Cardinal Pell under attack from within over bishops’ grand house in Rome

A LEADING Catholic priest has criticised Cardinal George Pell for reserving a “grand apartment” for himself at the Australian church’s new guest house in Rome, saying “the ethics of our secular state are higher than those of our church”.

Father Eric Hodgens, of Melbourne, an elder statesman among the clergy, also savaged Australia’s Catholic bishops for what he regards as an abject performance during their five-yearly visit to Rome last month, particularly in failing to stand up for Bill Morris, sacked earlier this year as bishop of Toowoomba.

“They eat their own when fingered by Rome,” Father Hodgens wrote of the bishops in The Swag, the national journal of Catholic priests. “How can you trust them?

”They are reckless with our patrimony. They seem incapable of protecting their own rights, let alone ours, in a system which is corrupt by today’s secular standards. No wonder the attitude of so many priests and observant laity is moving from disappointment to disgust,” he wrote.

Father Hodgens said the Domus Australia guest house in Rome – a beautifully refurbished old religious house with 33 rooms for paying visitors, a richly restored grand chapel and organ and a 150-seat auditorium opened by Pope Benedict XVI last month – cost between $30 million and $85 million, according to different estimates.

He said Cardinal Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, had hoped all Australian dioceses would pay for it, but only Melbourne, Perth and Lismore had made contributions and the Sydney Archdiocese had paid the bulk.

He said Catholics of the four dioceses were not consulted, there was no prospect of a reasonable financial return and no accountability. “What does it say of us who trust bishops?
The ethics of our secular state are higher than those of our church.”

Secrecy also surrounded the sacking of Bishop Morris, who never saw the charges against him or the report by an “inquisitorial visitor”, Archbishop Charles Chaput, then of Denver, he said.

“And the Australian bishops simply rolled over … . they thanked their humiliators for being generous with their time,” Father Hodgens wrote.

“Thank God we live in a secular state and not in a Catholic theocracy,” he said.

Cardinal Pell is overseas but a Sydney Archdiocese spokeswoman said the total cost to develop the Australian pilgrim centre in Rome was similar to that of a new parish or school, ”not the excessive amounts quoted by some ill-informed sources”, and the investment was expected to pay its way.

”Domus Australia was funded by the transfer of an underutilised property investment to this purpose and by borrowings and donations,” she said.

”No money raised through parish collections has been used in this initiative.”

Complete Article HERE!

Belgian Catholics issue reform manifesto

The week before the start of Advent, four Flemish priests issued a church reform manifesto that called for allowing the appointment of laypeople as parish pastors, liturgical leaders and preachers, and for the ordination of married men and women as priests.

By the week’s end more than 4,000 of publicly active Catholics had signed on to the “Believers Speak Out” manifesto. By Dec. 1, the number of signers had reached 6,000.

Among the supporters are hundreds of priests, educators, academics and professional Catholics. Two prominent supporters are former rectors of the Catholic University of Leuven, Roger Dillemans and Marc Vervenne.

“These are not ‘protest people.’ They are people of faith. They are raising their voices. They hope their bishops are listening,” said Fr. John Dekimpe, one of four priests who launched the manifesto.

“Some people are fearful about approaching church leadership,” said the priest, who lives in Kortrijk. “Is this being a dissident? I don’t think so. The Belgian church is a disaster. If we don’t do something, the exodus of those leaving the church will just never stop. … I really want the bishops to reflect deeply about the growing discontent of so many believers.”

Among the manifesto’s demands, made “in solidarity with fellow believers in Austria, Ireland and many other countries,” are that:

  • Parish leadership be entrusted to trained laypeople;
  • Communion services be held even if no priest is available;
  • Laypeople be allowed to preach;
  • Divorced people be allowed to receive Communion;
  • “As quickly as possible, both married men and women be admitted to the priesthood.

So far there has been no official reaction from Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, the Catholic primate of Belgium, any of the other Belgium bishops, or the Vatican. Privately, and off the record, one Belgian bishop has applauded the manifesto.

Jürgen Mettepenningen, a Leuven theologian and former press officer for Léonard, told the Belgian newspaper De Morgen that he hopes the manifesto can lead to a well-thought-out church reform. “When I reflect on what I have written and said over the past years, I can only say that the spirit of the manifesto is the very same spirit in which I have been trying to work to make the church more credible: true to the faith.”

Last year, after reports of abuse rocked the Belgian church, an independent commission discovered sexual abuse in most Catholic dioceses and all church-run boarding schools and religious orders. The commission said 475 cases of abuse had been reported to it between January and June this year.

In one of the more prominent cases, Bruges Bishop Roger Vangheluwe was forced to resign after admitting to years of abusing his nephew. In April of this year, he told Belgian television that he had molested another nephew and that it had all started “as a game.”

The full text of the manifesto, “Believers Speak Out”:
Parishes without a priest, Eucharist at inappropriate hours, worship without Communion: that really should not be! What is delaying the needed church reform? We, Flemish believers, ask our bishops to the break the impasse in which we are locked. We do this in solidarity with fellow believers in Austria, Ireland and many other countries, with all who insist on vital church reform.

We simply do not understand why the leadership in our local communities (e.g., parishes) is not entrusted to men or women, married or unmarried, professionals or volunteers, who already have the necessary training. We need dedicated pastors!

We do not understand why these our fellow believers cannot preside at Sunday liturgical celebrations. In every active community we need liturgical ministers!

We do not understand why, in communities where no priest is available, a Word service cannot also include a Communion service.
We do not understand why skilled laypeople and well-formed religious educators cannot preach. We need the word of God!

We do not understand why those believers who, with very good will, have remarried after a divorce must be denied Communion. They should be welcomed as worthy believers. Fortunately, there are some places where this is happening.
We also demand that, as quickly as possible, both married men and women be admitted to the priesthood. We, people of faith, desperately need them now!

Complete Article HERE!

It’s Time to Occupy the Catholic Church


Jeff Ward: Chicago Cardinal George just can’t seem to get it right!

As I was pondering the positive effects of the Occupy Wall Street protests, another local news story caught my eye. The two events may appear to be disparate, but if you consider some interesting parallels, I think they actually complement each other quite well.

Essentially what I’m saying is, I think it’s time for an “Occupy the Catholic Church” movement.

Of course, whenever I broach this touchy subject, all kinds of cross-wearing folk come out of the woodwork to accuse me of Catholic bashing and being anti-church. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Let’s start with those nine years (including kindergarten) at St. Nick’s. Armed with that education, I waltzed into all honors classes at Evanston Township High school. I was an altar boy, a church reader and volunteered on numerous projects. I still keep in touch with some of the nuns, teachers and priests from that time.

The Jesuits at Loyola University of Chicago put anything the Ivy League can offer to shame. And three of my most prized possessions include two quotes done in calligraphy by one of those nuns, and a cross made out of wood from an old St. Nick’s pew.

Though the thought didn’t come to me in exactly that fashion, at some point I began ascribing to Sting’s notion that, “Men go crazy in congregations, but they get better one by one.”

But despite declaring myself an official ex-Catholic, in no way does that mean I’m minimizing or disowning that heritage. On the contrary—I’m proud of it!

That said, let’s move on to our local news story.

Stopping just short of excommunication, Chicago Cardinal Francis George and his fellow bishops indignantly blasted Gov. Pat Quinn, a Catholic, for presenting a pro-choice PAC leadership award. They said, by “aligning” himself with that group, he was “supporting the legal right to kill children in their mothers’ wombs.”

My first thought was, “When will the church apply that same kind of zero-tolerance religious zeal to themselves?” But instead of going down that road, let’s just move on.

So my second thought was, “Isn’t this man throwing the first stone, the same man who, in the face of a mounting church child-sex-abuse scandal, allowed The Rev. Daniel McCormack to prey on young boys for 14 long years?”

In 1992, two men and one minor accused McCormack of abusing them while he was in the seminary. The subsequent letter placed in McCormack’s file simply “disappeared.”

In 1999, an assistant principal informed the archdiocese that the priest had abused a fourth-grade boy. Though she delivered that letter herself, the archdiocese said they never received it.

In 2003, a woman called the archdiocese to report her grandson was being molested by McCormack. Violating the very policies set forth by the cardinal himself, the archdiocese refused to call the police.

After McCormack was first arrested in August 2005, an independent review board created by the cardinal directed him to remove McCormack from the priesthood. He did not.

Finally, in 2006, 19 long years after that first case of abuse, McCormack was arrested when another parent complained to another principal who had actually had the good sense to go to the police.

And how did the church punish George for his complicit failure to protect children? They named him president of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops. If it were you or me, we’d be sitting in a jail cell.

But back to the present. After the cardinal trashed the governor, it turns out the award wasn’t going to any kind of abortionist, it was being presented to “pre-eminent” rape-victim advocate Jennie Goodman, herself a rape victim at the age of 18.

Goodman, who’s neither had nor encouraged as much as one abortion, a woman who could have justifiably issued a scathing counterattack on the Catholic Church, simply replied, “It hurts for all those people who have been raped.”

That’s certainly a far cry from George’s statement attacking her because the governor was “rewarding those deemed most successful in this terrible work.”

It kind of makes you wonder whether George or Goodman should be the cardinal.

When he finally understood the magnitude of his mistake, just what did the cardinal do? It certainly wasn’t anything as rash as issuing an apology. He stoically claimed he “regrets” that Goodman felt attacked and added, had he been aware of her story, “We may have found another occasion to say something about the governor.”

Ah, yes! Being a Catholic cardinal or bishop means never having to be aware of anything.

Aren’t these the same religious leaders who commissioned the John Jay Report, which blamed the sex-abuse scandal on the ’60s counterculture, the rise of feminism and the tolerance of homosexuality? Let’s not forget that document also claimed priests were only pedophiles if they molested someone under 10 years of age.

Isn’t this the same church that hasn’t punished one bishop or cardinal for their role in a worldwide child-sex-abuse cover-up?

And then Cardinal George attacks a rape-victim advocate. Talk about throwing the first stone …

My first thought was to call on Catholics everywhere to follow my lead and leave a church that so dismally falls short of the expectations they place upon their own flock. But considering all the good the Catholic Church does, I believe that would be the equivalent of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

And then I remembered the fine example being set by the “Occupy” protestors. In spite of this country’s many faults, they’re not abandoning it, they’re reminding our leaders what made it so great in the first place.

So, I’ve decided to issue this challenge instead. Catholics! Take back your church.

Complete Article HERE!