catholic community), power and entitlement by virtue of one’s “calling.” It can be reasonably said that we have a handle on the diagnosis. It is the prognosis that concerns many – not least of whom is that ardent advocate for structural change, Nuala Kenny.

A Sister of Charity of Halifax, retired pediatrician and ethicist, Dr. Kenny is tenacious in summoning Catholic authority to the task for reform. In her forthcoming book, The Post-Pandemic Church: Prophetic Possibilities, she highlights her anguished puzzlement that “in a church with a strong commitment to life, the sexual abuse of children and youth is not considered a pro-life issue.” She recognizes that the church’s ill health and slow response to the challenge is attributable to many factors both external and internal. But the persisting pathology compromises the church’s essential purpose, weakening its credibility, souring Catholics on their spiritual birthright – a true sign of enduring scandal.

To reclaim trust, to build anew confidence in the integrity of the church’s leaders – from local pastors to bishops – channels of communication are essential with theologically literate laypeople and a creative rethinking of the way we educate men to priestly ministry is fundamental. And in doing this, we need to de-emphasize, if not eliminate entirely, the spurious and seemingly ineradicable notion that somehow – ontologically – priests are a different species. We need also to take seriously the theological and historical arguments for the ordination of women to the ministry of deacon.

Some of these matters fall within the jurisdiction of the local bishops, some other matters are reserved to Rome, but what is critical at this juncture is action, not paralysis – not waiting out this pontificate in the hopes that the next pope will restore the old identity and calm the tempestuous waters that beset Peter’s barque. Nostalgia and fantasy have no place in a reform agenda. Or, indeed, with reality.

Dr. Kenny’s moral urgency is underscored by the following passage from the late spiritual writer and Irish priest Daniel O’Leary, who spoke of clericalism shortly before his death in 2019 as “a collective malaise … It keeps vibrant life at bay; it quarantines us for life from the personal and communal expression of healing relationships, and the lovely grace of the tenderness which Pope Francis is trying to restore to the hearts of all God’s people.”

The curse of clericalism – a phrase employed by bishops and popes alike – can only really be extirpated when there is institutional will to do so. Dr. Kenny is wondering why we are still waiting. So am I.

Complete Article HERE!

Bishops condemned for losing women in translation

Many parishioners across all Catholic churches are women. This picture is from the ordination last September to the Episcopate of Martin Hayes as Bishop of Kilmore at the Cathedral of St Patrick and St Felim, Cavan.

by Sarah Mac Donald

A co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland has criticised the bishops of England and Wales for their lack of consultation in opting for the Catholic Edition of the gender-exclusive English Standard Version (ESV) translation of the Bible for use in a new version of the lectionary.

Fr Brendan Hoban, a retired parish priest in Co. Mayo, noted that the ESV refers to men and women as “men” and translates humanity as “man”. Other translations, such as the Revised New Jerusalem Bible, prefer inclusive language.

Accusing the 22 bishops of England and Wales of “a conspicuously bad decision”, he alleged there had been no consultation with priests, Religious or laity, biblical scholars or liturgical experts.

In a statement on 22 January, the bishops of England and Wales said the ESV was chosen because it is seen as fulfilling the qualities the Church seeks for “accuracy of translation which conveys the meaning of the biblical authors” as well as for the “dignity and accessibility of language needed for a worthy proclamation of the Word of God”.

The Bishops of Scotland announced in July 2020 that they had also chosen the English Standard Version – Catholic Edition for the lectionary.

Writing in his column in the Western People, Fr Hoban noted that traditionally the Catholic Churches of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland cooperate over the publication of liturgical books and their revised editions for financial and other reasons.

He asked if the Irish bishops would now accept the “unilateral England (and Wales) decision”, or would they “follow again the dismal, dangerous example of their colleagues on the other side of the Irish sea?”

Fr Hoban wrote: “Will they compound a problem being visited on the Catholics of England and Wales by regularly and ritually insulting women as they listen to the Word of God being read at Mass – giving them another reason to cut their links with an institution that insists on patronising and disrespecting them to the point of misogyny?”

He added that if the Irish bishops do this, the recent words of the newly installed Archbishop of Dublin on leadership would be meaningless.

Fr Hoban was referring to Archbishop Dermot Farrell’s homily at his installation earlier this month, where he said: “Leadership in the Church is not about telling people what to do; rather it is about promoting co- responsibility and overcoming the mindset which runs the risk of relegating the baptised to a subordinate role, effectively keeping them on the edges of church life.”

According to Fr Hoban, the decision to adopt the ESV translation for the lectionary is “a watershed moment when women may eventually decide that no matter what the Catholic Church says, disrespect for women is sewn into its institutional seams”.

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic school sex education resource says men are ‘initiators’ and women are ‘receivers’

By Will Hazell

A Catholic relationship and sex education programme being used in UK schools says that contraception is “wrong” and suggests gay people should abstain from sex

Faith-based sex education resources which say men were “created to be the initiator in sexual relationships” and that women act as “receiver-responders” are being used in UK schools, i can reveal.

The resources, which form part of a Catholic relationships and sex education programme called A Fertile Heart, also say that contraception is “wrong” and suggests that gay people should abstain from sex.

A Fertile Heart was produced by a group of priests from the dioceses of Birmingham, Cardiff, Clifton and Shrewsbury, and has been approved by the Archbishop of Birmingham.

The programme was piloted in 43 primary and thirteen secondary schools in the Archdiocese of Cardiff, but is also being taught in at least one school in England.

‘Receiver-responder’

One chapter seen by i advocates “complementarity” – the idea that men and women were designed to have specific roles, particularly in sex and relationships.

It suggests that “within a romantic relationship between male and female, masculinity is more about initiating”, whereas “femininity is more about receiving and responding”. “Looking at things biologically, it does appear that man has been created to be the initiator in sexual relationships, and woman the receiver-responder”.

Discussing wider differences between the sexes, it says that “many couples find the woman tends to be better at communicating her emotions, whereas the man is sometimes better at knowing when to move on from such analysis”.

Gay marriage not ‘real’

The resources say that homosexuality should be treated with “sensitivity”, but adds: “We cannot deny the objective reality of sex being directed towards procreation and family, nor the link between this and marriage, commitment and parenthood.”

It links to a YouTube video featuring the American Catholic campaigner Jason Evert, who argues that gay people cannot have “real” marriage and should abstain from sex.

The resources cite the hormone oxytocin as a biological reason why “a woman tends to find it more difficult to enter uncommitted sexual relationships and is prone to suffer mentally and emotionally if sexual relationships fail”.

Pupils are told that the Church is clear that “all artificial contraception” is “wrong” and that “the pill bulldozes through and prevents the young woman understanding her fertility and femininity”.

A suggested lesson activity says pupils should discuss “whether contraception has truly liberated women, or actually made them more ‘available’ and vulnerable to being used”.

Dr Ruth Wareham, education campaigns manager at Humanists UK, said: ‘All the best evidence shows that outdated abstinence-based models of sex education like that peddled by A Fertile Heart don’t work and can even have a negative impact on sexual health outcomes”.

She said the resources used “pseudoscience and half-truths to back up its flimsy arguments”, and had “no place being taught in schools”.

‘Open to misinterpretation’

A spokesman for A Fertile Heart told i the programme was “designed primarily though not exclusively as a resource for Catholic schools”, and that the current revised edition was “in full conformity with the Church’s moral teaching” and had the “endorsement and active support of several Catholic bishops”.

The spokesman said that some paragraphs in an earlier textbook “were open to misinterpretation” and had been subsequently “edited”. The reference to men being initiators was “not speaking in terms of who decides whether sex happens or how”, but was about the the marital relationship of “mutual love and respect”. He said the reference to the effect of oxytocin was “written in the light of current research”.

On fertility, he added: “At a time when adolescents, especially female adolescents are getting attuned to the significant changes in their bodies, and learning to ‘read’ them, the claim that there is a potential risk that the Pill bulldozes through and inhibits a young woman understanding her fertility properly is a valid one not least as hormonal contraception can cause depression and high anxiety levels particularly in young girls.”

What the Government guidance says

In November, the Labour MP Stella Creasy asked the Government whether the material published by A Fertile Heart was permitted to be used for relationship and sex education (RSE). The schools minister Nick Gibb said it was “for schools to decide which resources they choose”. He did not directly criticise A Fertile Heart, but said that “schools should not work with agencies that take extreme positions, and this should also be reflected in the school’s choice of resources”.

The Department for Education’s guidance on RSE says schools should be “alive to issues such as everyday sexism, misogyny, homophobia and gender stereotypes and take positive action to build a culture where these are not tolerated”. It says that by the end of secondary school students should be given “the facts about the full range of contraceptive choices, efficacy and options available”.

It says religious schools “may teach the distinctive faith perspectives on relationships, and balanced debate may take place about issues that are seen as contentious”.

Humanists UK said the Government should “remove the faith-based carve-outs to the law on RSE”.

Complete Article HERE!

USCCB President’s Statement on the Inauguration of Joseph R. Biden, Jr., as 46th President of the United States of America

FILE UNDER:  Insulated, monolithic, callous, tone deaf church power structure

Statement on the Inauguration of Joseph R. Biden, Jr., as 46th President of the United States of America from Most Reverend José H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles, President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

My prayers are with our new President and his family today.

I am praying that God grant him wisdom and courage to lead this great nation and that God help him to meet the tests of these times, to heal the wounds caused by this pandemic, to ease our intense political and cultural divisions, and to bring people together with renewed dedication to America’s founding purposes, to be one nation under God committed to liberty and equality for all.

Catholic bishops are not partisan players in our nation’s politics. We are pastors responsible for the souls of millions of Americans and we are advocates for the needs of all our neighbors. In every community across the country, Catholic parishes, schools, hospitals, and ministries form an essential culture of compassion and care, serving women, children, and the elderly, the poor and sick, the imprisoned, the migrant, and the marginalized, no matter what their race or religion.

When we speak on issues in American public life, we try to guide consciences, and we offer principles.  These principles are rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the social teachings of his Church. Jesus Christ revealed God’s plan of love for creation and revealed the truth about the human person, who is created in God’s image, endowed with God-given dignity, rights and responsibilities, and called to a transcendent destiny.

Based on these truths, which are reflected in the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, the bishops and Catholic faithful carry out Christ’s commandment to love God and love our neighbors by working for an America that protects human dignity, expands equality and opportunities for every person, and is open-hearted towards the suffering and weak.

For many years now, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has tried to help Catholics and others of good will in their reflections on political issues through a publication we call Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. The most recent edition addresses a wide range of concerns. Among them: abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, immigration, racism, poverty, care for the environment, criminal justice reform, economic development, and international peace.

On these and other issues, our duty to love and our moral principles lead us to prudential judgments and positions that do not align neatly with the political categories of left or right or the platforms of our two major political parties. We work with every President and every Congress. On some issues we find ourselves more on the side of Democrats, while on others we find ourselves standing with Republicans. Our priorities are never partisan. We are Catholics first, seeking only to follow Jesus Christ faithfully and to advance his vision for human fraternity and community.

I look forward to working with President Biden and his administration, and the new Congress. As with every administration, there will be areas where we agree and work closely together and areas where we will have principled disagreement and strong opposition.

Working with President Biden will be unique, however, as he is our first president in 60 years to profess the Catholic faith. In a time of growing and aggressive secularism in American culture, when religious believers face many challenges, it will be refreshing to engage with a President who clearly understands, in a deep and personal way, the importance of religious faith and institutions. Mr. Biden’s piety and personal story, his moving witness to how his faith has brought him solace in times of darkness and tragedy, his longstanding commitment to the Gospel’s priority for the poor — all of this I find hopeful and inspiring.

At the same time, as pastors, the nation’s bishops are given the duty of proclaiming the Gospel in all its truth and power, in season and out of season, even when that teaching is inconvenient or when the Gospel’s truths run contrary to the directions of the wider society and culture. So, I must point out that our new President has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender. Of deep concern is the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences.

Our commitments on issues of human sexuality and the family, as with our commitments in every other area — such as abolishing the death penalty or seeking a health care system and economy that truly serves the human person — are guided by Christ’s great commandment to love and to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, especially the most vulnerable.

For the nation’s bishops, the continued injustice of abortion remains the “preeminent priority.” Preeminent does not mean “only.” We have deep concerns about many threats to human life and dignity in our society. But as Pope Francis teaches, we cannot stay silent when nearly a million unborn lives are being cast aside in our country year after year through abortion.

Abortion is a direct attack on life that also wounds the woman and undermines the family. It is not only a private matter, it raises troubling and fundamental questions of fraternity, solidarity, and inclusion in the human community. It is also a matter of social justice. We cannot ignore the reality that abortion rates are much higher among the poor and minorities, and that the procedure is regularly used to eliminate children who would be born with disabilities.

Rather than impose further expansions of abortion and contraception, as he has promised, I am hopeful that the new President and his administration will work with the Church and others of good will. My hope is that we can begin a dialogue to address the complicated cultural and economic factors that are driving abortion and discouraging families. My hope, too, is that we can work together to finally put in place a coherent family policy in this country, one that acknowledges the crucial importance of strong marriages and parenting to the well-being of children and the stability of communities. If the President, with full respect for the Church’s religious freedom, were to engage in this conversation, it would go a long way toward restoring the civil balance and healing our country’s needs.

President Biden’s call for national healing and unity is welcome on all levels. It is urgently needed as we confront the trauma in our country caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the social isolation that has only worsened the intense and long-simmering divisions among our fellow citizens.

As believers, we understand that healing is a gift that we can only receive from the hand of God. We know, too, that real reconciliation requires patient listening to those who disagree with us and a willingness to forgive and move beyond desires for reprisal. Christian love calls us to love our enemies and bless those who oppose us, and to treat others with the same compassion that we want for ourselves.

We are all under the watchful eye of God, who alone knows and can judge the intentions of our hearts. I pray that God will give our new President, and all of us, the grace to seek the common good with all sincerity.

I entrust all our hopes and anxieties in this new moment to the tender heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Christ and the patroness of this exceptional nation. May she guide us in the ways of peace and obtain for us wisdom and the grace of a true patriotism and love of country.

Women Still Can’t Be Priests, But They’re Now Allowed to Do Other Stuff They’ve Definitely Been Doing All Along Anyway

Women now have Pope-sanctioned permission to continue serving Communion, but the priesthood remains a pipe dream

By Kayla Kibbe

Women are still barred from taking the priesthood in the Catholic Church, but Pope Francis has made some other small tweaks to the rules he thinks the ladies are gonna be pretty excited about. Thanks to the Cool Pope’s new amendments, per the Washington Post, women will now have the right to act as readers and altar servers during mass, and even to administer Communion.

If you, like me, are confused by this news because you’re pretty sure you can recall receiving a dry wafer from a woman at church before, you’re probably not wrong. Many women have already been performing these roles during Catholic mass for years, at the discretion of local bishops or priests, the Washington Post explained. What Pope Francis’s decision does, however, is formalize these roles as a right for women within the Church, one they cannot be denied on the basis of their sex. Previously, while women in many parts of the world were permitted to serve in these positions, individual Church authorities still retained, and sometimes executed, the right to enforce male-only altar services. Thanks to the Pope’s most recent decision, that will no longer be an option.

“Francis, on one side, is merely acknowledging reality on the ground, as it is right now,” said Massimo Faggioli, a professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University. “But this is important because the [conservative] bishops have been contradicted, openly, by Pope Francis.”

Essentially, this all makes for a relatively insignificant shift in policy that falls far short of the large-scale changes needed within the Catholic Church to render its culture anything approaching progressive. While the Pope has characterized the decision as a step toward recognizing the “precious contribution” women are still capable of making to the Church despite not being men, any hope of claiming the priesthood remains distant for women of the Catholic faith.

“We’re still 100 steps behind the historic moment that we live,” said Cristina Simonelli, president of an Italian association of female theologians, who added that while Francis’s move marks a “minimal” step forward, it’s still “better than standing still.”

Anyway, congrats to the Catholic women who now have the Pope-sanctioned right to continue doing the same things they’ve been doing all along, and nothing more.

Complete Article HERE!