04/7/18

Appalled by what Catholic Church has become, I am walking away

Bishops touch the head of three newly ordained bishops as Pope Francis celebrates a mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in March.

By MARYANNE MCNEIL

I am voting with my feet.

As a 62-year-old practicing Catholic, one would think my religious adherence has been well and truly set. To an extent, that is correct; I love my church’s rites and, most especially, the beautiful sacraments that have helped to sustain me throughout my life.

I appreciate the redemptive power of confession, when used in appropriate circumstances and with the freedom of surrender.

Despite this deeply felt connection, I have concluded my only way forward is to turn away.

For many years, I have been disturbed by the Church’s failure to connect with real people seeking solace of a loving Christ. I’ve been appalled by widespread pedophilia and more appalled by callous cover-ups of those ruinous crimes against children. It seems this Church has forgotten the warning of Jesus against anyone who would harm a child.

Despite the soul-sickness of knowing the depravity to which Church Fathers had descended, I stayed. There was hope of genuine remorse and healing. There was hope this enormous scandal would serve as a clarion call to a transformative renewal.

Instead, after great resistance, grudging admissions were made and cheques were written. There was no renewal.

Still, I lingered, unable to tear myself away from a Church that was seared into my heart. One day, perhaps, I thought, it will come, even as I listened to priests, bishops and cardinals preach against same-sex unions. These men were clear about the sins of those born with bonds of attraction for their own gender, yet they mired themselves in the muck of tepid excuses toward Church child-sex offenders.

Any respect I had for Rome disappeared under the weight of disgust at this hypocrisy.

My heart breaks to think my Church denied millions of African women (along with all the rest of us) permission to use “artificial” birth control methods that could have saved thousands of lives and transformed many thousands more. Even in situations of dire poverty and the subjugation of women to the role of breeder, the Church chose to tote the old adage that “unnatural” birth control was against God’s plan.

The Vatican only recently began to loosen (slightly) this evil edict that consigned so many to misery. That was how African women were thanked and honoured for their great devotion.

I began to think I must leave. My heart still couldn’t quite give up on this institution that, while gripped by systemic corruption thirst for power, still had capacity to instill awe and wonder.

The Second Vatican Council disappeared like a blip under conservatives who now held command. I suffered as the Church’s doors clanged shut and the air, for a few precious minutes fresh with promise, became stale again with the musk of the power lust of the world’s most elite Old Boys’ Club.

I halfway convinced myself I could ignore the foolhardiness of Rome and concentrate on my own little parish, where I felt at home and loved. How could I leave this small congregation that held my heart? It was like a family to me.

Then Pope Francis was elected. A light shone through the cracks to illuminate the darkness, just enough to awaken hope once more. Here was a Holy Man. Here was a follower of the Jesus I perceived when I read His words. Here was the Church’s future, her chance at renewal.

It could have been the beginning of something truly beautiful. If the power brokers had held true faith, they would have knelt before this man of God and followed him to the ends of the Earth. They would have seen he understood the message of Christ and was touched by His love.

Instead, they worked against him and have effectively shrunk his influence. His voice, at first so clear and strong and shining with humility, has been muted. His intentions have been sabotaged. The Club remains untouched and, sadly, seems intractable.

I have loved Pope Francis but I no longer expect he can lead the Church to the kind of renewal so desperately needed. Given his refusal to grant a simple apology to our devastated First Nations for the Church’s large role in the horrors of the residential schools, it is clear he cannot rise above the wagon-circling of the hierarchy. If he cannot prevail against the forces that hold this Church in thrall, then who can?

A priest I respect refused my request that our church bulletin announce a social action walk in support of diversity that some of our local high school students were organizing. “What kind of diversity?” he wanted to know with knitted brow.

Our youngest priest recently said the Church would never allow women priests because “there were none at the time of Christ.” Of course there were none at that time, but there were slaves and horrible executions and all manner of unjust practices, so where is the valid comparison in this line of thinking?

There’s also the issue of celibacy. In North America, churches are closing, not just for lack of parishioners, but also for a dearth of priests. Few men are able to accept a doctrine that denies them the comfort of a family and of a healthy, sanctified fulfilment of their sexuality. While the Church lauds “the sanctity of marriage,” it taints the idea by requiring those who administer sacramental duties to refrain. Such doctrinal ambiguity is leading the Church to self-destruction.

I have come to the point where hope has died. I cannot ignore Rome, for she reaches into my own parish. Her power permeates every nook and cranny of Catholicism. If I stay, I am complicit. If I take my spot in the pew and put my money in the collection, I perpetuate the rot.

I have a daughter and a granddaughter. I cannot bear what my staying would say to them. I can’t stand to know I have modelled a belief that women are secondary humans who have no place as decision-makers or teachers and aren’t equipped to be shepherds in the name of the One we love.

I feel great sorrow in having to accept my Church has deviated far from the simple, loving path of my Saviour. If, as I continue to hope, the great heart at the core of “Mother Church” remains pure, then the power brokers have shut that heart away from her people. The holiness of that heart is love. And love has too seldom guided decisions and doctrines of the Church, a momentous tragedy.

To whom shall we turn when our Church obeys the dictates of power-seeking men rather than the love-giving of God? The answer, for me, cannot lie in accepting the status quo any longer.

At age 62, therefore, I have finally and sorrowfully accepted that my Church will not listen to my voice or the voices of countless others in similar distress. She will not bend her rigid preconceptions, even in the face of precipitous decline. Under her present masters, she is blind and, though I tremble to write it, no longer worthy of loyalty. As the only self-respecting option left to me, though it tears my heartstrings, I am going to vote with my feet.

Complete Article HERE!

03/26/18

Young Catholics tell Pope Francis the church is indifferent and judgmental

Pope Francis waves as he celebrates the Vesper prayer in the Church of San Gregorio al Celio, in central Rome.

by Amanda Erickson

On Saturday, hundreds of young Catholics gathered to give Pope Francis a piece of their minds.

They called for a more transparent and “authentic” church, one with a bigger role for women and more wisdom about the benefits and challenges of technology. They called for more flexibility, too, arguing that “unreachable” moral standards should not be the only way to live an authentically Catholic life.

These findings were part of a 16-page report assembled by 300 young people at a week-long conference sponsored by the Vatican. It drew, too, on online submissions from 15,000 others.

“We, the young church, ask that our leaders speak in practical terms about subjects such as homosexuality and gender issues, about which young people are already freely discussing,” the report said.

It was less clear how the group wanted the church to reframe its message. The young people, ages 16 to 29, did not find consensus on issues like contraception (artificial birth control is banned for all Catholics, even married couples), cohabitation before marriage (frowned upon) or abortion.

The report also pushed the church to find ways to connect to young people, who often feel “indifference, judgment and rejection” from the church.

Throughout, the report called on the church to incorporate women more fully into church leadership. Women cannot serve as priests, which means they’re absent from the church’s upper ranks. Young female Catholics said they feel alienated as a result.

“Some young women feel that there is a lack of leading female role models within the church, and they too wish to give their intellectual and professional gifts to the church,” the report found.

The report also called on the church to accept that technology is a way of life for young people. The focus should not be condemnation, they wrote, but rather guidance on how to combat online addiction and use technology responsibly.

At the beginning of the conference, Pope Francis urged the young people — selected by their national bishops’ conferences, universities or church movements — to be honest. That is reflected in the final report, which notes that young people are leaving Catholicism because of  “indifference, judgment and rejection.” It also called on the church to more fully acknowledge its mistakes, such as the clergy sex abuse scandal.

“Some mentors are put on a pedestal, and when they fall, the devastation may impact young people’s abilities to continue to engage with the church,” the report said.

The document will be incorporated into an October synod of bishops, focused on how to better incorporate young people into the church.

It isn’t clear what that will entail. But at a Palm Sunday service on Sunday, Pope Francis urged young people to keep shouting and not allow the older generations to silence their voices.

“The temptation to silence young people has always existed,” he said in his homily, delivered to an audience of thousands in St. Peter’s Square. “There are many ways to silence young people and make them invisible. Many ways to anesthetize them, to make them keep quiet, ask nothing, question nothing. There are many ways to sedate them, to keep them from getting involved, to make their dreams flat and dreary, petty and plaintive.”

“Dear young people, you have it in you to shout,” he told young people, urging them to be like the people who welcomed Jesus with palms rather than those who shouted for his crucifixion only days later. “It is up to you not to keep quiet. Even if others keep quiet, if we older people and leaders, some corrupt, keep quiet, if the whole world keeps quiet and loses its joy, I ask you: Will you cry out?”

“Yes,” the young people in the crowd shouted. “Yes!”

Complete Article HERE!

03/9/18

Catholic women urge pope to tear down Church’s ‘walls of misogyny’

Ireland’s President Mary McAleese, accompanied by her husband Martin McAleese, poses for a picture with orphaned girls during her visit to Tibnin Orphanage, southern Lebanon, October 15, 2011.

by Philip Pullella

Roman Catholic women led by former Irish president Mary McAleese demanded a greater decision-making role for women in the Church on Thursday, urging Pope Francis to tear down its “walls of misogyny”.

McAleese was the key speaker at a symposium of Catholic women called “Why Women Matter”, attended by hundreds of people and followed by many others around the world via web-streaming.

The Women’s Day event was held at the headquarters of the Jesuit religious order after the Vatican withdrew permission for it to be held inside its walls when organizers added controversial speakers without its permission.

McAleese, who supports gay marriage and the ordination of women as priests, joked about the change of venue to a location just a block away from the Vatican walls, saying: “I hope all their hearing aids are turned on today”.

She said the Church’s ban on a female priesthood had “locked women out of any significant role in the Church’s leadership, doctrinal development and authority structure”.

The Church teaches that women cannot be ordained priests because Jesus chose only men as his apostles. Those calling for women priests say he was only following the norms of his time.

“We are here to shout, to bring down our Church’s walls of misogyny,” she said, adding that the Church’s position on keeping women in a subordinate role to men had “kept Christ out and bigotry in”.

“How long can the hierarchy sustain the credibility of a God who wants things this way, who wants a Church where women are invisible and voiceless in Church leadership?” she said in her address. McAleese was Irish president between 1997 and 2011.

Many women, she said, “experience the Church as a male bastion of patronizing platitudes, to which Pope Francis has added his quota”.

The pope has promised to put more women in senior positions in the Vatican but critics say he is moving too slowly.

Other women speakers included Zuzanna Radzik, a Catholic theologian from Poland, who described the struggle to make priests and bishops in her homeland take her seriously as an intellectual on a par with men.

Many in the audience were nuns, who cheered on the speakers who demanded more rights for women in the Church.

Last week, a Vatican magazine denounced widespread exploitation of nuns for cheap or free labor in the Roman Catholic Church, saying the male hierarchy should stop treating them like lowly servants.

The article in the monthly “Women, Church, World”, remarkable for an official Vatican publication, described the drudgery of nuns who cook, clean and wait on tables for cardinals, bishops and priests.

Complete Article HERE!

03/7/18

Priests’ group demands Martin statement over editing of video

Words of welcome for gay people from Cork-born bishop removed from promo clip

Bishop David O’Connell speaking in the original version of a video promoting the World Meeting of Families 2018.

By Patsy McGarry

The Association of Catholic Priests has said it find it “impossible to understand” why words of Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles had been edited out of a promotional video for the World Meeting of Families 2018.

It has called on Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, who is hosting the event which will take place at the end of August, to issue a statement clarifying the matter.

Words of welcome from the Cork-born Bishop David O’Connell for gay people raising children and people in second marriages were removed from the video.

“Pope Francis, he gets it. Today there are all sorts of configurations of families – mum and dad; mum or dad on their own; gay couple raising children; people in second marriages,” he said. These have been cut.

A spokeswoman for the World Meeting of Families 2018 has insisted however that everyone will be welcome to the event which is being hosted by Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin at the end of August next.

She noted how, in Amoris laetitia, “Pope Francis specifically stresses that ‘every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration’ . . . as is repeated throughout the parish programme.

“The meeting has always been understood as a meeting open to all. This remains the position of the World Meeting of Families in Dublin.”

In a statement on Tuesday, the association, which represents between a third and a half of Catholic priests in Ireland, said it was concerned that “following the earlier removal of photographs from a leaflet, the organisers of the World Meeting of Families have now also removed the words of Bishop O’Connell” from their promotional video.

“His words were such that we find it impossible to understand how anyone who supports the message of PopeFrancis could object to them.”

It was the case that “no clear statement has been made as to why these actions were taken, and on whose direction. Both leave themselves open to interpretations which are very damaging to the WMOF.”

It asked: “Who is making the decisions? Where is the funding coming from? Has the source of the funding anything to do with the decisions being made?

“Without clear explanations, questions like these, and many others, will continue to be asked.”

The ACP concluded: “We believe that it is important that Archbishop Diarmuid Martin makes a statement clarifying why these two alterations were made, who decided on them, and why. Otherwise any further effect to present the WMOF as a welcoming place for everyone will be seen for what it is, empty rhetoric.”

Complete Article HERE!

03/2/18

Vatican sex abuse envoy returns with more than he expected

This photo released by Francisco Arevalo shows Archbishop Charles Scicluna, center, posing for a photo with members of the religious Marist congregation, after Isaac Givovich, fourth from left, gave his testimony as part of his child sex abuse investigation in Santiago, Chile, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018. Scicluna, an envoy sent by Pope Francis, is gathering testimonies regarding Bishop Juan Barros allegedly covering up sexual abuses committed by Vatican-condemned priest Fernando Karadima. Second from left is Spanish Priest Jordi Bartolomeu who is assisting Scicluna. The rest are members of the religious Marista congregation: Jaime Concha, far left, Asuncion Lavin, third from left, Eduardo Arevalo, fourth from right, Jorge Franco, third from right, Juan Pablo Arevalo, second from right, and Gonzalo Dezerega, far right.

The Vatican’s leading expert on clerical sex abuse wrapped up his fact-finding mission to Chile on Thursday and headed to Rome to brief the pope, concluding one of the most extraordinary months in the Catholic Church’s long-running saga of coming to terms with priests who rape children and the church hierarchy that protects them.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna plans to present not only a report about Bishop Juan Barros, who is accused by victims of witnessing their abuse and ignoring it. Scicluna is also bringing back testimony from Chilean victims of other abusers in the Marist Brothers, Salesian and Franciscan religious orders and how their accusations were mishandled, confirmation that the Chilean Catholic Church has a very big problem on its hands, and to date hasn’t handled it very well.

“In those situations that seem pertinent, Monsignor Scicluna will provide the respective background to the Holy See,” said the spokesman for the Chilean bishops’ conference, Jaime Coiro.

Expectations in Chile are high that something has to change, and that the problem isn’t just about Barros and Francis’ 2015 decision to appoint him as bishop of Osorno, Chile over the objections of many Chilean bishops. Barros had been a top lieutenant to Chile’s most prominent predator priest, the Rev. Fernando Karadima, but he denies victims’ accusations that he witnessed and ignored their abuse.

Victims say the Barros affair is merely emblematic of a culture in the Chilean church to cover-up for abusers, give them minimal sanctions or move them around rather than adopt the “one-strike-and-you’re-out” policy adopted by U.S. bishops after the sex abuse scandal erupted in Boston in 2002.

There are currently five Chilean dioceses that need new bishops, including Santiago, where the archbishop, Cardinal Riccardo Ezzati, turned 76 in January and is due to retire. That sets the stage for the potential that a new course could be charted in Chile if Francis chooses to take it.

“This isn’t just about Bishop Barros. This is much bigger,” historian and author Marcial Sanchez told CNN Chile on Thursday. “We can’t continue sweeping the dirt under the carpet.”

Pope Francis dispatched Scicluna and a Vatican expert on abuse in the region, the Rev. Jordi Bertomeu, to Chile on Jan. 30 following Francis’ problematic visit to Chile and even more problematic press conference coming home. Francis had strongly defended Barros, pronounced himself “certain” that Barros was innocent of cover-up and repeatedly said that accusations against him were “calumny.”

Francis gave the impression that he didn’t know that victims themselves had placed Barros at the scene of their abuse and had been denouncing him for years. The Associated Press, however, reported that Francis had received a letter in 2015 from Juan Carlos Cruz, a Karadima victim, detailing his abuse, Barros’ failure to acknowledge it, and questioning Barros’ fitness to lead a diocese as a result.

Francis’ about-face decision to send in Scicluna, the Catholic Church’s most credible figure on fighting abuse, signaled he wanted to get to the bottom of the Barros affair once and for all. But Scicluna’s decision to take testimony from other Chilean victims — made possible thanks to emergency gall bladder surgery that forced him to stay in Chile for an extra week — signaled that there was a bigger problem at hand and that his mandate was expanding.

Cruz said the fact that Scicluna and Bertomeu chose to interview victims completely unrelated to the Barros case “shows that this goes way beyond Juan Barros.”

“I think that if the pope doesn’t do anything, and focuses only on Barros, it will not go over well since the Chilean church needs an extreme cleansing,” he said.

Anne Barrett Doyle, of the online abuse database BishopAccountability.org, had actually illustrated the problem facing the Chilean church on the eve of Francis’ Jan. 15-21 trip to Chile and Peru. She and other survivors’ advocates held a press conference in Santiago to unveil research showing nearly 80 credibly accused priests and brothers in Chile, many of them even superiors of religious orders.

One month later, Barrett Doyle said it was “encouraging” that Scicluna had come and had even expanded his mandate to take testimony from other victims. But she said time will tell if Francis and the Vatican act on Scicluna’s findings. She said the bigger problem was the Chilean hierarchy and its approach to investigating abuse, which she said remained “in the dark ages.”

“The Chilean church desperately needs systemic reform,” she said.

She noted that the Chilean church’s 2015 sex abuse policy — mandated by the Vatican in 2011 — “contains no zero tolerance provision, no mandated reporting for clergy, and a rejection of the church’s responsibility to make reparation to victims.”

In fact, efforts by Karadima’s victims to obtain damages from the church through civil litigation accusing church leaders of cover-up have been met with a campaign to discredit the victims. And yet elsewhere, dioceses in the U.S. have paid out millions of dollars in settlements and litigation acknowledging wrongdoing. Dioceses in Europe and Australia have created compensation schemes to help victims pay for the therapy many have needed to cope with the lifelong trauma the church had caused them.

A lawsuit seeking less than a million dollars, lodged by Cruz and two other Karadima victims, was rejected by Chilean courts but is on appeal.

Scicluna and Bertolomeu will return to Rome just days after Francis wrapped up his latest periodic meeting of cardinal advisers, who discussed ways to speed up the processing of cases at the Vatican’s backlogged Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. One proposal that has been discussed for years is to create regional tribunals around the world to hear cases.

One of Francis’ key cardinal advisers, who spent three days with him this week in private, was Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz, who has acknowledged he shelved the initial investigation into Karadima because he didn’t believe the victims.

Complete Article HERE!