Vatican paper brands leakers irresponsible “wolves”

The Vatican newspaper on Wednesday suggested those responsible for revealing sensitive internal documents alleging corruption and a cover-up were irresponsible, undignified “wolves,” the latest twist in what has become known as “Vatileaks.”

But an editorial in the Osservatore Romano, while renewing criticism of some media handling of the scandal, also said that the Catholic Church should see the current image crisis as a chance to purify itself.

It was the latest chapter in a saga in which the Vatican has had to scramble to deal with what one spokesman called its own version of “Wikileaks” and what the Italian media have dubbed “Vatileaks.” It also coincided with the publication of new leaks about the Vatican bank.

The editorial was ostensibly to mark the 30th anniversary of the arrival in Rome from Germany of then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was elected pope in 2005, to take up the powerful post as head of the Vatican’s doctrinal enforcer.

But in a section about current events, it described the pope as a man who “is not stopped by wolves” and that he was ready to stand up to “irresponsible and undignified behavior.”

A senior Vatican official familiar with the newspaper’s editorial line, asked if that part of the editorial which referred to wolves was criticizing those who have leaked the documents, said “even them” and added: “They certainly are not boy scouts.”

From leaked letters by an archbishop who was transferred after he blew the whistle on what he saw as a web of corruption and cronyism, to a leaked poison pen memo which puts a number of cardinals in a bad light, to new suspicions about its bank, Vatican spokesmen have had their work cut out responding.

But the editorial said the Church should see the entire episode, which some say is part of a power struggle inside the Vatican, as an opportunity for renewal.

The “irresponsible and undignified behavior,” the editorial said, “winds up becoming intertwined with the noise of the media, which is inevitable and certainly not disinterested, but which we need to see as an occasion for purification in the Church.”

EMBARRASSING LEAKS

The flurry of leaks has come at an embarrassing time – just before a usually joyful ceremony this week known as a consistory, when Benedict will admit more prelates into the College of Cardinals, the exclusive men’s club that will one day pick the next Roman Catholic leader from among their own ranks.

The latest image crisis began last month when an Italian television investigative show broadcast private letters to Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and the pope from Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former deputy governor of Vatican City and currently the Vatican ambassador in Washington.

The letters showed that Vigano was transferred after he exposed what he argued was a web of corruption, nepotism and cronyism linked to the awarding of contracts to contractors at inflated prices.

Other leaks centre on the Vatican bank, which is trying to put past scandals behind it. They include the collapse 30 years ago of Banco Ambrosiano in a tangle of lurid allegations about money-laundering, freemasons, mafias and the mysterious 1982 death of Ambrosiano chairman Roberto Calvi – “God’s banker.”

The Vatican bank, formally known at the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), aims to comply fully with EU standards on financial transparency in order to make Europe’s “white list” by June.

But the Il Fatto Quotidiano newspaper which has published most of the leaked documents about the Vatican bank, ran more confidential letters on Wednesday which it said pointed to an internal clash over just how transparent the bank should be about its past dealings.

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic church stance on contraception policy speaks to subordination of women

COMMENTARY

The squabble over whether Catholic social service institutions, universities and hospitals must offer insurance covering contraception under the new health plan contains a subplot with roots deep in history.

It’s the relationship between women and organized religion — a relationship that, over the centuries, has been hostile to the aspirations of women for a larger role in the family, the world and religion itself.
A little history is needed here.

Women — as well as men — have, through the ages, experienced the same spiritual stirrings that give rise to faith and firm religious beliefs. But organized religion, with its churches, synagogues, mosques, feasts and rituals, has, from the beginning, been exclusively the creation of men.

Moreover, the bureaucracies that have grown up to run these religions — and to promulgate their codes of moral right and wrong — have, from the beginning, been the work of men. Women had little or no say in this overarching influence in their lives.

Here’s one conservative religious view of woman’s role as expressed by A.H. Strong, president of the Rochester Theological Seminary, in a mid-19th century essay: “She is subject to man,” he wrote. “She is to be helper, not principal. Man has preference in creation, woman is made of man and to supply the felt needs of man.” (How nice for man.)

Even in the modern world, women occupy a subordinate role. Some fundamentalist or ultra-orthodox sects even prohibit women from worshiping in the same room with men. In some Islamic lands, women can’t leave home unless accompanied by a male relative, a rule enforced by “religious police.”
Organized religion, in short, has been a clerical stag party.

It is against this historical background that the tussle between what religious conservatives see as a First Amendment right and many women see as a health issue will be played out over contraceptive coverage.

The marginalization of women is just one characteristic of most major religions. The other, in one degree or another, is authoritarianism. They are not democratic institutions.

Their leaders don’t care much for doctrinal dissent. And they have a point. Why should they give any heed to dissent if they believe they’re following the divine will, that they’re doing God’s work? How can they be wrong?

In centuries past, dissent was punished by imprisonment, torture, even death. The Gnostics, who broke from Catholicism in its early days, were persecuted for several heresies, including a belief that women were, in God’s great plan, the equal of men. (Whatever gave them that idea?)

Some extreme Islamic sects still stone women to death even today, especially for adultery. (Men get a pass on this one.) Similar punishments are meted out by some Hindu extreme fundamentalists.

Something about women having sex for the sheer joy of it seems to unhinge the ultrareligious mind, even here in the West where things are better for women but not exactly benign.

Which brings us to the dust-up over requiring religious organizations to pay for contraception despite their doctrinal objection.

Opposition to contraception in this scientific age seems medieval. Maybe so, but it’s a matter of religious freedom and belief, the Catholic bishops insist. It’s also a political issue for the church.

The Catholic church must oppose contraception if it’s to keep faith with its true believers, especially women who have lived by that rule for generations despite the hardship it often imposed. This is the church’s most devoted constituency — its base, so to speak.

Trouble is, even Catholic leaders know a majority of Catholic women today violate the contraception ban. They’ve seen the polls. And they must appreciate that widespread scorning of this rule can ultimately undermine clerical credibility on other religious matters, especially with the church’s younger, more questioning adherents. But the bishops are trapped in church history.

The Obama administration’s handling of the issue was incredibly clumsy and insensitive. Therefore, it owed bishops a way out, which it tried to do with an about-face Friday on its contraception insurance edict. For their part, the bishops, like conservative clergy in all religions, have got to get off the dime and begin bringing women into the dialogue about dogma.

This is a clash that never should have happened. Then again, considering how organized religion has historically ignored or marginalized women, maybe it had to happen.

Complete Article HERE!

Illinois priest who freelanced his prayers loses his job

What a crying shame! Sacrificing priests on the altar of conformity.

Remember, fellow priests, do not pray from your heart. Pray only from the book. That’s how God wants it!

For 18 years, the Rev. William Rowe has done a little improvising while celebrating Mass on Sunday mornings at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Mount Carmel, Ill.

Now those deviations have led to his resignation in an incident that may be tied to global changes to the Catholic liturgy.

Last Sunday, instead of saying “Lord our God that we may honor you with all our mind and love everyone in truth of heart,” during the opening prayer, he altered the phrasing to better reflect the day’s Gospel message, in which Jesus heals a man with a troubled spirit.

“We thank you, God, for giving us Jesus who helped us to be healed in mind and heart and proclaim his love to others,” the 72-year-old priest prayed instead.

Three days later, Rowe received a letter from Bishop Edward Braxton accepting his resignation.

“The problem is that when I pray at Mass, I tend to change the words that are written in the book to match what I was talking about, or what a song is about,” Rowe said in an interview.

The book in question is the Roman Missal, a book of prayers, chants and responses used during the Mass. Rowe has been saying some of those prayers in his own words for years.

But in December the Vatican-mandated adoption of a new English-language translation of the Missal may have given bishops an opportunity to rein in freewheeling priests who have been praying in their own words for decades.

“Since December when the new translation came out, no one has said what would happen to you if you changed stuff,” said the Rev. John Foley, director of the Center for Liturgy at St. Louis University. “But I find it hard to believe a priest in Illinois would be forced to resign because he wasn’t using the exact words from the translation. It’s not a strong-enough offense for that.”

In the wake of sweeping changes in the church as a result of the Second Vatican Council, some priests in the 1970s began using their own words and phrasing in place of the verbatim translations of the original Latin liturgy in the Missal, Foley said. He said there has never been an established penalty for improvising nonalterable prayers, and bishops have traditionally looked past an individual priest’s extemporizing.

Monsignor Kevin Irwin, professor of liturgical studies at the Catholic University of America, said there are some prayers said by a priest at Mass in which he is “beholden to the structure not to the words.”

But there are also prayers that priests are “duty bound to say,” said the Rev. John Baldovin, professor of historical and liturgical theology at Boston College. Most of the prayers in the Missal, in fact, are not optional, he said.

Rowe said Belleville’s previous bishop, Wilton Gregory, had discussed his off-the-cuff prayer habit with him, referring to the practice as “pushing the envelope.” He said five years ago, Braxton also discussed the matter with him, and asked him to read directly from the Missal.

“I told him I couldn’t do that,” Rowe said. “That’s how I pray.”

Last summer, Rowe said, Braxton made it clear to his priests that “no priest may deviate from any wording in the official Missal.”

In October, two months ahead of the introduction of the new Missal translation, Braxton said he couldn’t permit Rowe to continue improvising, according to Rowe. The priest offered his resignation but didn’t receive a response.

Braxton did not respond to a request for an interview with the Post-Dispatch.

On Monday, Braxton wrote Rowe a letter informing him that he’d accepted his resignation.

The action did not sit well with the nearly 500 families at St. Mary’s, some of whom are contemplating a letter writing campaign to Braxton. “They’re devastated,” said Alice Worth, principal at St. Mary’s School. “Father Bill is the backbone of our parish.”

“The ways Father changed the Mass ritual with his words have only made it more meaningful to us as opposed to distancing us from the church,” Worth said. “Everything he does is based on our faith, it’s not just a whim. There’s a reason for every word he prays.”

Complete Article HERE!

Father Bob: tradition v modern life

COMMENTARY

The death throes of the latest Australian Catholic cause célèbre are being played out over the next few days.

Yesterday was Father Bob Maguire’s last Sunday Mass at his beloved St Peter and Paul’s Church in South Melbourne. The place was packed to the gunnels as usual. On Wednesday, he will be made to retire and be relocated, much against his will and the will of his parish, which fought the dismissal with a Jesuitical doggedness. The parish community, led by the local council’s deputy mayor, Frank O’Connor, still failed to move the stony heart of Archbishop Denis Hart.

Father Bob is one of three priests sacked in recent years. While he has passed the retirement age for priests, hence his removal, Bishop William Morris of Toowoomba was made to leave last year for merely raising the issue of the ordination of women. And before that, Father Peter Kennedy got the chop from St Mary’s of South Brisbane for breaching church rules.

These beautiful men are the sacrificial lambs as an ancient faith battles to accommodate modernity. Social change has been a post-war challenge for many institutions and Catholicism, through Vatican II, the Papal encyclical Humanae Vitae, the sex abuse scandal and now the banishment of Father Bob, lurches one step forward and two back into this third millennium.

What is the import of this dispute? Will Father Bob become a forgotten man in a tiny local battle in a small corner of the world or will he become a powerful metaphor that helps the Church grapple with change? Will this parochial stoush become a global touchpaper? Only time will tell.

Father Bob is 77. He is not just a national media figure with a show on ABC radio station Triple J, 55,000 followers on Twitter, appearances on SBS television guru, but he is also famous for his welfare work with the Open Family Foundation. He is the most celebrated Catholic in the country and yet he is being forced from office. That is because he is also a constant challenge to the leadership in a faith where the notion of obedience is enshrined in the idea of the apostolic succession. Obedience is at the heart of his organisation and his vows.

The core of this debate was alluded to in November when Father Bob argued that this act of retrenchment was vengeance against a ‘‘Cafeteria Catholic’’ by Cardinal George Pell. The idea of the ‘‘Cafeteria Catholic’’ was first raised in America the 1970s and is a pejorative term that decries those Catholics who dissent from orthodoxy, by implying they choose their views as one chooses a meal in a cafeteria. There are Catholics now who, rather than follow the line from Rome on the controversial issues, desire the freedom to choose.

The Australian version of ‘‘Cafeteria Catholicism’’ was recently spelled out by Cardinal Pell when he travelled to Cork, Ireland in August last year.
His Eminence divided the Catholic world into two – ‘‘authentic’’ and ‘‘cafeteria’’ Catholics. This dichotomy is to be found in all organisations for there are always conservatives and reformers in every assembly. ‘‘Cafeteria Catholics’’ is a delightful jab at one’s foes. Somehow food is the perfect put down. One only has to think of Chardonnay Socialists, Latte Lefties and now Cafeteria Catholics.

However, cafeterias are also places where people engage in life. They are not posh. They are not sinful. They are vibrant hubs where humans congregate and thrive. That His Eminence would view the word ‘‘cafeteria’’ as a put down indicates a willingness to take his faith to the margins of Australian society rather than sacrifice his religious purity.

So it is a shame to see the promotion of change resistance when change so obviously beckons. The ‘‘Cafeteria Catholics’’ like Father Bob are derided as liberal Christians who ‘‘give to priority to the contemporary understandings’’. The Pell Doctrine appears to favour a religiously pure Church even if that means smaller numbers and getting rid of Father Bob.
So this is not just a local battle on the age of a retiring priest. It is a fundamental and globally significant difference of the view of change and modernity in the largest denomination in the world.

Despite this significance, lest we forget that it also is an act of cruelty to evict an elderly man and his beloved dog, Franklin, from their home.
What is your view?

Should the godless care about how slowly venerable faiths take to modernity?
Is the failure of churches to embrace change a cause of sadness or an opportunity for atheism?

Are Cardinal Pell and Archbishop Dennis Hart the best things that ever happened to Australian atheism?

Is the tale of the Bobster an irrelevant local issue or a metaphor of historic significance?
Over to you . . .

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic League: Jewish Rabbis Even Greater Abusers Than Catholic Priests

COMMENTARY

Bill Donohue, the head of the pedophile priests supporting Catholic League, in an attempt to deflect attention from the regular, serious, and unresolved sexual transgressions, sexual assault, and child rape within the Catholic Church, today pointed the finger at Orthodox Jewish Rabbis, saying, “[t]he most serious cases of the sexual abuse of minors currently taking place are among Orthodox Jewish rabbis in Brooklyn.” Donohue, proving the ludicrousness of the existence and purpose of his entire organization, lambasted Jay Leno for a joke he made last night about an L.A. Bishop who recently resigned after revealing he had fathered two children. Donohue claims also that Leno has “a long track record of bashing Catholicism.” So, rather than work to fix the root causes of systemic and felonious issues within the Church, Donohue chooses instead to attacks its critics, hoping, praying that no one will notice the Catholic Church’s role and reputation in America is rapidly diminishing, even among America’s Catholics.

Jay Leno, according to the Catholic League, Thursday said, “I thought bishops could only move diagonally. I didn’t know they could move up and down.”

Donohue’s group added,

When making these remarks, Leno gestured with his hands, waving them side to side, and then up and down.

Leno went on to say, “Isn’t it amazing the bishop of L.A. confessed to fathering two children? But, hey, he didn’t use birth control, so at least he followed the church rules. Ya gotta give him credit for that.”

“The most serious cases of the sexual abuse of minors currently taking place are among Orthodox Jewish rabbis in Brooklyn, yet Leno would never tell a joke at their expense,” Donohue said in a statement. “The rate of HIV/AIDS among homosexuals is 50 times higher than in the rest of the population, yet Leno would never tell a joke at their expense. [Note: making such jokes would be equally offensive.] But if there is one wayward Catholic clergyman, it’s not only acceptable to ridicule him, it’s okay to mock the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

(The disclaimer above is Donohue’s, not ours.)

Donohue offered no proof of his allegations, nor did he offer any compassion, help, or hope for any victims, regardless of religious affiliation.

Donohue, who earlier this month claimed that rape victims of the Catholic Church’s pedophile priests are “professional victims,” and “a pitiful bunch of malcontents” unable to move on, apparently is learning that we’re watching his every word. In the past, Donohue would not have inserted the HIV/AIDS disclaimer.

In fact, just two months ago, Donohue called AIDS a “self-inflicted wound,” claiming that if “homosexuals” followed the teachings of the Church they would not “self-destruct.”

But Donohue’s default position of trying to point the finger elsewhere is offensive and misguided. No doubt there are child abuse problems in the Jewish community also, but Donohue neither works for the Jewish community, nor the Islamic community, nor any other community.

If Donohue spent his time working to prevent abuse, working to help victims of child rape by the Catholic Church — rather than, say, assist Archbishop Dolan to bash 16-year old abuse victims — then perhaps he would be qualified to point fingers and call his organization the “Catholic League.” Because right now, it’s merely a league of one extraordinary bigot.

Complete Article HERE!