Is Francis laying the foundation for women to become recognized priests?

Sister Nathalie Becquart poses for a photo during an interview with the Associated Press, in Rome, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. Pope Francis has named the French nun to a Vatican position that should give her a vote in any upcoming meeting of bishops, a small step forward in the long campaign of Catholic women to have a greater say in Catholic decision-making.


Pope Francis has done more to reform the Roman Catholic church for a new age since Pope John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. The ferocity of opposition in U.S. Catholic conservative circles validates this assessment.

Francis acknowledged his growing opposition in off-hand remarks aboard the papal plane on Sept. 4, 2019. ABC News reported Francis as saying it is “an honor if the Americans attack me.”

But for all he is doing, he draws a line about the ordination of women.

He has accepted the decision of Pope John Paul II who said, “I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that the judgment is to be definitely held by all the church’s faithful.”

That did not silence women’s ordination advocates in 1994, and there are even more voices clamoring for it today.

This may have paid off since the Vatican recently included a group lobbying for women’s ordination – the Women’s Ordination Conference — on a website promoting the two-year synod concluding in 2023. In other words, Francis wants to hear from them as well as many other Catholic advocacy groups.

And there’s the rub: Women’s ordination may be way off in the future. But some commentators believe that Francis’ small, incremental moves, like the WOC inclusion and regularizing the roles of lector and eucharistic minister for women, can make it easier for his successor to eventually ordain women though Francis has never acknowledged this objective.

Kate McElwee, executive director of the WOC, admitted to America Magazine that she was surprised the Vatican had accepted the group’s inclusion on the “Resources” site and said it showed “a lot of courage” from the synod office.

What took real courage, however, was the ordination of seven women as priests in the Catholic church by three bishops on a cruise ship on the Danube in 2007. That gave birth to a movement, mostly in North America, that has ordained about 200 women as priests to date. Still, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the number of male priests totaling about 410,000 worldwide.

Other Christian denominations and Reform Judaism, meanwhile, have ordained women for decades.

The Vatican declared the 2007 and subsequent ordinations illicit and said the women declared themselves excommunicated by undergoing the ordination. But the church has stopped making such statements.

Validly ordained male bishops ordained the women to assure apostolic succession and while they are valid, the Vatican will not accept them.

Take the case of Ludmila Jararova, who was secretly ordained a priest in Communist Czechoslovakia back in 1970 for the underground church. Once the church could practice publicly, her male underground peers could continue as priests but she could not.

Author Jill Peterfeso has done an excellent job getting behind the movements that have fostered women for ordinations, the women priests themselves and the communities they lead outside the normal parish structure. In “Womenpriest,” published by Fordham University, one of her major conclusions is that these women do no want to simply be ordained like males.

Their credo, she writes, could be: “We have not walked away from Rome. We offer a new model of ordained ministry in a renewed Roman Catholic Church.”

These “womenpriests,” a word coined by the advocacy groups, resist the clericalism that has kept a patriarchal system in place and want more inclusion all across the board. And on the heels of major clerical sexual abuse scandals, which are still reverberating throughout the world, Peterfeso wrote: “If male priests’ bodies inspire fear and distrust, womenpriests’ bodies represent new potential.”

Without major reform, women are voting with their feet, concluded Peterfeso.

“While women’s attendance at Mass is higher than men, women’s declined twice as much as men,” she wrote.

And the decline among millennial women is significant.

“Nones” — those claiming no religion — are growing. Another group, A Church for our Daughters — an online program supported by about two dozen women’s equality groups — knows that justice and equality for women is still a potent movement and without inclusion of women in church leadership, young women will continue to walk away.

Pope Francis has appointed women to positions of greater authority than any previous pontiff. In 2019, 24 percent of employees at the Holy See were women, compared with 17.6 percent in 2010. When Sister Nathalie Becquart, a member of the Congregation of Xavières, was appointed the first woman undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, she told reporters her appointment was evidence that “the patriarchal mindset [of the church] is changing.” Cardinal Tobin in Newark, who serves on the Vatican Synod Committee, has praised her accomplishments.

Charles Carr, my seminary classmate now in Philadelphia who left before ordination, said, “My personal vote would be for ordaining women as priests. If Eucharist, or union with Christ, is foundational for Christians to experience rebirth into a new life, then why would we not imagine the power of women to play this transformative sacramental role?”

And while most polls show Catholic overwhelmingly support ordaining women, Peterfeso reveals that more would prefer the institutional church ratify the change. As I approach 40 years as a priest, I have met many women who can lead.

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

‘Sex abuse victims still facing pushback and resistance from church’, warns priest

Fr Tom Doyle was one of the first people to highlight the sexual abuse of children by priests in the 1980s

Fr Tom Doyle said the church was run by a ‘tiny aristocracy’

By Sarah Mac Donald

A priest who has campaigned on behalf of clerical sexual abuse victims for more than three decades has criticised the Catholic Church’s “toxic and erroneous teaching” on human sexuality.

Canon lawyer Fr Tom Doyle linked the crisis over the church’s mishandling of allegations of abuse to “a misconception of the clergy and bishops as the essence of the church” who are “essential for salvation”.

He warned there is “still plenty of pushback and resistance in the church” toward abuse victims, adding: “The good of the Church really means the good of the ecclesiastical aristocracy.”

Speaking at a webinar ‘Stolen Lives: Abuse & Corruption in the Catholic Church’, which was hosted by the lay reform group, Root & Branch Reform, he said: “It is not a few bad apples in the barrel that is the problem, it is the barrel.”

In his view, “the violation of the most innocent in the church is a scourge that neutralises everything that is Christian about Catholicism”.

Fr Doyle, who served as a pilot in the US air force and was one of the first people to highlight the sexual abuse of children by priests in the 1980s, hit out at the “unrealistic idea that priests and bishops are exalted sacred beings” which he said still exists in the church and paralyses a lot of people from speaking out.

The priest said this belief, which had created “a clerical aristocracy” in the church, had to be changed.

“We all know what clericalism is. It is a disease. It is a virus the Catholic Church has, which means the clergy and the clerical way of life and its values come before anything. It is total nonsense,” he said.

Appealing to lay people to “stop tolerating a clericalised church”, he said they had to challenge the hierarchy when they saw evidence of clericalism which “fuelled the constant, systemic, nightmare of child and adult sexual violation by clerics and non-ordained religious”.

The abuse crisis also stemmed from an emphasis on the protection of the prestige, power, and the economic resources of the hierarchical system of the church, he said.

Fr Doyle said at the top of the hierarchy was “a tiny aristocracy running the whole show while the rest of us are down at the bottom”.

“If you look at the positions of power, the men who actually call the shots, about 3,000 men run the Catholic Church,” he said.

“They are all bishops. None of them have been married, presumably.

“Certainly, none of them have been parents presumably, because if they had been parents, they would have understood clearly the horror of what was happening to children.”

On the issue of mandatory celibacy, he told the webinar: “It seems to me that in some ways you have got to be more Christ-like to be a husband or a wife or a parent than you do to be a priest because you need to learn what it means to be unselfish.

“You have to constantly get up in the middle of the night to take care of sick kids, you put up with your kids when they make mistakes, you bail them out of jail, you do all of these things.”

He warned the majority of abuse victims are still suffering in “cocoons of guilt, shame, fear and silence” because studies showed only 37pc of those who were violated ever came forward.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope Benedict faulted over sex abuse claims: New report is just one chapter in his

— And Catholic Church’s – fraught record

Pope Benedict XVI acknowledges the crowd during an audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Oct.24, 2007. A January 2022 report faulted his handling of several sex abuse cases.


An in-depth report released last week alleges that former Pope Benedict XVI allowed four abusive priests in Munich to remain in ministry. The pope, then known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, led the German archdiocese from 1977 to 1982.

The 1,900-page audit was commissioned by the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising but conducted by independent investigators. It covers the period from 1945 to 2019 and lists 235 alleged clergy who were perpetrators of sexual abuse and at least 497 minors who were victims.

Given Benedict’s status – he was pope from 2005 to 2013, until his historic resignation due to ill health – the news has put additional scrutiny on top leaders’ roles in allowing abusers to go unpunished. It also raises the classic questions of what Benedict knew, and when.

As a journalist, I covered Ratzinger in Rome in the 1980s and wrote a biography of him in 2006. Today, as director of the Center on Religion and Culture at Fordham University, I see this episode as an opportunity to understand the church’s fitful evolution on dealing with abuse.

Influential role

After Ratzinger left Munich in 1982, he came to Rome to serve as Pope John Paul II’s top defender of doctrine. For 23 years he led the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a body tasked with defending Catholic teaching, and arguably the most influential department in the Vatican.

As head, Ratzinger had a say in developing the church’s response to the increasingly public sex abuse crisis. John Paul consulted Ratzinger on important decisions, and major documents from other departments at the Vatican required his approval, or imprimatur, before they could be published.

Pope John Paul II stands beside Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
Pope John Paul II stands beside Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would go on to become Pope Benedict XVI, in 1979

Ratzinger’s initial responses to abuse cases mirrored his record in Munich. In one case in 1985, for example, he rejected an appeal to defrock, or “laicize,” an American priest who sexually abused children, even though the priest himself, as well as the bishop, requested it.

One of Ratzinger’s successors at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, defended his mentor by arguing that in the 1970s and 1980s, neither the church nor society at large understood child sex abuse properly. “It was thought that therapy could resolve the problem. Today we know that this is useless for these criminals,” he said after the release of the Munich report.

‘Weakness of faith’

Another key factor many critics blame for the hierarchy’s resistance to punishing clergy is an attitude called “clericalism,” or treating priests as superior. The late Rev. Donald Cozzens, a Cleveland priest, seminary director and psychologist who published a book on the priesthood in 2000, defined clericalism as an attitude of “privilege and entitlement” among clergy, elites who “think they’re unlike the rest of the faithful.”

Ratzinger and many other church leaders preferred to view the problem as a spiritual one. “I think the essential point is a weakness of faith,” Ratzinger insisted in 2003. He also blamed the secular world, particularly what he called the “unprecedented” moral breakdown of the 1960s and 1970s, and the acceptance of homosexuality.

Two studies by professors at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice showed that abuse did start to spike in the 1960s and declined sharply in the 1980s. But the researchers note that almost 44% of accused abusers were ordained before 1960 and dismiss the notion that gay men are to blame. Moreover, historians have often pointed out that pedophilia and other sexual abuses by clergy are nothing new but date back to at least the 11th century.

When The Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” series finally broke the scandal wide open in January 2002, American bishops sought to institute a zero-tolerance policy for abusers and to hold bishops who covered up accountable. The Vatican pushed back, though the U.S. bishops were able to adopt a relatively strong system laying out procedures for removing accused priests.

Ratzinger also continued to minimize the extent of the scandal, arguing in November 2002 that “less than one percent” of priests were guilty of abuse and blaming the media for “a planned campaign” to “discredit the church.” The real figure was over 4% nationally.

A sudden shift

The previous year, however, Ratzinger had persuaded John Paul to let his office take charge of all abuse cases worldwide to expedite trials and defrock the guilty. The ensuing flood of cases seemed to have an effect: When John Paul died in April 2005 and Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI, he moved quickly to begin laicizing hundreds of abusers. He also apologized to victims and became the first pope ever to meet face to face with clergy abuse victims. This was a sea change for the church, and for Benedict.

But it went only so far. Though Benedict publicly dismissed a bishop whom he considered too liberal, he was not as assertive in taking action against bishops suspected of covering up abuse or being abusers themselves. A key example is the case of Theodore McCarrick, a former Washington, D.C., cardinal.

Allegations that McCarrick had abused children emerged in July 2018 and led to an investigation that showed that Benedict knew of other accusations against McCarrick of sexual misconduct with adults but took no public action.

After Francis was elected pope in 2013, he stripped McCarrick of his cardinal’s title and defrocked him. McCarrick has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexually assaulting a teenager in the 1970s.

Francis also began firing other bishops for covering for abusers and started to institute a system of accountability.

Benedict is nearing the end of his life, living in seclusion in a quiet monastery inside the Vatican walls. Beyond the damage to his reputation, he likely won’t face sanctions for his actions decades ago in Munich.

But this episode helps illustrate how the Catholic Church got to this point and what remains to be done. And it may sway cardinals in the next conclave to choose a pope who has a stronger record on abuse.

Complete Article HERE!

Support your children if they are gay, pope tells parents


Pope Francis said on Wednesday that parents of gay children should not condemn them but offer them support.

He spoke in unscripted comments at his weekly audience in reference to difficulties that parents can face in raising offspring.

Those issues included “parents who see different sexual orientations in their children and how to handle this, how to accompany their children, and not hide behind an attitude of condemnation,” Francis said.

He has previously said that gays have a right to be accepted by their families as children and siblings.

He has also said that while the Church cannot accept same-sex marriage it can support civil union laws aimed at giving gay partners joint rights in areas of pensions and health care and inheritance issues.

Last year, the Vatican’s doctrinal office issued a document saying that Catholic priests cannot bless same-sex unions, a ruling that greatly disappointed gay Catholics.

In some countries, such as the United States and Germany, parishes and ministers had begun blessing same-sex unions in lieu of marriage, and there have been calls for bishops to de facto institutionalise these.

Conservatives in the 1.3 billion-member Church have said the pope – who has sent notes of appreciation to priests and nuns who minister to gay Catholics – is giving mixed signals on homosexuality, confusing some of the faithful.

Last month, a Vatican department apologised for “causing pain to the entire LGBTQ community” by removing from its website a link to resource material from a Catholic gay rights advocacy group in preparation for a Vatican meeting in 2023 on the Church’s future direction. read more

The Church teaches that gays should be treated with respect and that, while same-sex acts are sinful, same-sex tendencies are not.

Benedict Admits Being at Meeting About Priest Accused of Abuse

A statement by the former pope contradicted a previous statement to a law firm investigating allegations of child sex abuse by priests when he was an archbishop.

Pope Benedict XVI in 2010. A report released last week said the former pope mishandled at least four cases of sexual abuse accusations when he was an archbishop in Germany.Credit…

By Elisabetta Povoledo and

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said on Monday that he had been at a meeting at which the case of a priest accused of pedophilia had been discussed, contradicting a previous statement he made to a German law firm investigating accusations of clerical sexual abuse.

On Monday, Benedict’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, issued a statement saying the former pontiff’s previous assertion about not attending the meeting to the law firm conducting the investigation, Westpfahl Spilker Wastl, was “objectively false.”

Last week, the law firm issued a report that found, among other things, that Benedict had mishandled four cases in which priests were accused of sexual abuse, allegations that threaten to tarnish the legacy of the former pontiff.

The firm was investigating how allegations of clerical sexual abuse had been handled in the German archdiocese of Munich and Freiburg between 1945 and 2019. Benedict — then known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — was archbishop of the diocese and in charge of its clerics between 1977 and 1982.

At a news conference presenting the findings of the report Thursday, a representative of the law firm said Benedict had denied being at one meeting at which the case of a priest who had been sent to Munich from the diocese of Essen to receive treatment had been discussed, even though minutes of the meeting showed he had been present.

Upon reading the findings of the report, the retired pope said he had been present at the meeting in question “contrary to what was stated,” Archbishop Gänswein said in his statement. He added that Benedict’s previous assertion was not made in “bad faith” but was the result of a mistake in the editing process of an 82-page statement provided to the lawyers.

In Monday’s statement, Benedict, 94, apologized for the error but maintained that, while he had been present at that meeting, “the pastoral assignment of the priest in question was not decided at this meeting.”

In the original statement responding to questions by the lawyers conducting the investigation, Benedict had said he did not know that the priest in question had been accused of sex abuse against minors, and that the documents seeking his transfer to Munich only mentioned health-related issues that required psychotherapy. The priest was described as “very gifted,” and could have been assigned to different tasks, Benedict said.

The transfer request from Essen mentioned that the priest had been “immediately taken out of pastoral care” because of a report coming from the parish community, but did not provide further details or mention suspicions of sexual abuse. Benedict added that he had no memory of being informed about what role the new priest was going to take.

The priest was in fact allowed to return to pastoral work a few weeks after his arrival in Munich, and in 1986 he was convicted of sexually abusing minors in the diocese of Essen and given an 18-month suspended sentence with five years of probation. When news of the case made headlines, in 2010, the archdiocese said the decision to let the priest reassume his duties had been made by Cardinal Ratzinger’s deputy in Munich.

Archbishop Gänswein said Benedict had been reading the report, which runs to some 1,900 pages, since receiving it on Thursday, but that it would “take time to read it completely” because of Benedict’s “age and health.” He said Benedict would comment on the report once he had finished reading it.

Archbishop Gänswein said the contents of the report had filled Benedict with “shame and pain” for the suffering caused to victims, and expressed closeness to his home dioceses, “in particular to the victims who had to experience abuse and indifference.”

Complete Article HERE!