04/8/17

Top Vatican, U.S. church officials back gay-friendly book

by David Gibson

The Vatican’s point man on family issues and a U.S. cardinal who is close to Pope Francis have both written blurbs for a new book by a Jesuit priest and popular author that calls on the Catholic Church to be more respectful and compassionate toward gay people.

They called it “brave, prophetic, and inspiring” and a “much-needed book.”

Such positive language from such senior church leaders is extraordinary and another sign of how Francis is reorienting the church toward a more pastoral focus.

Building Bridges: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity, by Rev. James Martin of America magazine, does not advocate for any changes in doctrine nor does it touch third-rail topics like same-sex marriage; nor do the churchmen who praise the book, to be published by HarperOne on June 13.

But simply using terms like LGBT to describe people is highly controversial for many in the church who insist that gay people be described as “homosexual” or “same-sex attracted” rather than by words that seem to affirm their orientation.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, who was recently chosen by Francis to head the Vatican office on laity, family, and life issues, praises Martin’s writing in his blurb: “A welcome and much-needed book that will help bishops, priests, pastoral associates, and all church leaders more compassionately minister to the LGBT community.

“It will also help LGBT Catholics feel more at home in what is, after all, their church,” said Farrell, the former bishop of Dallas.

“In too many parts of our church LGBT people have been made to feel unwelcome, excluded, and even shamed,” Newark Cardinal Joseph Tobin, who Francis personally picked for the New Jersey archdiocese, adds in a blurb.

“Father Martin’s brave, prophetic, and inspiring new book marks an essential step in inviting church leaders to minister with more compassion, and in reminding LGBT Catholics that they are as much a part of our church as any other Catholic.”

“The Gospel demands that LGBT Catholics must be genuinely loved and treasured in the life of the church. They are not,” writes Bishop Robert McElory of San Diego, also a rising star in the U.S. hierarchy, in another endorsement.

McElroy says Martin “provides us with the language, perspective, and sense of urgency to replace a culture of alienation with a culture of merciful inclusion.”

Francis himself sparked controversy when he used the term “gay” last year in saying that the Catholic Church should apologize to LGBT people, among others, that it has “offended.”

The pope’s comments came in the wake of the shooting massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., in June that left 49 dead, and Martin’s book also emerged from that tragedy.

Martin, whose books about Jesus and Catholic spirituality and related topics have landed on the best-seller lists, has often written about the role of gays and lesbians in the church, and about the need for the church to do more to welcome them.

But he was struck by the relative lack of compassion from U.S. bishops for gays and lesbians who were targeted in the Orlando shooting and elsewhere, and he voiced his concerns in a powerful Facebook video that went viral.

The video prompted more than the usual level of anger and criticism of Martin, and prompted him to begin writing about how to address the rift between LGBT people and church leaders.

He outlined his views in an October talk — an address that would become the basis of “Building Bridges” — as he accepted an award from New Ways Ministry, a group for LGBT Catholics and causes that in the past has been condemned by church leaders who said it was not authorized to represent itself as a Catholic organization. (The talk was reprinted in America magazine.)

A co-founder of New Ways Ministry is Sister Jeannine Gramick, whose views were considered so far outside the bounds of Catholic teaching that she was barred by the Vatican and her order from speaking about homosexuality. She transferred to another order and has continued to minister and speak and write on the topic.

In fact, Gramick also blurbs Martin’s book, writing: “Father Martin shows how the Rosary and the rainbow flag can peacefully meet each other. A must-read.” That she is endorsing the same book as senior church leaders is an indication of the sea change under Francis.

“I was delighted that Cardinal Farrell and Cardinal Tobin found the book helpful,” Martin said in an email to RNS. “To me, it’s a reminder that many in the hierarchy today support a more compassionate approach to LGBT Catholics.”

In his talk, as in the book, Martin called on church leaders and all Catholics to treat gays and lesbians with greater respect and sensitivity.

He said church leaders should address LGBT people by the term they call themselves, and he called for an end to the indiscriminate firings of church employees who are discovered to be gay or who make their sexual orientation public. Such firings selectively target LGBT people, he said.

But he also called on gays and lesbians to be more considerate and respectful of the hierarchy, saying both sides must listen to each other and learn from each other.

“This may be very hard for people who feel beaten down by the church to hear,” Martin writes in the book.

“One gay friend recently told me that this mockery comes not from a place of hatred, but from a sense of betrayal. But being respectful of people with whom you disagree is at the heart of the Christian way. And part of this is surely about forgiveness, an essential Christian virtue.”

Complete Article HERE!

02/9/17

Steve Bannon Aligns With Vatican Hard-Liners Who Oppose Pope Francis

Anti-Pope Francis posters appeared in Rome last week, with a message in a Roman street dialect saying, “Hey, Frank, you took over Congregations, suspended priests, decapitated the Order of Malta and the Franciscans of The Immaculate, ignored Cardinals… Where the heck is your mercy?”

BY

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is known to have cultivated ties with far-right parties in Europe, like the National Front in France. He also seems to have forged an alliance with Vatican hard-liners who oppose Pope Francis’ less rigid approach to church doctrine. The New York Times reported this week on Bannon’s connections at the Vatican.

Before becoming White House chief strategist, Bannon — who is Catholic — was the executive chairman of Breitbart News, which he called a “platform for the alt-right.” That’s a movement associated with white nationalism.

During a visit to Rome a few years ago, Bannon struck up a friendship with the American Cardinal Raymond Burke, a traditionalist who has emerged as one of Pope Francis’ most vocal critics.

Bannon hired Thomas Williams, an American former priest, as Breitbart’s Rome correspondent. Williams belonged to the conservative Legion of Christ, which was roiled by scandal when it was revealed its founder had been a pedophile.

Williams recently told his own story on an Italian TV talk show: In 2003, he fathered a child, but he kept it secret until he was outed by a news report. He then left the priesthood and married the child’s mother — who is the daughter of the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, Mary Ann Glendon.

In July 2014, Bannon addressed a conference that was held inside the Vatican but was sponsored by a conservative Catholic group. Speaking via Skype, Bannon painted an almost apocalyptic vision of the state of the Western world.

“We’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict, of which, if the people in this room, the people in the church, do not bind together and really form what I feel is an aspect of the church militant, to really be able to not just stand with our beliefs, but to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting.”

A barbarity, Bannon added, that would completely eradicate “everything we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years,” and which he clearly spelled out a few minutes later: “We are in an outright war against jihadist Islamic fascism. And this war is, I think, metastasizing far quicker than governments can handle it.”

This is language that Pope Francis has never used. The pope has repeatedly urged European countries to welcome migrants — who are, in the majority, Muslim — and he has championed the rights of the poor.

A year ago, Francis criticized candidate Donald Trump for wanting to build a wall along the border with Mexico, saying, “A person who thinks only about building walls … and not building bridges is not Christian.”

But that’s not Bannon’s worldview. While most Breitbart reports on the pope have been neutral, headlines about the pope when Bannon was in charge included:

  • “Seven Ways Pope Francis Slapped Conservatives in the United States”
  • “A Vatican Expert: Pope Francis a ‘Friend of Islam’ “
  • “Pope Francis Slams Capitalism, Death Penalty, Immigration Law; No Real Mention of Abortion, Gay Marriage”
  • “Pope Francis Threatens Legacy of Pope John Paul II, Ronald Reagan”

While Breitbart and Bannon seem to be making common cause with Roman Catholics who are on the outs with this pope, these Vatican hard-liners are not very powerful.

Nevertheless, Pope Francis’ supporters inside the Vatican worry that following Trump’s election victory, the pope is a little more isolated — a lonely progressive on the global stage. They say this has emboldened his critics both within and outside the Vatican, who have become more vocal.

For example, just last week, mysterious anti-Francis posters cropped up around Rome. The photo showed the pope looking uncharacteristically very grouchy, and the unidentified author — using a Roman street dialect — accused him of acting in an authoritarian manner and showing lack of mercy, despite the fact that Francis has made “Mercy” the unofficial slogan of his papacy.

Francis has not reacted. But in a surprising move, on Sunday, he issued the very first papal blessing for the Super Bowl. It was a video message in his native Spanish — not in Italian, which he usually uses for official messages — in which he said such a sporting event “shows that it’s possible to build a culture of encounter and a world of peace.”

The Italian media labeled the message “anti-Trump.”

Complete Article HERE!

11/12/16

Pope meets with men who left the priesthood

As the Jubilee Year of Mercy is rapidly coming to a close, the pope reached out once again to those in need of mercy – men who have left the priesthood. 

For two hours, Pope Francis met with seven men, who now have families, and spent time listening to their stories and getting to know their wives and children. 

Pope Francis did not intend to judge or justify them, but desired to express his closeness to these men, who felt they had made a mistake by becoming a priest. Many faced extreme opposition from their diocese, family or friends for leaving. Because of this, the pope wanted to send a gentle message of mercy to the five Italians, Spaniard and Latin American men he met during the surprise encounter.

Additionally, the families asked him to autograph various objects, like this cell phone case and gave him gifts as well. 

The pope ended the visit by reciting a Hail Mary with them all together and giving a group blessing. 

When the pope headed outside to leave the apartments on the outskirts of Rome, however, he was greeted by masses of people who waited for him with cell phones posed and ready for pictures. 

pope-meets-with-men-who-left-the-priesthood

Complete Article HERE!

08/2/16

Pope Francis sets up commission to study question of women deacons

The Pope gave his blessing to the idea of setting up a study into female deacons in May

The Pope gave his blessing to the idea of setting up a study into female deacons in May

Pope Francis has set up a special commission to study whether women will be allowed to become deacons in the Catholic Church.

The issue has historically troubled the Church, with many opposing the appointment of females.

The commission of seven men and six women will study the issue, and look into the historical role of women in the early years of the Church.

Deacons are a clergy rank one below priest.

They are ordained ministers who can preach or preside over weddings and funerals, but cannot celebrate Mass.

Supporters say women are poorly represented within the Church and that appointing female deacons would give women greater sway in decision-making.

The Pope first remarked in May that he was willing to set up a commission to study the issue.

He had told senior members of women’s religious orders he was open to the issue of considering female deacons: “It would be useful for the Church to clarify this question. I agree.'”

The Vatican also clarified that the Pope was not considering the possibility of ordaining women priests.

Currently all Catholic priests and deacons are male. Priests must be celibate, but deacons can be married men.

Complete Article HERE!

12/1/15

Pope Orders Audit of Church’s Wealth as Whistleblowers Pursued

By 

st peters

Pope Francis, galvanized by a scandal over Vatican finances, has ordered the most powerful bodies in the city-state to launch an unprecedented audit of its wealth and crack down on runaway spending.

At the suggestion of his economic chief, Cardinal George Pell, Francis has set up a “Working-Party for the Economic Future” which brings together the Secretariat of State, or prime minister’s office, the Vatican Bank and other agencies.

Francis has told the panel “to address the financial challenges and identify how more resources can be devoted to the many good works of the Church, especially supporting the poor and vulnerable,” Danny Casey, director of Pell’s office at the Secretariat for the Economy, said in an interview.

The pope’s initiatives come as five people stand trial in the Vatican over the leak of confidential documents in two books published last month that described corruption, mismanagement and wasteful spending by church officials. Those on trial deny wrongdoing.

Francis, 78, has pushed for more openness and transparency in Vatican financial and economic agencies but he has faced resistance from the Rome bureaucracy.

Seek Corruption

On the flight back to Rome on Monday after a visit to Africa, Francis told reporters that the so-called Vatileaks II scandal was an indication of the mess that he’s trying to sort out. The trial of two former Vatican employees alongside the books’ authors highlighted Church efforts “to seek out corruption, the things which aren’t right,” he said, according to a transcript provided by the Vatican.

The working group, which held its first meeting last week, will study measures to cut costs and raise revenue as part of a long-term financial plan.

“This will include comparing actual expenditure against budgets at a consolidated level, which is a new initiative,” Casey said.

As officials try to drag the Vatican’s financial management into the 21st century officials will appoint one of the world’s top-four accounting firms to review the Church’s processes, Casey said. The audit will look at financial investments, real estate and cultural assets. The four biggest firms are PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Deloitte & Touche LLP, EY LLP and KPMG LLP.

Assets that would never be sold and thus have no market value — including St Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and priceless art treasures by Michelangelo — will be included in financial statements though the Vatican is still considering whether and how they should be valued.

While Casey declined to speculate on overall asset values, Pell, his boss, said earlier this year that the Vatican’s total assets were worth more than $3 billion. Separately, the Institute for the Works of Religion, better-known as the Vatican Bank, has 6 billion euros ($6.4 billion) in deposits, and assets under management and custody for clients.

Real Estate

According to the two books which triggered the latest scandal — Avarice, by Emiliano Fittipaldi, and Merchants in the Temple, by Gianluigi Nuzzi — the Vatican’s assets are massively under-valued. For Fittipaldi, its real estate holdings alone are worth an estimated 4 billion euros, four times as much as their book value.

The two volumes relate that Francis himself has denounced costs as being “out of control” and that St Peter’s Pence donations go not to the needy but to Vatican departments. Many cardinals live in apartments of some 500 square meters (5,400 square feet) waited on by aides and surrounded by Renaissance art.

The Australian Pell, prefect at the Secretariat for the Economy, has been drawn into the controversy. Avarice alleges that Pell and three aides, including Casey, accumulated expenses totaling 501,000 euros between July 2014 and January 2015 for costs including business class flights from Rome to London, Munich and Malta.

Resistant to Change

Pell, who denied the allegations when they first surfaced in the Italian magazine L’Espresso in February, declined to respond to a request for comment. Casey said it was “ridiculous” to suggest the spending was for personal expenses.

“The Cardinal is committed to cost-management as is his whole team,” he said. “Unfortunately every leader working on the financial reforms has at some stage been criticized either personally or professionally — this is a classic diversionary tactic and perhaps a sign that good progress is being made.”

While Francis recruiting experts from outside the Church is a step in the right direction, the pontiff may not be around long enough to see through his reforms, according to papal biographer, Austen Ivereigh. Francis has told his entourage that he plans to remain pontiff until 2020, Ivereigh said — an indication he may then resign, like his predecessor Benedict XVI.

The Vatican can be reformed “but it will take a generation because the existing practices and mindset are so well-established,” Ivereigh said. “The Curia is built to resist change. Historically it was designed to be impervious to outside influence.”

Complete Article HERE!