07/22/17

Mary Magdalene: The Single Best Argument for Women Priests

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By Kerry Walters

On 22 July each year, the Christian community venerates a saint who is the single best argument for why women should be priests: Mary of Magdala, more commonly called Mary Magdalene and traditionally known as the “Apostle to the Apostles.”

Given what we know about her, it’s a scandal that some Christian communities—most notably the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention—still consider women unworthy of ordination.

The Roman Church’s refusal to ordain women is succinctly stated in its official Catechism:

The Lord Jesus chose men to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry…For this reason the ordination of women is not possible. #1577

The Southern Baptist Convention bases its refusal on several passages in the Pauline letters to Titus and Timothy that seem to disallow women from serving as pastors. (Never mind that biblical scholars agree that the letters were almost certainly not written by Paul himself.) Predictably, perhaps, the Convention adds that pastoral ministry would interfere with women’s single-minded dedication to their God-appointed “family roles.”

Such objections to the ordination of women strike rational people, including millions of Christians, as absurd. But Dominican priest Wojciech Giertych, who served as theologian of the papal household for Pope Benedict XVI, adds risibility to absurdity when he argues that women simply don’t have the mechanical know-how of men, and so would be helpless when it comes to guy-stuff like church repairs.

I don’t know how handy she was with a hammer or screwdriver, but the scriptural accounts of Mary Magdalene certainly confound these arguments against women priests and pastors. Her prominence in the New Testament is indisputable.

She’s presented as one of the earliest disciples of Jesus, joining his band of followers after being cleansed of “seven demons” (Mark and Luke). Although she actually isn’t the New Testament “sinner” who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears or anointed them with precious oil she’s often thought to be—this is an identification invented by Gregory the Great in the 6th century—she’s still mentioned more often in the Gospels, no fewer than 12 times, than nearly all the male apostles.

The gospels of Mark, Matthew, and John recognize her as one of the women who followed Jesus to Golgotha, when all the male apostles except John had fled in terror. All four gospels also announce that she was either the very first person (Mark and John) or one of the first (Matthew and Luke), her companions also being women, to whom the Risen Christ appeared, and that she was the messenger who carried the good news to the male apostles.

Luke tells us that the other disciples didn’t believe her, either because she was a woman or because the tale was so fantastical, and ran to see the empty tomb for themselves. In the apocryphal Gospel of Mary, dating from sometime in the 2nd century, the disbelief of the male apostles, especially the brothers Andrew and Peter, is clearly rancorous. “Did he then speak secretly with a woman, in preference to us, and not openly? Are we to turn back and all listen to her? Did he prefer her to us?” In the later Gospel of Philip, another apocryphal text, the anger directed against Mary by the male apostles is even more intense.

These texts suggest that even at this early stage in the Church’s history, animosity toward women in leadership positions was present. But the more important point here is that both canonical and non-canonical texts affirm Mary as the witness-bearer for the risen Christ. There simply is no debate in the ancient texts about her centrality.

We have nothing but legend to fall back on for the rest of Mary’s life. She isn’t mentioned in either the Acts of the Apostles or any of the New Testament epistles. Some stories say she retired to Ephesus with Mary, Jesus’ mother, after the Resurrection. Others say that she undertook missionary work, even appearing before the Roman emperor Tiberias and astounding him with a miracle.

But these legends, charming as they are, aren’t necessary for establishing her bona fides. Scripture does that. Mary Magdalene, like so many women, was one of Jesus’ earliest followers; she remained loyal to him, at great risk to herself, when the male apostles fled in doubt and terror; the Risen Christ appeared first to her; and she carried the good news to the male apostles, who refused to believe her testimony. Even John Paul II, who declared the topic of women’s ordination settled and done (a position unfortunately affirmed by Pope Francis), acknowledged that this rightly made her the Apostle to the Apostles.

So if men are qualified to ordained ministry because of the male apostles, wouldn’t Mary’s primacy over them qualify women?

The answer’s pretty clear, isn’t it?

Complete Article HERE!

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07/20/17

Another child sex abuse scandal uncovers crisis of celibacy in Catholic Church

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Instead of considering the damage caused by enforced abstinence, the Church’s requirement for clergy to be celibate has made child sexual abuse all the more likely


Cardinal George Pell is the highest ranking Vatican official to face sexual assault charges.

by

One of the most senior Roman Catholic clergy in the world, a champion to conservative Catholics, has been charged with multiple sexual offences. 

Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s most senior Catholic, was charged last month. He is the highest-ranking Vatican official to face sexual offences.

Australians are still in shock after an inquiry revealed that 7 per cent of the country’s Roman Catholic clergy abused children between 1950 and 2010, and in one religious order more than 40 per cent of the members were involved. More than 4,400 people claim to be abuse victims of the Catholic Church in Australia, according to The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse.

None of this should surprise Canadians. 

There is hardly any part of Catholic Canada that has not been tarnished by child abuse cases. The same can be said for the United States, Britain, Ireland and elsewhere. 

At the infamous Mount Cashel Orphanage in Newfoundland, for example, 300 children were abused by the Christian Brothers, a Roman Catholic religious order. In 2009 Bishop Raymond Lahey of Antigonish announced that his diocese had reached a $15 million settlement with abuse victims. Shortly afterwards Lahey himself was found to have child pornography. He pled guilty to charges in 2011. More troubling is that fact Lahey was observed by the Church to be in possession of child pornography as early the mid-1980s but was still made a bishop. 

Sexual abuse is in no way confined to any one institution. It happens in families, sports clubs, schools and in religious institutions of all types. 

But within the Roman Catholic Church it is made all the more likely for a number of reasons.

First, celibacy 

There is no Christian requirement for clergy to be celibate. Even the Roman Catholic Church has wavered on the teaching over the centuries. 

Some religious people are called to the priesthood and it deepens their faith and vocation. 

But it’s also true that the culture of secrecy and lies in the Church when it comes to historical cases of sexual abuse, has been exploited by pedophile priests.

The image of the child-like cleric who has no sexual desire is a dangerous fantasy. In the Boston abuse crisis, in particular, many of the younger priests were some of the most horrendous abusers.

It’s also no secret that there are an enormous number of gay men in the Catholic Church. Many are, in fact, in consensual and loving same-sex relationships. 

But instead of considering the damage caused by enforced celibacy, systemic homophobia and manic secrecy in the Church, the Vatican has made it impossible for any man who has had even a shadow of same-sex attraction to enter the seminary. 

This stridently anti-gay policy has become even worse under the allegedly more liberal Pope Francis. 

The absence of women in positions of power

All-male societies lack balance and tend to accentuate the worst of male sexual dysfunctions. One of the gruesome findings of various inquiries into sexual abuse in the church is how few priests came forward to report their concerns about what their colleagues might have been doing. Would women have been similarly silent? 

The cult of clericalism and secrecy 

There is a hierarchy in many institutions, but it’s especially pronounced when religion is involved. 

In Roman Catholicism, the priest is the man who offers the body and blood of Jesus to the congregation during mass. He hears their confessions and gives absolution as the representative of God on Earth. He is often considered above and beyond criticism. The clerical class is to be obeyed and respected – and they in turn keep their authority to themselves. 

In more conservative circles, they are especially insular. It is not for the congregation to know or to be consulted. 

That has changed to a certain degree in the past 30 years but is still the overwhelming reality of Catholic life. The general response to criticism of the Church is to accuse critics of anti-Catholicism, even when that condemnation comes from within the church itself. 

But with the latest revelations around Pell that card has been played too often and the assumptions of reverence and silence within Catholic culture are fading fast. 

Put simply, abusive priests simply can’t get away with it the way they did for so long, so often. Alas, it’s still too late for many of the victims.

Complete Article HERE!

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07/19/17

Why I Can’t Judge Gay Clergy

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The story of one man I knew, and the uneasy secret he hid from the church he served.

By Kevin Moroso

Police Broke Up a Drug-Fueled Vatican Priest Orgy.” You can’t make up a more sensational headline than that.

The story was originally reported on June 28 by the Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano. According to their anonymously-sourced report, when Vatican police were called to the apartment of Monsignor Luigi Capozzi, a secretary to an adviser to Pope Francis, they allegedly discovered hard drugs and a gay orgy in progress; Capozzi was said to have been swept off to a detox center outside Rome and faces misdemeanor drug charges.

The report is thinly-sourced, and thus far, Vatican officials have refused to confirm its validity. The Daily Beast was able to confirm that Capozzi no longer works at his old position, and an anonymous senior Vatican official confirmed to The Catholic Register that “multiple sources” have told them the story is true.

Less-than-stellar sourcing aside, the story spread like wildfire across social media, and many in the gay community were quick to shame and jeer Capozzi for his hypocrisy. My own Facebook feed was filled with friends ruthlessly mocking him, saying he deserved what he had coming. These are my same gay friends who are unabashedly proud and open about their wild sex lives, friends who have been to plenty of drug-fueled orgies themselves. But I didn’t have the same reaction, because the news reminded me of a lovely man I knew. He was nowhere near the corridors of the Church’s senior officials, and his case was markedly different from that of this secretary, but his story constantly reminds me that we shouldn’t be so quick to judge the sex lives of others—provided it involves consenting adults—no matter the person’s profession.

I went to a Catholic school, even though my family wasn’t Catholic or even Christian. It was run by a very conservative order, one that was incredibly strict and would later become notorious for child sex abuse. There was a parish nearby, unconnected to the school, and that lovely man was the priest there. I didn’t know him at all at the time; he would only occasionally come to school to lead mass, and my Catholic classmates would be sent to his parish periodically for confession.

It was only later in life that I would meet him and hear his story. He had blunt words to say about the men who ran my school: they were assholes and they were creepy. But it was how he came to lead that parish, and what happened next, that captivated me.

Father John* had joined a seminary when he was a teenager. He knew he was different from the other boys because he wasn’t interested in girls. But he had a sheltered upbringing, and given the era he grew up in, he interpreted his disinterest as a calling to join the priesthood, like many young men who felt similarly. Once he had completed his studies, he eventually traveled to Rome, became a full-fledged priest, and returned to Canada to lead a parish.

By that point he was an adult, no longer confined to a seminary, living in a society in the midst of a sexual revolution. He began to realize what made him different: he was gay. But he was too scared to leave the Church.

Pay within the priesthood can vary dramatically—the head of a gigantic American megachurch, for example, can make hundreds of thousands of dollars—but salaries, on average, tend to be small, just enough to cover expenses. Father John had no money of his own. He had no pension, because the Church would house and feed him when he got old. His only education was in theology. He told me he felt stuck. Plus, he enjoyed what he did. Pastoral care is quite like being a social worker, listening to people’s struggles and helping them find a way out. Ironically, he spent his life helping others with their problems without anyone to help him through his own. He never cast criticism on gays from the pulpit and preached only love. He wasn’t a hypocrite.

Secretly, he had sex with men. He’d meet them in the usual spots—parks, peepshows, and the like. He thought he could maintain these two lives separately, as many of us do, balancing a professional career with a sometimes debaucherous private side.

Then, one day, those two lives collided. He became very ill and went to the hospital. He was told he had AIDS. He knew this was a secret he couldn’t keep; the Church paid for his medical insurance, and it would be impossible to work while managing his illness. So he went to his bishop and told him his diagnosis. He wasn’t alone. Many priests acquired HIV and AIDS throughout the 80s and 90s.

The main job of a bishop is to provide pastoral care to his priests, but Father John’s sexuality precluded him from such goodwill. The bishop, John said, was going to do to him what he did to the others—he and his dirty little secret would be sent to a monastery to die alone, hidden from public view. For too long, the Church could simply shuffle pedophiles around and nobody would ever know (or at least they thought). But a priest who handed out communion with Karposi Sarcoma lesions? You can’t hide that from a parish.

Well, Father John was having none of it—he wasn’t going to disappear like the others. He had built up a network of other gay priests over time, and he contacted one, an Anglican who arranged a meeting with his bishop. The bishop told him not to worry. The Anglican Church recognizes Catholic priests, and he would gladly allow him to become a priest in an Anglican parish, doing what he did before as long as he was well, and whenever he got too sick, he’d be looked after.

I only got to know Father John after he’d made that switch. I met him through various religious activities of my own; at first, he was just another Anglican priest to me. It wasn’t until I randomly mentioned where I went to school one day that he revealed the parish where he once worked and we made the connection. He was always a bit sick—he had managed to survive AIDS, but his HIV treatment was never quite enough to make him well again. But, more importantly, his life was secure. He got the chance to continue to say mass, to visit the sick in their homes, to help people find their way, only now, he was able to do so as an openly gay man. He was in my life for a number of years until I moved away and lost touch. The last time I saw him, he was walking down the street, wearing his collar, on his way to give communion to an elderly lady who couldn’t leave her bed. He looked frail and struggled to remember things, but he still had a smile on his face.

Father John was luckier than most other gay Catholic priests. He was fortunate enough to have another denomination in his area that accepted gays, and accepted him. He had the courage to refuse the disgraceful end his first Bishop had in mind for him. He had an easy out.

Others aren’t so lucky, trapped by a choice made in their youth, as scared of the secular world as they are of the institution to which they’re beholden. One only imagines the cycle of despair that could arise. Instead of mocking gays in the Church, whether they’re having sex with other gay men or not, think of this guy instead. Struggling through life, as best he knew how.

Complete Article HERE!

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07/4/17

Spike in suicides among Irish Catholic priests reported amid low morale over decline and abuse scandals

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By James Macintyre

At least eight priests in Ireland have committed suicide in the past 10 years, according to recent reports given at meetings of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP).

The alarming figure comes as the Catholic News Agency (CNA) reports on a severe dip in morale and a mental health crisis among Irish clergy, caused by abuse allegations and declining numbers being ordained as well as other factors.

This has sparked calls for a confidential helpline to be set up for priests needing support.

At a recent ACP meeting, an attendee said: ‘Our morale is affected because we are on a sinking ship. When will the “counter-reformation” take place? We’re like an All-Ireland team without a goalie. We need a national confidential priests’ helpline. We’re slow to look for help.’

According to the CNA, concerns over a severe dip in the morale and well-being of priests in the country have been raised by the 1,000-member ACP in at least three different meetings in recent months.

Roy Donovan, a spokesperson for the ACP, said in May that as well as the priests who are speaking up, he believes many more elderly churchmen are suffering in silence, and have no outlet for help.

Ireland is facing a serious vocations crisis: In 2004, the country had more than 3,100 priests, but by 2014, the last year from which figures are available, the number had declined by more than 500 to 2,627. The number of active priests is likely closer to just 1,900, according to CNA.

The shortage has led to a phenomenon called ‘clustering’, where several parishes are combined into one because of lack of leadership, increasing priests’ workload and subsequent stress, and forcing many to work well beyond retirement years because of the lack of new vocations.

‘These men lived through a time when there were plenty of vocations and their churches were full at Mass, so there’s a loss of esteem. Also, in the past they would have had live-in housekeepers. Now most don’t and are on their own and so feeling a lot more isolated and lonely, as well as feeling nervous and more vulnerable,’ Brendan Hoban, one of the founders of ACP, said during a meeting in November 2016.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church in Ireland has, like elsewhere around the world, been rocked by a sex abuse scandal that began in the 1990s and resulted in a massive decline in both vocations and in the faith of the laypeople.

The CNA reported minutes from the ACP meetings showing that priests reported being disheartened by the declining faith in the people they serve, ‘who have so little contact with the church from First Communions to funerals’.

The minutes added that priests’ confidence ‘has been eroded when we see so many people going through the motions of faith’.

More recently, the Church in Ireland has also been hit by negative headlines rsurrounding the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam. The priests noted that the sisters there ‘did a disservice by not clarifying exactly what happened. They need to do so immediately. It makes our job impossible, especially as we face a storm on abortion next year’.

The country is also facing an ongoing, heated debate about whether or not to legalise abortion.

The priests agreed that they need to be better about asking for help when they need it.

‘We need to unmask and say ‘I need help!’ There is a great sense of ‘being alone,’ making our own way in the diocese,’ the priests said. ‘There is a lack of dialogue among priests in the diocese. Yet, people are fantastic and generous in parishes, if given half-a-chance.’

Complete Article HERE!

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06/29/17

Cardinal George Pell charged with historical sex offences

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Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s highest ranking Catholic, has been charged with historical sex offences.

By Nino Bucci, Tom Cowie, Nick Miller

Victoria Police has confirmed Cardinal Pell has been charged on summons over multiple allegations and is due to face Melbourne Magistrates Court on July 18 for a filing hearing.

A statement from the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney said Cardinal Pell had been informed of Victoria Police’s “decision and action”.

“Cardinal Pell will return to Australia, as soon as possible, to clear his name following advice and approval by his doctors who will also advise on his travel arrangements.

“He said he is looking forward to his day in court and will defend the charges vigorously.

“He has again strenuously denied all allegations.”

Cardinal Pell is the third most senior Catholic at the Vatican, where he is responsible for the church’s finances.

He is likely to step aside from his Vatican post while he fights the charges.

Victoria’s Deputy Police Commissioner, Shane Patton, confirmed in a brief press conference on Thursday morning that Cardinal Pell had been issued with multiple charges relating to historical sexual abuse allegations.

The charges were served on Cardinal Pell’s legal representatives in Melbourne on Thursday, Mr Patton said.

“There are multiple complainants relating to those charges,” he said.

Mr Patton said there had been a lot of speculation about the process that has been involved in the investigation of Cardinal Pell.

“The process and procedures that are being followed in the charging of Cardinal Pell have been the same that have been applied in a whole range of historical sex offences, whenever we investigate them,” he said.

“Cardinal Pell has been treated the same as anyone else in this investigation.”

Police did not take any questions during the press conference and did not detail what the allegations were.

Mr Patton said it was important that due process was followed.

“Preserving the integrity of that process is essential to us all and so for Victoria Police, it is important that it is allowed to go through unhindered and allowed to see natural justice is afforded to all the parties involved, including Cardinal Pell and the complainants in this matter,” he said.

All was quiet at Cardinal Pell’s Roman residence as the news broke.

He lives in a block of apartments on a square just outside the Vatican walls, metres from St Peter’s Square, and a minute’s walk from the doors to the Basilica.

Security is tight in this part of Rome – an army jeep with two alert, armed soldiers sits on the corner of the square, another on the other side of the wall – and the police presence in this part of the city is constant.

But there were no lights on in the building and the city was quiet in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Thursday is a public holiday in Rome – the fiesta of St Peter and St Paul. It’s a day when many natives traditionally head to the beach.

But despite the apparent peace in Rome, the announcement is set to send shockwaves through the Catholic Church in Australia and around the world.

Cardinal Pell has retained leading Victorian criminal barrister, Robert Richter QC, and it is likely some of the argument that Mr Richter will make in court will concern the question of whether Cardinal Pell can receive a fair trial given the large amount of pre-trial publicity.

As Australia has no extradition treaty with the Vatican, Cardinal Pell may avoid prosecution should he choose not to return to Victoria, but he is expected to come back to fight the charges.

Three detectives from Victoria Police’s Sano Taskforce travelled to Rome to interview Cardinal Pell about the allegations last year after he was declared unfit to travel to Australia.

He has repeatedly and emphatically denied all allegations, but said he would continue to co-operate with the police investigation.

Cardinal Pell was a priest in Ballarat before becoming Archbishop of Melbourne and then being appointed as a Cardinal.

The Catholic Archdiocese in Melbourne has been contacted for comment.

When it comes to historical sex abuse prosecutions, the charge an alleged offender faces, and the applicable maximum penalty, is determined by when the alleged offence occurred. There have been several overhauls of sexual offence laws since the 1980s.

Complete Article HERE!

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