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.


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. 

Vatican Church reforms: Now, women to have a say in appointment of bishops

Pope Francis revealed that women may have a say in choosing the Catholic Church’s Bishops who are all men. This is a significant step forward in including women in higher decision-making roles.

The current Pontiff has made several other appointments of women to high-ranking administrative posts.

By Dipavali Hazra

Pope Francis has been spearheading some radical reforms in the Vatican Church that have opened up doors for women to play a role in the seat of Catholic power. While women cannot move up in the religious hierarchy in the Catholic Church, they will, for the first time ever, have a say in the appointment of Bishops- who are all men.

Though this has not been officially announced yet, the Pope revealed in an interview with Reuters that: “Two women will be appointed for the first time in the committee to elect bishops in the Congregation for Bishops.”

He did not elaborate on who were the women who could be appointed to this committee that comprises cardinals, bishops and priests nor did he say when the announcement would me made official. However, the presence of women in one of the top decision-making bodies is a significant step forward in the fairly orthodox religious organisation. This image of the Catholic Church is one that Pope Francis has been trying to modify.

His tenure has been marked with more openness toward not only women but also homosexuals. He has previously supported same-sex “civil unions” calling for their right to be in a family. As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he did not support same-sex marriage but did back legal protection for those who chose such living arrangements.

Though his previous comments have appeared to flip flop on homosexuality, his more conciliatory approach has divided people, with liberals welcoming his words, conservatives unhappy and analysts observing that real change would come only when legal protections are given in the church doctrine and homosexual behaviour is no longer considered a “sin”.

Also, in the backdrop of the US Supreme Court abortion ruling, the Pope condemned the practice and compared it to “hiring a hit-man to solve a problem”.

Meanwhile, as far as women’s representation is concerned, Pope Francis, during his 9-year tenure, has certainly paved the way for more opportunities in the Vatican.

In March 2022, he had approved a new constitution for the Vatican’s central administration known as the Curia. The new constitution replaced St John Paul II’s founding constitution, which was written in 1988. One of its key reforms was to permit any baptised lay man and woman to head any of the Vatican’s ministries. In a big shift from positions of power being held only by male clergy, the preamble to the new constitution which was adopted on June 5 says, “The pope, bishops and other ordained ministers are not the only evangelizers in the Church.” Another section of the constitution reads: “Any member of the faithful can head a dicastery (Curia department) or organism.”

When he was asked during the Reuters interview about which Vatican departments could be headed by a member of the public as opposed to the clergy he said that such positions could be cleared in the department for Catholic Education and Culture and the Apostolic Library.

Last year Pope Francis had appointed Sister Raffaella Petrini, to the number two position in the Vatican City Governorate which oversees the Vatican offices and residences in the Vatican city state as well as in Rome. Petrini is the first woman to hold the position.

The current Pontiff has made several other appointments of women to high-ranking administrative posts. In January 2020, Francesca di Giovanni was named Undersecretary for the multilateral sector in the Secretariat of State’s Section for Relations with States and International Organizations, another first.

Sister Nathalie Becquart, Sister Alessandra Smerilli, Sister Carmen Ros Nortes are other women who have been appointed to important positions.

Despite the advances made so far, women have traditionally never been ordained and cannot become priests, bishops or popes in the Catholic Church. The Anglican Church, however, has set a precedent by ordaining women Bishops.

Complete Article HERE!

Local Catholic church in San Francisco embracing LGBTQ struggle for equal rights

Most Holy Redeemer Church

By Kenny Choi

The decades-long struggle for equal rights for the gay community included an unlikely transformation within a local Catholic church that is now thriving in San Francisco’s Castro District.

Members of the Most Holy Redeemer Church helped build and branch out the church that it has become today. You don’t have to be family, a bestie, or even a close friend, to be invited for a meal at this warm and welcoming home.

Almost every night of the week for years, Jim Laufenberg and Mike Daly chop, spice up, and cook. They invite neighborhood strangers while walking their dogs Fiona and Finn, fellow passengers on planes, and folks from their church, too.

“Sharing food is a great way of bringing people to the table,” said Daly.

They showcase countless pictures and share candid stories of guests from months, and even years ago. Everywhere you look in their dining room, you’ll see faces, young, old, gay, and straight, including one of Mike’s favorite relics of the Virgin Mary.

“I find peace at mass,” said Daly.

Mike and Jim don’t preach or politicize over dinner. But they do talk passionately about the day they met between ‘prayers in the pews’

“Heard you’re single. Looked up at Jesus and thought, ‘Where have you been all my life,'” said Daly.

Their faith is their foundation as a gay Catholic couple, even when their religion and homosexuality – in practice and theology – still don’t mix in many ways.

That tension between the Catholic church and the LGBTQ community reached a boiling point in December 1989, when protestors by the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), stormed Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City to speak out against the church’s role in stopping condom distribution in schools and other policies.

“I would like to see church open up more,” said Laufenberg.

Jim and Mike vividly recollect the struggle for gay marriage. They got married eight years ago, soon after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned California’s controversial Prop 8, which banned same-sex marriage in 2008.

But their hope for the Catholic Church to evolve even more, continues today.

“It is hard [being gay and Catholic], especially when I go to other churches that don’t feel as welcoming,” said Daly.

“I would love to see Rome change some of their ideas being less conservative in terms of diverse people receiving communion, women as priests, having priests have a life partner, whether it’s a man or woman. I don’t care,” said Laufenberg.

Breaking from thousands of years of Catholic tradition can be a difficult, daunting, and daring challenge. But that’s exactly what happened at Most Holy Redeemer nearly 50 years ago.

“The elderly of this parish started an AIDS ministry and outreach to the young men and it became an improbable faith family of the gay community and senior citizens and became known affectionately as gays and grays,” said church member and San Francisco Supervisor Matt Dorsey.

As the AIDS crisis worsened in the late 80’s this church played a vital role as a support hub and started a hospice just across the street which ended up serving so many patients.

“They came here in the 80s and 90s just to have someone hug them and pray for them,” said Daly.

A scroll inside the church lists hundreds of AIDS victims, and so does a fountain in the courtyard to memorialize those who lost their battles.

“There would be pages of young people in their 30’s and 40’s who were dying,” said Daly. “It was a very black time.”

Daly has worked as a nurse for more than 40 years and saw patients struggling – and dying – at San Francisco General Hospital, including many connected to his church. His faith in a greater being gives him peace and new life, even in the shadows of death.

“It gave me the support to help others,” said Daly.

It’s that spirit to love others who need it most that inspires and drives ordinary men like Daly and Laufenberg to become pillars of this Catholic community in the Castro, a community that came to fully open its doors to the LGBTQ community and anyone seeking hope and meaning to life.

“I know it’s perfectly normal,” said Laufenberg. “What God makes is good. God made us the way we are. We didn’t choose to be gay.”

“The slogan [is] ‘God’s inclusive love is proclaimed here. Don’t leave anyone out.'” said Dorsey. “That was true even when it was really hard during the AIDS crisis when the church wasn’t as welcoming as it should be to members of the LGBTQ community to people with HIV and AIDS. This church and parish showed the way.”

LGBTQ parishioners are still denied rights other Catholics have. Gay couples cannot get married in the church by a Catholic priest.

Jim and Mike were raised following Catholic traditions and say they believe in the church’s message of love, caring, and concern. Their hope is to see the younger generation in the church continue to carry the torch.

Complete Article HERE!