Vatican slams German reformers, warns of potential for schism

The Holy See rebuked the progressive “Synodal Path,” which seeks more agency for lay members, saying it has no authority on doctrine. They warned that issues taken up by the group could split the Catholic Church.

Shepherds in Rome have been criticized for the mishandling of scandals but refuse to share power with the flock

The Vatican on Thursday issued a terse statement on the progressive German Catholic movement known as the “Synodal Path.” The statement warned German reformers they had no authority to instruct bishops on moral or doctrinal matters.

Moreover, the Holy See made clear that it views the Synodal Path’s calls for addressing homosexuality, celibacy, and women in the Church as divisive and warned those calls could cause a fracture.

Members of the Synodal Path, a group made up of equal numbers of German bishops and lay Catholics, meet regularly. In February, they called on the Catholic Church to allow priests to marry, women to become deacons, and same-sex couples to receive the Church’s blessing.

The Vatican, or Holy See, said the Synodal Path, “does not have the faculty to oblige bishops and the faithful to assume new forms of governance and new approaches to doctrine and morals.”

To do so, read the statement, “would represent a wound to ecclesial communion and a threat to the unity of the Church.”

German reformers responded to Vatican statement with ‘astonishment’

Speaking on behalf of the Synodal Path, Chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference Georg Bätzig and President of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) Irme Stetter-Karp, said they were “astonished” at the “poor form” the Vatican had shown by releasing such a statement to the public without putting a name to it.

Both Bätzig and Stetter-Karp vowed there would be no “German deviation” but said it is their “responsibility to clearly point out where change is needed.” The two say the problems they are addressing are not unique to Germany, but common to dioceses all over the world.

Bätzig and Stetter-Karp voiced “bemused regret” over the fact that no direct communication with the Vatican had yet taken place.

On Saturday, the German Catholic women’s movement Maria 2.0 (Mary 2.0) said church leaders should not fear confrontation with the Vatican.

Theologian Maria Mesrian, who represents the group, told Deutschlandfunk Radio that the bishops will have to “decide whether they want a living church in Germany or whether they would rather lead a dead institution.”

Mesrian said the Vatican is all about “power and the unity of the omnipresent church.”

Hundreds of thousands leave Catholic Church over lack of reform

The German group, formed in the wake of woefully mishandled clergy sexual abuse scandals, also calls for ordinary Catholics to have more of a say in how the Church operates. The Vatican again warned that if national Churches chose to pursue their own paths they would, “weaken, rot and die.”

In 2021, 360,000 Catholics formally left the German Church— which has 22 million members in the country and rakes in €6.45 billion ($6.58 billion) in church taxes every year — in protest at corruption and abuse

Although progressive European and US Catholics would likely be willing to support progressive issues, such as blessing same-sex relationships and ordaining women, Rome would risk backlash with fast-growing South American and African congregations.

In 2019, Pope Francis warned German bishops against the temptation to change for the sake of appeasing certain groups or ideas. Observers speculate that the reforms could leave the Catholic Church open to a splintering, similar to the one which befell the Anglican and Protestant Churches after they introduced similar changes.

According to the Vatican statement, any changes to teaching on morals or doctrine must be taken up by the Church’s own synodal path. The Holy See said preliminary consultations are already being held globally in preparation for a meeting of bishops next year in Rome.

The next gathering of the German Synodal Path is scheduled to convene on September 8-10.


Canada’s Inuit seek Pope’s help to return accused priest from France

Pope Francis waves as he leads the Angelus prayer from his window, at the Vatican July 17, 2022.


Canada’s Inuit people will press Pope Francis to help return a retired Roman Catholic priest accused of sexual abuse to face charges in Canada, a former political leader in the country’s North said.

Francis plans to visit Canada July 24-29 to apologize for abuses of indigenous children in government schools largely run by the Catholic church.

Retired priest Johannes Rivoire, 93, is charged with sexual assault related to his work in northern parishes for the Catholic congregation Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. The charge against Rivoire, who lives in Lyon, France, was laid by Canadian police in February.

A woman alleged that Rivoire sexually assaulted her between 1974 and 1979, when she was a young girl. Neither the charge nor any allegations against Rivoire have been proven in court.

Rivoire, who has French and Canadian citizenship, did not respond to a request for comment Reuters made through France’s Oblates.

The woman who alleged the assault, now a grandmother, said to this day she does not like Sundays, when her abuse often took place. She keeps her hair short, remembering that her abuser would pull the long hair she had as a girl, to keep her quiet.

“I’m hoping (Francis) can help,” the woman told Reuters. “We’re Inuit, we have feelings too. We’re hurt from inside to outside.”

Identities of sexual assault victims are protected by Canadian courts.

Inuit have long alleged that Rivoire sexually abused children during his work in northern Canada from the 1960s to 1993.

Police laid three sex-related charges against Rivoire in 1998, but by then he had left for France. Canada’s Justice Department dropped those charges in 2017 concluding there was little chance of conviction given his departure.

Father Vincent Gruber, who leads France’s Oblates, said the group has asked Rivoire over the years to deal with the charges against him but he has refused.

Piita Irniq, 75, a former Nunavut politician, said he will use the five minutes he is scheduled with the Pope in Iqaluit next Friday to raise Rivoire’s case.

Irniq’s childhood friend, Marius Tungilik, said he was sexually abused by clergy, including Rivoire, as a boy in what’s now Naujaat, Nunavut.

The trauma drove Tungilik to drink heavily, leading to his 2012 death, Irniq said.

“He used alcohol to try and heal from what happened.”

The extradition treaty between Canada and France states that neither country is bound to extradite its own nationals. A spokesperson for Canada’s Justice Department declined to comment on whether Canada asked France to extradite Rivoire.

France’s foreign ministry and justice ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

“We urge Johannes Rivoire to do what he should have done long ago, cooperate with police and make himself available for the legal process,” said Father Ken Thorson, leader of OMI Lacombe, one of Canada’s Oblates groups.

A Vatican spokesperson said he needed to seek more information about Rivoire.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope Names First Women to Office That Helps Select Bishops

The three women will serve five-year terms in the Vatican office that vets candidates, enhancing the role of women in the church’s operations.

A Vatican courtyard. One expert said the appointment of three women to a previously all-male committee would resonate throughout the church.

By Gaia Pianigiani

Pope Francis on Wednesday appointed women for the first time to the office that advises him in the choice of bishops across the globe, a move that bolsters efforts to give women a larger voice in the church’s operations.

The decision to name the three women — two nuns and a laywoman — as members of the Congregation for Bishops will put them in position to influence the selection of the 5,300 bishops who lead dioceses and play a prominent role in the church’s interaction with the faithful all over the world.

“The Pope is saying that the church is choosing bishops together with women,” said Paolo Rodari, a Vatican expert for the Italian daily La Repubblica. “Even in the most male chauvinist niches of the church, his message will resonate.”

The priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church is restricted to men only, based on doctrinal teaching that all of Jesus’ apostles were male. But women’s groups have been pressing for more authority, given that women participate so actively in church life.

The three women who were selected are Sister Raffaella Petrini, the highest-ranking woman in the Vatican City State and the deputy governor of the area; Sister Yvonne Reungoat, the French former superior general of an Italian religious order, the Daughters of Mary the Helper; and a laywoman, Maria Lia Zervino, president of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations.

The office’s members meet a couple of times a month in Rome to evaluate candidates for bishop submitted by Vatican ambassadors and archbishops. It then advises the pope, who has the final word and has the latitude to appoint candidates who have not been assessed by the panel.

The size of the office varies, but the group announced on Wednesday includes 14 people — the three women, along with 11 cardinals, bishops and priests, who will serve five-year terms.

Francis signaled his intention to appoint women to the office in an interview with Reuters earlier this month. “I am open to giving an opportunity,” Francis told Reuters, referring to women. “This way, things are opening up a bit.”

The pope noted in the interview that the new Constitution for the Holy See, which went into effect last month, allows any baptized Catholic to lead most sections of the Vatican’s central administration, indicating that he planned to appoint more women.

He cited the department for Catholic Education and Culture, and the Apostolic Library, now all run by male prelates, as other prominent positions that might soon be held by women.

In recent years, Francis has appointed other women to influential roles that had previously been held only by men, including Sister Alessandra Smerilli, who was named to a deputy position in the Vatican’s development office, which deals with justice and peace issues.

Yet not everyone was convinced that the presence of women on the bishop-selection office would lead to meaningful change.

“These women were chosen because they are in line with the Vatican’s hierarchy,” said Lucetta Scaraffia, a feminist, church historian and founder of Women Church World, the Vatican’s women magazine that exposed the economic exploitation and abuse of nuns, said in a phone interview. “Nothing will change, I think.”

Although women will now be significantly involved at the end of the process of evaluating potential bishops, she expressed concern that the pipeline for identifying and proposing candidates begins at the local level, which is dominated by men.

The process begins with bishops, who identify the priests who are deemed to be suitable. Their names are vetted by Vatican ambassadors, who then forward them to the Rome-based office.

Ms. Scaraffia is a Vatican critic on the role given to Catholic women. She resigned from her editorial post at the magazine, citing an “arid method of the top-down selection, under direct male control, of women who are perceived as being reliable.”

“Things change slowly at the Vatican,” she said.

Complete Article HERE!

Francis DeBernardo on Fr. Mychal Judge and Catholic LGBTQ justice

Francis DeBernardo is executive director of the New Ways Ministry, a MD-based national Catholic organization advocating for LGBTQ justice.

By Tom Hall

Now, Tom turns to an author, advocate and activist who is working for justice and reconciliation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Catholics.

Francis DeBernardo has been the executive director of New Ways Ministry for 26 years. He’s also the author of a book about a gay Franciscan priest renowned for having died trying to save victims of the terrorist attack in New York on 9/11. It’s called Mychal Judge: Take Me Where You Want to Go.