The Church, Living in Christmas Past

By Maureen Dowd

My mom loved Christmas so much, she would sometimes leave the tree up until April.

She dyed a sheet blue for the sky behind the crèche and made a star of tin foil. The cradle would stay empty until Christmas morning; when we tumbled downstairs, the baby would be in his place, and the house would smell of roasting turkey.

Mom always took it personally if you didn’t wear red or green on Christmas, and she signed all the presents “Love, Baby Jesus,” “Love, Virgin Mary” or “Love, St. Joseph.”

(My brother Kevin was always upset that Joseph got short shrift, disappearing from the Bible; why wasn’t he around to boast about Jesus turning water into wine?)

We went to midnight Mass back then, and it was magical, despite some boys wearing Washington Redskins bathrobes as they carried presents down the aisle for Baby Jesus.

In 2005, when my mom was dying, I played Christmas music for her, even though it was July and the muted TV showed Lance Armstrong cycling in the Tour de France.

Christmas was never my favorite holiday; I thought it was materialistic and stressful. But I try to honor my mom’s feeling that it is the happiest time of the year.

Now that my Christmas is more secular — my bond with the Catholic Church faded over the years of cascading pedophilia scandals — I miss the rituals, choirs and incense.

I didn’t mean to, but I succumbed to the irresistible pull of the TCM holiday doubleheader of “Going My Way” and “The Bells of St. Mary’s.” It’s hard to beat Ingrid Bergman’s luminous nun coaching a bullied kid in “the manly art of self-defense” — i.e., boxing — as Bing Crosby’s bemused Father O’Malley looks on.

As bonding agents, religion and patriotism have been superseded by Facebook and TikTok. But somehow social media, which was touted as an engine of connectivity, has left us disconnected and often lonely, not to mention combative. We’re all in our corners. We understand one another less than ever and have less desire to try.

When we ran up against mean priests as children, my mother would say the church was not the men who ran it. The church was God, and He was all kind and all just. But it was increasingly hard for me to stay loyal to a church plagued with scandals and cover-ups and to an institution that seemed to delight in excluding so many.

At a time when the church is shrinking in the West, Pope Francis has been on a mission to make it more tolerant and inclusive.

On Monday the 87-year-old pope decreed that priests could bless same-sex couples. But the Catholic Church and Francis say that men with a “deep-seated tendency” for homosexuality should not be ordained as priests.

The pope did not change church doctrine that marriage is only between a man and a woman. The blessing is not a sacrament and cannot be connected through “clothing, gestures or words” to a wedding.

“Blessings instead are better imparted, the Vatican says, during a meeting with a priest, a visit to a shrine, during a pilgrimage or a prayer recited in a group,” The Times’s Jason Horowitz explained.

It’s better than nothing, and it’s certainly better than the 2021 Vatican ruling that inveighed against blessing gay unions, arguing that God “cannot bless sin” and that sexual unions outside marriage, like gay unions, did not conform with “God’s designs.”

But the declaration — “Fiducia Supplicans” — seems like a narrow gesture, designed to be delivered in a furtive way.

If the pope wants to move beyond the suffocating stranglehold and hypocrisy of the conservative cardinals so the church survives and grows, he must be bolder.

When he started, in a puff of white smoke, he seemed open to change. He does believe in a more pastoral, less rule-driven church, but he’s not ready to change the archaic rules.

That’s true not only with gay people but also with women. Allowing women to just give readings during Mass, serve as altar girls and distribute communion is not going to cut it. Jesus surrounded himself with strong women, even a soi-disant fallen woman, but his church has long been run by misogynists. Nothing major has changed for women since that 1945 classic “The Bells of St. Mary’s,” except that nuns have been muzzled by the Vatican. Ordaining women as priests is not on the table, any more than allowing priests to marry is.

It’s passing strange that a church with Mary at the center of its founding story could suffocate women’s voices for centuries. The cloistered club of men running the church grew warped. They were more concerned with shielding the church from scandal than ensuring the safety of boys and girls being preyed upon by criminal priests.

The church can’t succeed in a time warp, moving at the pace of a snail on Ambien. Even Saudi Arabia is modernizing faster.

It is simply immoral to treat women and gay people as unworthy of an equal role in their church. After all, isn’t the whole point of the church to teach us what is right? And it’s not right to treat people as partial humans.

Complete Article HERE!

Ecclesial Endeavor

— Father Anne looks to change Catholicism for good

Father Anne is hoping for major reform.

By Josh Lee

Father Anne knows quite a bit about being excluded.

Like many others before her, she’s been excommunicated from the Catholic Church, but unlike others, she hasn’t lost faith. Her major infraction, according to the Church, is being a female priest. She is not only barred from taking part in religious ceremonies, but she’s extra cautious to not even step foot on Church property.

Father Anne has made a name for herself by touring, advocating and campaigning for her cause, in the name of women everywhere. Her deeply-held convictions have led her down a difficult path fraught with naysayers and fundamentalists, but she continues to raise her voice in a call for reform.

When someone is excommunicated, they are no longer allowed to work or volunteer with the Church or take Sacrament. They are permanently pushed away from the Church and are no longer welcome.

“Women that get ordained are automatically excommunicated,” she explains. “It’s considered a crime as serious as the sexual abuse of a child by a male priest.”

The only difference is that male priests are rarely excommunicated for that sin. Instead, they are often laicized—meaning they are no longer allowed to be priests, but they are still considered members of the Church.

“[Excommunication is] the harshest punishment that the church can levy against someone who just wants to serve,” says Father Anne. “It’s terrible.”

But Father Anne continues to practice her faith despite her excommunicated status. She says that’s because she has no choice in the matter.

“My vocation is not a choice,” she says. “It comes from God. I was called by God to work for change.”

Father Anne’s journey has been a difficult one. She says she was living a “secular life” until she had a spiritual experience at the age of 29 that changed the trajectory of her existence.

“I began to seek God,” she says. “I checked out different faiths, and I ended up finding my way to the Catholic Church.”

She was living in Portland, Oregon, and managing a band when she started to study Christianity. She lived less than a mile from a Jesuit parish, where she began to learn the practices that would eventually lead her to become a priest.

“I started to learn how to pray,” she recalls. “The Jesuits taught me about spirituality and how to pray. That was when I started to hear the call to priesthood.”

Father Anne says she did all sorts of liturgical volunteer work and even started a young adult ministry. She went on to get her masters degree in divinity—the degree required for every Roman Catholic priest.

“And then I got to a point where I could no longer grow,” she says. “The institutional church that had formed me, that helped me and my relationship with God, that helped me blossom as a Catholic—it became the obstruction to the full expression of my vocation to priesthood.”

She says she was forced onto a parallel track because the institutional church obstructed her ability to live out her vocation. She became ordained through the Roman Catholic Woman Priest movement, which started in 2002, when male priests ordained seven women as priests. The next year, several women were ordained as bishops and given the power to ordain other women priests. There are now about 260 female Roman Catholic priests that have been ordained. Each of them has been excommunicated for breaking what they consider to be an unjust Canon law.

“That law is supported by a fundamentalist interpretation of scripture,” says Father Anne. “It violates the Church’s own teachings against fundamentalism. It’s hypocrisy at its finest.”

She says the law that keeps women out of the priesthood is also based on a false narrative that aims to downplay the role of women in the Church.

“The Church claims that women have never been ordained, and that’s really a misleading statement that obscures the rich history of the participation of women,” she notes.

Father Anne believes the Canon law is steeped in the sexist interpretation that women are inferior by God’s design and are meant to be subjugated by men. “This deeply conflicts with the values of Christianity and the life of Jesus, of course,” she points out.

“Because I can be harshly critical, it can get lost that I actually do this out of a deep love for the institution,” says Father Anne. “I just want to be a parish priest. I want to be part of the institution, accepted as fully human.”

But Father Anne’s drive to reform the Church isn’t solely based in her desire to be welcomed back. She says that convincing the Church to accept female priests could have significant ramifications in all walks of life where women are treated as second-class citizens.

“The thing about the Roman Catholic Church is that it is one of the most powerful institutions in the world,” she notes. “It’s the largest provider of non-governmental healthcare and non-governmental education in the world. It has a seat at the UN. It’s one of the largest landowners in the world. And not one woman has ever had a say at the highest levels.”

By allowing females to serve as priests, Father Anne says, the Church will set a precedent that will affect all women.

“That Roman collar on a man in the institutional Roman Catholic Church symbolizes the oldest lie in all creation: That women are inferior by biological design and deserve to be subjugated—not only in the sanctuary, but everywhere else,” she says.

Father Anne will be celebrating an online Mass on December 17, at 9am on Zoom. The mass is open to anyone who wants to attend, and RSVPs can be made by sending an email to

“Right now is a pivotal time,” says Father Anne, “because the Church is discerning the role of women, and ordination for women is on the table through the Synod on Synodality, which concludes in October 2024. The goal of the #GodSaysNow campaign is to make this issue impossible for bishops to ignore.”

Complete Article HERE!

Victims lawyers defend Maryland’s Child Victims Act following Washington archdiocese challenge

From left to right, Barbara Hart of Grant & Eisenhofer, Rob Jenner of Jenner Law, and David Lorenz, director of the Maryland chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, are seen at a news conference about efforts seeking the release of a sealed report on abusive clergy in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.


Attorneys for several men who say members of the clergy in the Archdiocese of Washington sexually abused them in Maryland decades ago defended on Friday the new law that allowed them to sue the Catholic Church: The Child Victims Act.

The filings from plaintiffs’ lawyers respond to a legal challenge from the Washington diocese last month, with the church’s attorneys arguing Maryland’s child victims law is unconstitutional, and that the men’s lawsuits, filed in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, should be dismissed as a result.

Archdiocese attorneys contend the legislature granted defendants immunity from child sex abuse lawsuits after the victim turns 38, when it expanded the statute of limitations to that age in 2017. They argue their legal protection stems from a rare provision in the law known as a statute of repose, which created “vested rights” that lawmakers cannot simply change.

Lawyers for the victims in the lawsuits disagree.

In their filing Friday, attorneys for a man who sued the Washington diocese in Montgomery County said the diocese’s lawyers’ interpretation of the law runs afoul of “well-settled principles set forth by the Maryland Supreme Court.”

“Applied here, those principles demonstrate that the law at issue here is a statute of limitations, which the General Assembly is free to modify under Maryland’s constitution,” wrote attorneys Robert K. Jenner, Philip C. Federico and Steven J. Kelly, all of whom are representing the man suing in Montgomery Circuit Court.

The Friday filings spelled out the differences between statutes of limitations and statutes of repose.

The only other known statute of repose in Maryland is in the construction industry, according to experts. In that context, it protects the likes of builders and architects from liability related to injuries sustained in their structures after a certain amount of time passes following completion.

Under the statute of repose, the clock for claims starts ticking when the building is deemed operational. It doesn’t matter when someone is injured.

With a statute of limitations, the law starts counting the period a person has to file a lawsuit from the time they sustain an injury.

That distinction, plaintiffs lawyers argued Friday, supports the position that the 2017 law was a statute of limitations.

“Very simply, the timeline does not begin to run until a child is sexually abused,” wrote the legal team behind the Prince George’s County lawsuit, a half dozen attorneys from the Baltimore law firms Schochor, Staton, Goldberg and Cardea, P.A. and Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC.

The back-and-forth filings cut to the heart of a legal battle that likely won’t be resolved until the state Supreme Court determines whether the child victims law is constitutional.

Anticipating an immediate challenge in court, legislators last spring included a provision in the law, which took effect Oct. 1, allowing for a mid-lawsuit appeal. The appeal comes at a common stage of civil litigation where defendants ask the court to throw out a lawsuit on legal grounds.

Typically, when a trial court denies a motion to dismiss a lawsuit, the case proceeds toward trial. While plaintiffs almost always can appeal if a judge decides to throw out a lawsuit, the Child Victims Act specifically allows the defendant to appeal if a judge rules it’s constitutional and that the case should go to trial.

The impact of the legal proceedings in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties is being felt around the state: Judges, facing the prospect of going ahead with lengthy litigation based on a law with questions looming over its constitutionality, are likely to freeze those cases until the state’s high court decides on the Child Victims Act.

A class action complaint, the lawsuit in Prince George’s County alleges three men were sexually abused as children at the Catholic schools or churches they attended in the suburbs of Washington. The men “have suffered serious and permanent physical, emotional, and financial injuries,” because of the abuse. They say the Archdiocese either knew, or should have known, about its priests’ predatory ways.

In the Montgomery County lawsuit, a man says he suffered “horrific” sexual abuse while attending a church in Gaithersburg as a child at the hands of two priests, including one with a well-document history of abuse.

Because of the abuse, the man “experienced significant anguish, culminating in a mental breakdown,” the Montgomery County lawsuit said. “In addition to extreme emotional distress, he has experienced physical sickness and dramatic weight loss.”

The Baltimore Sun does not name victims of sexual abuse.

The Archdiocese of Washington denied allegations raised in both complaints in the legal filings where they argued the child victims law was unconstitutional.

In their filings Friday, the plaintiffs’ lawyers cited a report from Maryland’s Attorney General documenting decades of abuse and torture of children by clergy in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Laying out the findings of a four-year investigation, the report released in April detailed evidence of 156 clergy and other church officials abusing at least 600 children dating to the 1940s.

The General Assembly passed the Child Victims Act shortly after the report became public.

Maryland’s legislature “acted well within its power to remedy a societal ill of enormous proportions,” the legal team behind the Prince George’s County lawsuit wrote.

“The legislature established, as the public policy of Maryland, that sexual predators, their accomplices, and their facilitators must be called to account in civil court for their actions,” the lawyers wrote. “Moreover, by eliminating the statute of limitations, the General Assembly recognized the psychological injury and other obstacles that have long prevented victims from coming forward.”

Plaintiffs lawyers said Friday that Maryland courts have determined that policy considerations can be helpful in determining whether a law is a statute of limitations or a statute of repose.

“Quite simply, the legislature could not have intended to provide a special and exceedingly rare legislative privilege — a statute of repose — in favor of every person and organization charged with protecting a child from sexual abuse but who failed to do so,” the lawyers behind the Prince George’s lawsuit wrote.

Even if the 2017 law granted the church and other entities immunity from civil actions stemming from decades old child sex abuse, those legal protections would not extend to the archdiocese’s “longstanding and extensive cover-up.” The lawsuits in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties allege the archdiocese’s actions amounted to “fraudulent concealment,” meaning the lawsuits might be able to proceed even if 2017 provided some immunity.

Complete Article HERE!

New Catholic Bishop Of Palmerston North John Adams Criticises Victims And Survivors Of Clergy Abuse

Catholic Bishop of Palmerston North, John Adams

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) in Aotearoa New Zealand has received several reports of clerical sexual abuse and church-based abuse from victims and survivors in the Catholic Diocese of Palmerston North.

SNAP invited the new Catholic Bishop of Palmerston North, John Adams, to get to know the survivors’ network. However, Bishop Adams responded: “I had a look at your Facebook page. I was shocked to be honest at the level of vitriol I found there, indeed an almost complete lack of charity.”

Bishop Adams then emphasised protecting his clergy instead of supporting the victims: “Surely Catholic clergy have a right to both the just scrutiny, and the protection of the law.”

SNAP is disappointed that Bishop Adams judged the survivors’ network by Facebook comments rather than by the official SNAP website or personal conversations with network members.

SNAP reports that Bishop Adams also asked for “assurances” from the network before he would offer support. It is not clear what the Bishop meant by “assurances,” however when asked to clarify, he did not respond.

SNAP reports that one of the biggest concerns when dealing with clerical sexual abuse is that those who bear the ultimate responsibility, who are obliged to support the victims, often blame the victims rather than the abusers.

SNAP canvassed some of its members for responses to Bishop Adams’ comments. The Bishop’s claim that the victims “lack charity” was especially upsetting. “What an unfair reaction, accusing survivors of lacking charity and using that to not support us,” one survivor said. Other responses SNAP received from its members are:

“The Bishop expects people who are carrying life-shattering trauma memories to speak in soft delicate tones.”

“If anyone dares to say how upset and angry they are about being sexually assaulted by a priest, then he calls that vitriol?”

SNAP reports that if Bishop Adams is judging the survivors’ network by comments people leave on the network’s Facebook page, then he also needs to look at Catholic Facebook pages around the world. He will then see that there are some “nasty and vindictive things” said on them too.

SNAP is aware that the Catholic Church in New Zealand has safeguarding standards which include listening to the abused. Bishop Adams’ reaction to an invitation to get to know a survivors’ network and support the abused, appears to be a violation of those safeguarding standards.

National leader for SNAP in Aotearoa New Zealand, Dr Christopher Longhurst stated in response to Bishop Adam’s comments:

“I think it is appalling that any church leader would criticise any victim of clerical child sexual assault or any church-related abuse, accusing them of a lack of charity, or asking for assurances before supporting them. This betrays an utter ignorance around trauma-informed response. Victims and survivors have suffered enough. They deserve unconditional support from all members of the church. Their anger is perfectly justified. It is the lack of charity from church leaders such as this bishop that is shocking.”

National leader for SNAP in Australia, Mr Donald McLeish, also responded to Bishop Adam’s comments:

“They do not realise the pain they have caused and continue to cause. I have no answer but to not expect support when it is not there. The bishop is saying, providing we stop the criticism he will cooperate. We cannot do that while the criticism is warranted.”

Complete Article HERE!

Pope Revokes Homophobic Cardinal’s Vatican Salary, Subsidized Apartment

Cardinal Raymond Burke has critiqued Pope Francis’s stances on LGBTQ+ issues and more.


Pope Francis has revoked retired Cardinal Raymond Burke’s salary and his right to a subsidized apartment in the Vatican.

The staunchly anti-LGBTQ+ Burke has been one of the most vocal critics of the pope’s outreach to the queer community and other liberal moves.

“Francis told a meeting of the heads of Vatican offices last week that he was moving against Burke because he was a source of ‘disunity’ in the church,” the Associated Press reports, citing an anonymous source. Burke hadn’t received any notice of the action as of Tuesday, his secretary told the AP. A Vatican spokesman contacted by The New York Timeswouldn’t confirm or deny the report.

“Almost as soon as Pope Francis became the head of the Roman Catholic church in 2013,” the Times notes, Burke “emerged as his leading critic from within the church, becoming a de facto antipope for frustrated traditionalists who believed Francis was diluting doctrine.”

Most recently, Burke was one of five retired cardinals who submitted questions to the pope on his stances on a variety of issues, including marriage equality and same-sex unions, women in the priesthood, and who is the ultimate worldly authority of the Catholic Church. Francis responded by indicating he would be open to some form of blessing for same-sex unions, although he said they should not be considered marriages, and said the ordination of women “can be the object of study.” He did not make any definitive changes, however.

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Burke’s anti-LGBTQ+ views are in keeping with church doctrine that gay sex is a sin and that gender is fixed at birth, but he has often been more hostile to the LGBTQ+ community than other Catholic leaders.

In 2003, as a bishop of Wisconsin, he ordered the church-supported Central Wisconsin HIV/AIDS Ministry Project to cease participating in the state’s AIDS walk or accepting any of the funds raised because, he said, some of the other groups that benefit from the walk “actively and publicly promote homosexual activity.”

Burke went on to become archbishop of St. Louis, where he served from 2004 to 2008, then headed the church’s highest court. He was appointed to the court position by Francis’s immediate predecessor, conservative Pope Benedict XVI, but was removed from that post by Francis in 2014. He has continued speaking out against the LGBTQ+ community as a retired cardinal.

In 2013, he said the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down the antigay Defense of Marriage Act would “lead to death for individuals and eventually it will destroy our culture.” The following year, he denounced a Vatican document that said there can be positive aspects to same-sex relationships and that the church should be more welcoming to LGBTQ+ people. In 2015, he blamed gay priests and what he called a “feminized” Catholic Church for the widespread sexual abuse of children by clergy members.

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In March 2020, as many churches began holding services remotely in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said faithful Catholics should attend Mass in person to fight changes in the culture, including recognition of transgender identity. “We need only to think of the pervasive attack upon the integrity of human sexuality, of our identity as man or woman, with the pretense of defining for ourselves, often employing violent means, a sexual identity other than that given to us by God,” he wrote on his website at the time. “With ever greater concern, we witness the devastating effect on individuals and families of the so-called ‘gender theory.’”

Burke was a COVID vaccine skeptic, even repeating a conspiracy theory that vaccines included microchips with which governments could monitor people’s movements. He contracted COVID in 2021.

This is Pope Francis’s second recent action against a major critic. This month he removed Bishop Joseph Strickland as head of the diocese of Tyler, Texas. Strickland had accused Francis of undermining the faith through his tentatively liberal moves, including his welcoming attitude toward LGBTQ+ people.

Complete Article HERE!