‘If ex-Catholic was a religion…’

Why independent Catholic churches are flourishing

by Jess Rohan

On Holy Thursday, a solemn day in the most sacred week in the Catholic calendar, St. Miriam’s felt like any other Catholic church: The altar featured a crucifix draped with white fabric and a tabernacle, and the Rev. James St. George, also known as Father Jim, was preparing the Flourtown church for a foot-washing ceremony, with towels and washbasins placed on the altar.

But St. Miriam’s is not Roman Catholic, nor affiliated with the Vatican: It’s catholic — with a lowercase c.

It’s one of at least four independent Catholic parishes that cropped up around Philadelphia between 2005 and 2010, nourished in part by the advantages of social media and email. Now with more than 600 parishioners, St. Miriam’s has become perhaps the largest such congregation; like the others, drawing Catholics eager for new ways to practice an old faith.

Its pastor last week noted the sad parallels between the worldwide Roman Catholic Church and the Paris blaze that seemed to rage untouched until it had already consumed part of its historic Notre Dame Cathedral.

“They don’t admit they’re on fire until it’s too late,” St. George said. “And now the whole church is burning.”

The Roman Catholic Church is still the biggest religious institution in the United States — and the world, with about 1.3 billion adherents, according to the Vatican. But fewer and fewer Americans are identifying as Catholic. The clergy sex-abuse scandals, conversion to other faiths, and declining religiosity in general all play a role, according to polls. A Pew study found that between 2007 and 2014, the Catholic Church lost more members than any other religious institution, by a wide margin.

“If ex-Catholic was a religion, it’d be the third-largest in the United States,” said Julie Byrne, a professor of religion at Hofstra University whose book, The Other Catholics: Remaking America’s Largest Religion, explores independent catholicism.

Alternative Catholic churches have existed for centuries. The Orthodox Catholic Church, which split with the Roman Catholic Church in 1054 and today maintains its seat of power in Istanbul, has more than 100 million members.

And not all are alike. Some are conservative, offering Mass in Latin. Others are characterized by an openness to concepts and stances that the Roman Catholic Church eschews, including female priests and gay marriage — both of which a majority of U.S. Catholics support, according to the Pew poll.

But most independent Catholic churches are filled with congregants steeped in the traditions of the religion. Byrne said 60 percent to 70 percent of parishioners at the independent Catholic churches she studied had come from Roman Catholic churches.

She said such a conversion comes at a price: The Rome-led Catholic Church has made sure to convey that independent parishes aren’t “the real thing,” suggesting that joining one could jeopardize a Catholic’s salvation.

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia last week declined to wade into the debate, instead noting that though the church has been “uneven in fidelity to Christ and His word,” it is “the only place where Christ and His word continue to be passed on in all of its fullness and clarity.”

Monsignor James Michael St. George — “Father Jim” — the pastor at Saint Miriam Parish, and Sean Hall (left) greeting members of the congregation arriving for a traditional Holy Thursday service last week. St. Miriam’s is an independent (non-Vatican affiliated) Catholic church in Flourtown.

St. George said he encountered that sort of resistance in St. Miriam’s first year, when a listing for the church’s Catholic services in a local Roxborough paper triggered a letter from Roman Catholic clergy suggesting its use of the word Catholic might “mislead” people. Instead, attention from Roman Catholic churches only helped grow his congregation, he said.

Almost every year since, members of St. Miriam’s have worked to build its infrastructure — painting walls, restoring the stained glass windows, and maintaining the graves on the 12-acre campus along Bethlehem Pike that it inherited from a Lutheran church.

St. George began his path to priesthood at a Roman Catholic seminary, St. Mark’s in Erie, but said he had long felt unsettled by parts of church doctrine, including its positions on LGBT people and women. Such stances had even resonated inside his family’s Italian Catholic home in northwestern Pennsylvania.

“My sister couldn’t serve the altar or read at Mass,” St. George said, “and she would come home and cry.”

Now he’s a bishop in Old Catholic Churches International, part of an independent Catholic movement that split from Rome in 1870 and dates to an 18th-century Dutch separatist movement.

Mother JoEllen Werthman confronted the same kind of conflicts when she grew up Catholic on Long Island decades ago and then, in the 1980s, felt a religious calling.

“I couldn’t figure out how to have a boyfriend and be a nun,” said Werthman.

When it became clear the Roman Catholic Church would not accept women as clergy in her lifetime, Werthman began to look elsewhere, and found a seminary at the Catholic Apostolic Church of Antioch to ordain her.

“What will I say to God when I die?” she asked. “Did I follow the rules, or did I answer the call?”

These days, the 73-year-old cleric is married, and leads St. Mary Magdalen in Bensalem, a congregation of about two dozen people out of a building owned by an Episcopal church.

At Werthman’s church, her homily is followed by an open discussion with parishioners. The congregants appreciate being treated “like adults,” Werthman said.

“Most people have never been given the opportunity to explore their questions once they get past being a kid,” she said.

St. George said his church saw an increase in attendance after the wave of clergy sex-abuse scandals in the early 2000s. His parish, which also runs a preschool and kindergarten, has a program called KidSafe, a set of policies concerning child welfare.

Lorraine Cuffey joined the Flourtown church on Palm Sunday six years ago after learning that the church she had been attending failed to remove two priests accused of child abuse. Now, she’s the president of St. Miriam’s board of directors.

Her Episcopalian husband used to avoid Sunday Mass because he couldn’t receive communion with Cuffey. But now that they can receive communion together, “he comes every Sunday,” she said.

For Lewis Salotti and his wife, Ramona, who joined St. Miriam’s three years ago, the independent Catholic church is a perfect mix of tradition and flexibility.

“It was comforting to come here and see the same service and be familiar with it,” Salotti said. But with clergy who can marry and have families, he said, “they are living in the world just like us, and I think that really makes a difference.”

St. George says his church is about bringing everyone together under the “Catholic fold.”

“When the doctrine of the church harms people, you need to look at it again,” he said. “The church shouldn’t hurt people.”

Complete Article HERE!

Gay Marriage Sparks Catholic Church to Fire Music Director

By Kate Nagle

The former Music Director at the Church of St. Mary in Providence is speaking out, after being fired on Monday because he said “of the person I love”  — his male partner, whom he married in 2015.

In a statement posted to Facebook on Tuesday, Michael Templeton, who resides in Warren, spoke to a conversation with church clergy that he said was “bizarre, unprofessional, and inappropriate,” which led to his firing as Music Director at the Catholic church, where he served for more than five years.

Michael Templeton
Michael Templeton

See Facebook Post BELOW

“What I can tell you about the conversation, is that from what I’ve read, is it’s consistent with the other situations I’m aware of around the country — that they say because of the public nature of your ministry, and the inconsistency of your life choices, that we are requiring your resignation,” Templeton told GoLocalProv.com on Tuesday.

“My heart breaks because this brings to light what ‘safe’ means to people. I feel this action represented more than me in my role. It represents people who have been marginalized and thought of as ‘less than’ for a whole host of reasons,” said Templeton. “I came to St. Mary’s for what it is and who they welcome, whether they come from reformed lives of addiction, or come from divorce and are remarried, whatever the reason.  I want to be clear — I did not resign, I was relieved of my duties.”

The church did not respond to request for comment on Tuesday.

Rhode Island in Focus

Templeton spoke to his path to Rhode Island, and the role that Catholicism — and music, and education — has had had in his life.

“I went to St. Bonaventure for college. The Franciscan Friars there encouraged me to take a position at St. Francis [in downtown Providence],” said Templeton. “I was the Director of Adult Education and Music, which really brought me to this area.”

Templeton spoke to his degree in elementary education, which brought him briefly back to his home state of New York for a job in the public education system there, before he decided to return to Rhode Island.

“I came back to Rhode Island for the slower pace of life,” said Templeton. “I’ve been [at St. Mary’s] since I came back five years or so ago. At that time, their music director had quit unexpectedly and the pastor at the time invited me to come on board,  so I wanted to do right by the community.  A lot folks were there from the St. Francis days.”

Templeton said he was aware that his marriage to his partner in 2015 could put his position in jeopardy, but that he didn’t see it coming.

“What I can say is that I am aware of Catholic educators and administrators around the country facing this — I’ve seen this happen to some colleagues in the music ministry, and they’re all heartbreaking stories,” said Templeton. “These are people giving their best, they’re faith-filled Catholics. It chips away a little each time.”

Templeton said that his had not hidden his life, or his partner, while at the church.

“I have worked hard to live a life of integrity, which means never hiding,” said Templeton. “So it’s 2016. We all have to be concerned about our well-being. Yes, it’s an integral part of me, but only part of me — I’ve been fortunate to do things that I love with the talents and gifts I have.”

Pope Francis Pronouncement

When asked what he would say to Catholics who say that homosexuality — and gay marriage — are against the tenets of the church, Templeton offered the following.

“What I can I say? People need to follow their heart. I feel strongly I give the best I can and what that means is bringing people closer to God through music,” said Templeton. “I pray for those people to follow their heart and conscience. The God I believe in is a merciful God. The Pope has called us to a year of mercy and I invite people to heed that call.”

In 2013, Pope Francis had publicly said, “Who am I to judge?” when asked about the possibility of gay clergy in the Catholic church.

“What I would say about that quote, and I don’t know its context, is regardless of what issue we talk about, it is central to the Pope’s message,” said Templeton. “There’s only one person that we’ll need to answer to at the end of it all.”

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support,” said Templeton, following his dismissal. “Friends from high school, college, have all left amazing messages.  I’m not a media person, I’m not seeking attention. I just want to open the conversation again. I hope people keep their faith, hold their heart, and keep the conversation going on this.”


Complete Article HERE!

Devout Catholic catalogues clergy’s crimes, offers victims comfort

Sylvia MacEachern’s website go-to gathering place for church abuse victims

By Simon Gardner

Sylvia MacEachern has dedicated years of her life to tracking and cataloguing convicted child molesters and alleged abusers connected to the church.
Sylvia MacEachern has dedicated years of her life to tracking and cataloguing convicted child molesters and alleged abusers connected to the church.

Mike Fitzgerald is a 60-year-old truck driver who grew up on a farm near Bancroft, Ont.

Mike Fitzgerald, 60, was in his teens when he says he was sexually assaulted by a priest in Bancroft, Ont.

It’s with some trepidation that I ask him if we can meet at the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica, a grand Catholic church located in Ottawa’s ByWard Market. He readily agrees, but when I meet him and his wife Marla on the steps of the cathedral he admits to feeling uncomfortable.

“The good father destroyed my faith in the Catholic Church forever,” he explains.

When I hear about what happened to Fitzgerald when he was a teenager in the early 1970s, his bitterness comes as no surprise.

Fitzgerald grew up in a devout Catholic family. There was even talk of him becoming a priest.

He was musical, and when he turned 17 he agreed to help the parish priest, Father Henry Maloney, form a choir.

Because his family’s farm was about 35 kilometres from Our Lady of Mercy Church in Bancroft, it was decided Fitzgerald would move into a room in the church rectory.

He says he and his family had no idea he was about to fall into the clutches of a child molester.

‘You are going to sleep with me now’

“I remember very clearly the day I came home to the rectory and Father had moved all my personal belongings into his bedroom and said, ‘You are going to sleep with me now,'” Fitzgerald recalls.

Father Henry Maloney was a member of the clergy until he died in 1986.
Father Henry Maloney was a member of the clergy until he died in 1986.

In his lawsuit against the Pembroke Diocese, he claimed Maloney repeatedly sexually assaulted him.

“It started out with groping, fondling and it eventually culminated in August of that year with anal rape. And there was some physical damage the next day. I had to go and see a doctor and [Maloney] told me I should not go to my own family doctor. I should go to his doctor, who turned out to be just the same.”

The lawsuit against the diocese was settled last year. The terms are confidential and Fitzgerald will only say it’s given him some degree of financial security.

In their original statement of defence, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Pembroke said it had no knowledge of any abuse by Maloney, denied anything occurred, and said that if there was abuse — the diocese was not to blame.

The archdiocese declined to comment for this story. (During negotiation between the diocese and Fitzgerald’s lawyer, it was revealed that another lawsuit claiming abuse by Maloney was filed. The allegations, which have not been proven in court, date back to the late 1940s.)

Fitzgerald’s focus is now on recovery. For years he was angry, bitter and racked with sexual insecurities.

Rogues’ gallery of abusers, suspects

Though unable to forgive, these days Fitzgerald seems more at peace.

He credits much of his recovery to an unlikely saviour: a grandmother of 11 who maintains a website from her home in Fitzroy Harbour, a community on the outskirts of Ottawa.

People who meet Sylvia MacEachern are typically struck by her intensity, her deep outrage at the plight of abuse victims —  and her unshakable devotion to the Catholic faith..

For years MacEachern has been a familiar face at trials and investigations into church abuse scandals. As a result, she’s amassed a huge collection of files, transcripts and other documents.

Sylvia’s Site, as she calls it, is a WordPress-based blog and database launched in 2010.

Sylvia MacEachern runs her website from her home in Fitzroy Harbour, Ont.
Sylvia MacEachern runs her website from her home in Fitzroy Harbour, Ont.

Since then, the website has showcased an ever-expanding rogues’ gallery of Catholic Church abusers or suspects. As well, the site is increasingly becoming a conduit for victims to describe their painful memories, and often, to express their anger.

Father Maloney is one of about 350 people listed in the “accused” section of MacEachern’s website. The alphabetical catalogue includes clergy members who were charged and convicted for their crimes, but also those who have successfully appealed, who reached settlements with their alleged victims, or who have simply been named in investigations.

‘The Mother Theresa of Fitzroy Harbour’

MacEachern’s mission to document alleged crimes by Catholic clergy has made her a thorn in the side of the Church.

But her status as an outspoken critic predates her website. I recall speaking with a senior Church official about 25 years ago who was incensed over a publication called The Orator.

The magazine exposed divisions within the Church and criticized the more liberal practices that were taking hold. MacEachern was its editor.

“They don’t love me,” she says with a sly grin.

Hundreds of victims who have stumbled across Sylvia’s Site and made contact with her feel differently.

“I call Sylvia the Mother Theresa of Fitzroy Harbour, Ontario,” says Fitzgerald. “She has been the shoulder that hundreds of us have leaned on. I don’t know where she gets her patience from. She has been a godsend to us.”

MacEachern now describes herself as “Orthodox Catholic,” but she was born in Northern Ireland into a staunchly Protestant family. Much to the shock of her father, she married a Catholic man and converted to the faith.

Her doubts about the Church started in the early 90s when a popular and respected Ottawa priest was charged with molesting boys at a summer camp for underprivileged kids.

MacEachern says she was shocked by the “abysmal” way the archdiocese treated the victims, and disgusted by the level of denial among parishioners even after the priest pleaded guilty.

At first she didn’t realize how important the site would become to victims.

Website unites victim, alleged abuser’s relative

Father Henry Maloney died in 1986, but Sylvia’s Site has now drawn together Mike Fitzgerald and one of Maloney’s relatives.

“I got a telephone call from Sylvia. She said you are not going to believe this but an extended member of your abuser’s family has contacted me and would like me to release your telephone number to her,” says Fitzgerald.

He says he’s since formed a “warm relationship” with the priest’s relative. The messages between them, he says, are full of “love, compassion, kindness, everything I have been looking for for some time.”

There are now plans for the two to meet in person, possibly as soon as the mid-May. Fitzgerald predicts it will be an emotional moment.

MacEachern says she’s never seen a relative reach out to a victim like this, but she wishes it would happen more often.

Film Spotlight ‘stirring something in a lot of them’

MacEachern says the number of victims contacting her is growing. She credits the acclaimed film Spotlight.

Mike Fitzgerald grew up on his family's farm near Bancroft, Ont.
Mike Fitzgerald grew up on his family’s farm near Bancroft, Ont.

The movie centres around a group of investigative journalists at The Boston Globe who expose how the Catholic Church covered up abuse perpetrated by a network of nearly 90 priests in the Boston area.

“It’s stirring something in a lot of victims. They are suddenly getting in touch,” MacEachern says.

MacEachern says Fitzgerald is one of hundreds of victims she’s communicated with since starting Sylvia’s Site.

“You will have a grown man or woman who one day decides to Google the name of their priest molester. Most of them can’t explain why. They hit the site and discover, ‘Gosh, he’s already been charged and convicted, gosh, he’s dead, but there has been several lawsuits.’ They suddenly realize, ‘I am not the only one.'”

She adds that many victims take their secrets to the grave, or only disclose their experiences near the end of their lives. It’s rare for her to hear from men in their 20s or 30s, she says.

Church ‘hijacked’

About a year ago, an 82-year-old man from Toronto contacted her and covertly described being abused in his youth by a priest.

“This man got in touch with me and had very specific instruction to call him at a certain time of day when his wife would be sleeping. He did not want her to know and he’s 82 years old. He had never told a soul. He didn’t want his wife to know because she is a practicing Catholic and he was afraid it would destroy her faith.”

Some question how she keeps her own faith, but she insists it’s not her devotion to Catholicism that’s been shaken, but her confidence in those in charge.

“I tell people our Church has been hijacked by these fellows.”

MacEachern firmly believes the only way forward is to clean house. She says clergy members who abuse children must be defrocked.

“Any priest who lays a wayward hand on any child, or on an adult for that matter, he doesn’t belong in the priesthood. Get him out.”

Complete Article HERE!

Synod on the Family 2015: A Reflection from the Paulist Fathers

Synod on the Family 2015

SYNOD ON THE FAMILY: A Reflection from the Paulist Fathers

The joy and the hope, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ.
– Gaudium et Spes, Preface, [1]

If Christ is to be for us a savior, we must find him here, now, and where we are, in this age of ours also;
otherwise he is no Christ, no Savior, no Immanuel, no “God with us.”
– Servant of God Issac T. Hecker, Founder of the Paulist Fathers

These two quotations, one from Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, the other from Servant of God Issac Hecker, reflect the missionary vision of the Paulist community today. As we approach the second session of the “Vatican Synod on the Family” in October 2015, amidst the chorus of voices being raised, we Paulists, wish to contribute our voice.


Founded in 1858, by five Catholic converts from various Protestant traditions, the Paulists have always sought a more inclusive community of God’s children. We have demonstrated time and again the value of hospitality, inclusion, and a special degree of understanding for those on their own unique journeys.1 Phrases like “meeting people where they are,” “walking the journey with someone,” and “being a wounded healer” resonate with our Paulist way of living the Gospel. We Paulists echo and applaud Pope Francis and the spirit of mercy, compassion, and outreach that he so readily incarnates and preaches. The old adage “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” represents a truth about human nature. So regarding the upcoming part II of the “Synod on the Family” the Paulists stand foresquare and humbly with those who counsel “mercy.” As Pope Francis so poignantly phrases it:

The Church needs to be a field hospital and we need to set out to heal wounds, just as the good Samaritan did. Some people’s wounds result from neglect, others are wounded because they have been forsaken by the church itself; some people are suffering terribly. [2]

In this statement we Paulists will propose areas for consideration that arise from our pastoral experience. Nevertheless, we know that these areas come under the supreme issue of the family today—how its life and love form the human basis of faith. We pray that the Synod will find the language to re-articulate to the faithful today their essential role, through the human dynamics of family, in passing faith from one generation to another. We likewise pray that the Synod will envision ways in which modern families can come to see themselves more clearly as disciples who live the joy of the Gospel. The greatest challenge for church today is to encourage and equip families to accept, and live out, their fundamental role as the first and best teachers of faith.


1: A More Inclusive Notion of “Family”

First and foremost, we think the very definition of “family” ought to be as broad as possible, allowing for traditional as well as contemporary models and cultural differences. While “families” are and rightly ought to be the core building blocks in society, the fact is that real families (i.e., household communities) come in all sizes, shapes, and configurations. [3] The concept of ‘one-size-fits-all’ family ministry seems inadequate, outdated and insufficient. It seems to us that the Synod on the Family ought to listen to the peoples of the world – old and young, married and single, parents and children, those together as well as those estranged or divorced, straight as well as the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, and questioning community (LGBTQ). What are their joys and hopes? What are their griefs and anguishes? How might we, as the followers of Christ, help them the most? How can we help the human family and individual human families move forward – humanely, personally, interpersonally and spiritually? [4]

2: Theological, Spiritual, & Pastoral Education at All Stages

In the United States and Canada, the Catholic Church and its many publishing outlets (including Paulist Press) have been at the forefront in offering educational and pastoral services. The vast majority of parishes and dioceses have created frequently-available series and programs to assist engaged couples of any age in preparing for their covenant marriages together. We applaud these valiant efforts and encourage similar frequent programmatic opportunities in all countries, dioceses, and parishes across the globe.

It is also commendable that so many parochial high schools and Catholic colleges and universities offer courses on dating, sexuality, marriage, parenting, and the like. In addition, campus ministry programs and Newman Centers offer similar opportunities for relational and marital education as well as one-to-one counseling and marriage preparation. Less prolific, but no less needed, are educational and counseling opportunities across the lifespan of one’s married or family life. Each stage of a married relationship or of a family’s evolution has its own particular learnings and pitfalls. We encourage national bishop conferences, dioceses, parishes, and catechetical publishers to foster an even richer menu of programs and aids for marriages and family life.

3: Ministry to Separated & Divorced Catholics

Just as our Holy Father Pope Francis tends toward a more gentle and decidedly pastoral approach, we Paulists consistently have welcomed and offered pastoral care to individuals in a variety of relationships, even those that may be more complex or conflicted than the ideal norm: interfaith marriages, pregnancy issues, ethnic or family ostracism or tensions, divorced, remarried, with or without annulments. Our first instinct is not to judge or condemn, but rather to view each individual and couple as our sisters and brothers. Much like Jesus in his encounter with the woman caught in the very act of adultery, our first pastoral utterance tends to be “neither do I condemn you.” [5]

How can we better walk with these people? If there is a solution–pastorally, psychologically, sacramentally, canonically–can we search for it together? Often the wisest and best counsel comes from those who have “been there.” We have been enriched by those women and men who have lived through and learned from painful marriages, separations, and civil divorce. We recommend to the Synod that fostering ministry to Catholics and others who are separated and divorced is pastorally necessary and can be healing ministry for all involved.

4: The Rightful Value and Use of Canon Law

When a recently separated or divorced person or newly single parent comes to the attention of a priest or parish minister, he or she is in pain, hurting, perhaps feeling guilty, often feeling overwhelmed. At this first stage, psychological counseling, spiritual support, and pastoral care are far more helpful than pulling down the Code of Canon Law from one’s bookshelf. The ministry of canon law supplements the primary mission of accepting people in their pain and promoting their healing.

Once Canon Law becomes more useful and pastorally appropriate for a given counselee, our application of Church law and the annulment process ought to be as expeditious and sensitive as possible. The tribunal practices and pastoral care approaches adopted by many U.S. dioceses across the post-Vatican II decades are to be commended and are recommended for wider use and application around the world, but even these practices can be cumbersome. Since “the law was made for humanity, not humanity for the law,” we applaud Pope Francis’ recent efforts to revise canonical procedures that will respond more readily to the situations of people who seek reconciliation in their lives and with the church and urge them to continue on this path. [6]

5: The So-Called “Internal Forum” or “Pastoral Solution”

In the post-Vatican II era there has emerged something called “the Internal Forum Solution.” [7] Initially it emerged and was proposed as a way to resolve questions of sacramental participation and access to communion for those in pastoral distress: knowing something was wrong with their prior marriage, they still were unable to attain a legal annulment and eagerly wanted to receive the sacraments. Provided no public scandal ensue, this “internal forum” or confessional-like practice (a discernment between the individual’s conscience and a local pastor or clergy person) seemed like a sufficient solution. Subsequently, some have suggested extending this extra-canonical solution for other hardship cases of divorced Catholics seeking access to communion, anointing of the sick, or other sacraments. Nevertheless, this pastoral practice has been discouraged in more recent years.

It is our recommendation that, in addition to fostering a greater pastoral use of canon law to assist separated and divorced persons who have remarried without a decree of nullity, the Church should foster the further use of this additional, extra-canonical approach known as “the internal forum” or “pastoral solution.” Erring on the side of graced mercy and pastoral care in doubtful cases would be a great gift to the faithful who yearn for the Eucharist, reflective of the attitude of Christ.

6: Access to Communion or Other Sacraments for the Divorced

When it comes to access to sacraments for such persons, we Paulists, consistent with our tradition, tend to side with those who emphasize that Jesus came as a healer, a physician for those who are ill and in need of care and nourishment. [8] We urge the Synod to consider St. John XXIII’s admonition that the “medicine of mercy,” the Eucharist, is to be freely dispensed. [9] Pope Francis points out that the Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. Medicine and food are meant to heal and nourish. We trust the power of the sacrament to do its healing work. We recommend finding ways to welcome more people to the Eucharist, not to exclude them. [10] Once someone has been fed, they then have the sustenance to accept Christ’s way of life more fully in their lives.

7: The Orthodox View of “the Death of the Marriage”
A Possible Alternative

In some of the Orthodox churches and more recently in the writings of some Catholic moral theologians one finds that the concept of marriage “till death do us part” may not only refer to the physical death of one or the other spouse, but also might refer to the death of the marriage relationship itself. Might spousal- or child-abuse, untreated addictions, or similar extreme hardship situations indicate that the bond, the human interpersonal commitment, has snapped, been torn asunder and, in effect, died? [11] We urge the Synod to consider the pastoral remedies in our sister Orthodox Churches for those divorced and remarried.

8: Ministry to Married Couples and Those Divorced: A Summary Thought

Our underlying or overarching Gospel concern, derived from our 157 years of ministry with hurting and broken families, is that the Church can and should serve as a balm for their wounds, as the tender touch of mercy more than judgment. First and foremost, we find Jesus’ challenge to the crowd in the case of an adulterous woman to be cogent: “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.” [12] It is telling that Jesus himself, who is without sin, chose not to cast stones either. We all say before receiving the Eucharist, “Lord I am not worthy . . . . say but the word and my soul shall be healed.” [13]

9: LGBTQ Persons and Gay Commitments: A Pastoral Thought or Two

We Paulists find ourselves in the 21st century being called to open our hearts and our church doors to those of the LGBTQ communities. Lesbian women, gay men, bisexual and transgender persons, as well as those still questioning face many challenges: to figure out and accept their own sexual identities, to share their experience with family and loved ones, and to find their place in our society and in the Church. In a traditional theology or philosophy classroom, distinctions concerning human nature, sexual orientation and gender roles seem to be more or less easily mapped out. However, in modern medicine, recent genetics and gender studies, the halls of psychiatry and psychological counseling, in recent jurisprudence, as well as in the interpersonal lives and complexity of real LGBTQ people, these distinctions are less clear, less absolute, and undoubtedly in need of further study and theological discernment.

Despite public opinion surveys, which indicate a great acceptance of LGBTQ persons, data indicates that the number one cause of suicide among young men in North America is feeling hated and ostracized for “being gay” or even misperceived as gay. Facing one’s own sexual inclinations and homosexual or bisexual orientation can be so frightening, so shame-producing in one’s ethnic or cultural tradition that one would rather be dead. [14]

We as a Church must endevour to proclaim that every person has unique dignity in the eyes of God. This is one of the reasons so many have been touched by Pope Francis’ seemingly pastoral comment about gay persons, made during a plane interview returning from his first trip abroad, “Who are we to judge?” This past Lent, gay and transgendered inmates in a jail near Naples were invited to share lunch with Pope Francis. He seems to be echoing in his words and actions the quotation from Gaudium et Spes with which we began this reflection. Pope Francis is calling us to go to those on the periphery and proclaim to them that they are loved and valuable in God’s sight.

It has been our pastoral and personal experience, that members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community are people of good will, deep faith, with an abiding sense of their own Catholicity who have probed the depths of their consciences in their desire for the sacraments. [15] We urge those gathered for the Synod to consider the personal needs, sexual experience, and covenant commitment of our LGBTQ sisters and brothers with the utmost pastoral care and sensitivity.


It may be a bit presumptuous for us to propose that this reflection is somehow uniquely Paulist in its content or flavor. Indeed we consider it a reflection of the Gospel and Christ’s way of life for all people and all times. We realize that there are many other important issues that impact the family such as poverty, immigration, the role of women, and sex trafficking. Still, we feel called to speak on these issues from our pastoral experience. Surely the election of Pope Francis, his modeling of mercy and compassion, and the forthcoming Jubilee “Year of Mercy” all parallel the tenor and content of this reflection. While what we have written here may in some sense be distinctively Paulist, surely it is not uniquely so. Let’s reach out graciously, in gratitude, compassion, and hope. ‘All are welcome’ in this Church, this multi-faceted, grace-filled, and still mysterious Family of God: As we sing it, we strive to live it.

We conclude with the words of our founder Servant of God Isaac Hecker, which seem so poignantly and prophetically apropos:

If Christ is to be for us a savior, we must find him here, now and where we are, in this age of ours also; otherwise he is no Christ, no Savior, no Immanuel, no “God with us.”

Complete Article HERE!

Gay Catholics Will Be Silenced During Pope Francis’ Philadelphia Visit: Archbishop

By Philip Pullella

Homosexuals can attend a Catholic family congress in Philadelphia during Pope Francis’ U.S. visit this year but won’t be allowed to use it to attack Church teachings, the city’s archbishop said on Thursday.

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“We don’t want to provide a platform at the meeting for people to lobby for positions contrary to the life of our Church,” said Archbishop Charles Chaput. The Catholic Church teaches homosexuality is not sinful but homosexual acts are.

“We are not providing that kind of lobbying opportunity,” he told a news conference presenting the September 22-27 congress known as the World Meeting of Families.

Gay Catholic groups and families headed by gay Catholics had asked for an official presence at the gathering to present their view that homosexuals should be fully welcomed in the Church.

The pope will attend the last two days of the Philadelphia meeting at the end of a trip that will take him to Cuba as well as New York and Washington.

About 15,000 people from around the world are expected to attend the family congress to hear lectures and take part in workshops on family issues before the pope arrives to close the gathering.

“We hope that everyone feels welcome and certainly people who have experienced same-sex attraction are welcome like everyone else,” Chaput said.

Bishop John McIntyre, also of Philadelphia, said the only event dedicated to gay issues at the congress will be one by Ron Belgau, a celibate gay Catholic and founder of the Spiritual Friendship Initiative.

Belgau blogs and lectures about how Catholic gays can live by the Church’s teaching.

McIntyre said Belgau “will talk about his own coming to terms with his sexual orientation and the manner in which he embraced the teachings of the Church” and his mother will also speak.

The program for an event Belgau addressed last year at the University of Notre Dame said he spoke of “a faithful and orthodox response to the challenge of homosexuality”.

Catholic gay couples have contested the Church’s ban on homosexual activity, saying it deprives them of the intimacy that is part of a loving relationship.

It will be the eighth World Meeting of Families since the event was started by the late Pope John Paul in 1994 to promote traditional family values. It is held every three years in a different city.

Organizers said they expect up to two million people to attend the final event, a Mass by the pope on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, a boulevard that runs through they city.