Reaction to Fiducia in US has revealed ‘enduring animus’ to ‘LGBT persons’, says key Pope ally

Newly elevated Cardinal, Monsignor Robert Walter McElroy gestures as he attends a courtesy visit of relatives following a consistory for the creation of 20 new cardinals by the Pope, on August 27, 2022 in The Vatican.

By John L Allen Jr

One of Pope Francis’s most vocal allies in the Church hierarchy in the United States has criticised the reaction among some Catholics in the country to Fiducia Supplicans.

Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego has said that while it’s fine for a priest concerned about protecting the institution of marriage to refuse to offer blessings of persons in same-sex relationships, much of the opposition in the US to a Vatican document authorising the non-liturgical blessings of couples in irregular situations, including same-sex couples, is rooted not in doctrinal principle but what he called an “enduring animus” against gays and lesbians.

“It is wholly legitimate for a priest to personally decline to perform the blessings outlined in Fiducia because he believes that to do so would undermine the strength of marriage,” the cardinal said on 16 February.

But, he went on to say, “it is particularly distressing in our own country that the opposition to Fiducia focuses overwhelmingly on blessing those in same-sex relationships, rather than those many more men and women who are in heterosexual relationships that are not ecclesially valid.”

McElroy, who’s widely seen as a leader of the progressive wing of the US Church and a strong Francis supporter, added: “It is crucial to emphasise that Fiducia simply clarified questions about the permissibility of a priest pastorally blessing persons in irregular or gay unions in a non-liturgical setting and manner. No change in doctrine was made.”

McElory didn’t specify which sorts of non-ecclesially valid relationships he had in mind, but couples who live together outside of marriage would come under this.

“If the reason for opposing such blessings is really that the practice will blur and undermine the commitment to marriage, then the opposition should, one thinks, be focusing at least equally on blessings for these heterosexual relationships in our country,” he said.

“We all know why it is not,” McElroy said, attributing it to “an enduring animus among far too many toward LGBT persons”.

Noting that Fiducia Supplicans has stirred intense debate around the world, including a statement from the bishops of Africa to the effect that such blessings would be inappropriate in their cultural context, McElroy cited these “diverging pastoral paths” as a positive example of decentralisation.

“We have witnessed the reality that bishops in various parts of the world have made radically divergent decisions about the acceptability of such blessings in their countries, based substantially on cultural and pastoral factors as well as neo-colonialism,” he said.

“This is decentralisation in the life of the global Church,” McElory said, implying that such differences in principle can be positive, reflecting adaptation to local cultures.

Nonetheless, he insisted that decentralisation should not become an excuse for anti-gay prejudice.

“This decentralization must not obscure in any manner the religious obligation of every local church in justice and solidarity to protect LGBT persons in their lives and equal dignity,” he said.

McElroy, 70, was speaking during a session of the Religious Education Congress sponsored by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest annual Catholic gathering in North America, on the subject of Pope Francis’s ongoing Synod of Bishops on Synodality.

McElroy said that in the listening sessions which led up to last October’s month-long meeting of the synod in Rome, issues related to the LGBT+ community loomed large.

“The searing question of the Church’s treatment of LGBT+ persons was an immensely prominent facet of the synodal dialogues,” he said. “Anguished voices within the LGBT communities, in unison with their families, cried out against the perception that they are condemned by the Church and individual Catholics in a devastating way.”

McElroy conceded that among the bishops and other participants gathered in Rome, there was disagreement on the subject, listing it among what he called areas of “deep divide” in the assembly. The other areas included how to empower laity without undercutting the hierarchical nature of the Church, the extent and limits of inculturation and decentralisation, and the possible ordination of women deacons.

McElory also described areas of strong consensus in the meeting, such as the need to open up more roles in the Church to laity. He cited the example of how in his own diocese he was unable to name a veteran administrator to the role of “moderator of the curia” because, under existing church law, that role is restricted to priests.

As a result, McElroy told the crowd, he simply appointed the layman as “vice-moderator of the curia” and refused to select a moderator. He predicted that when the Synod of Bishops reaches its conclusion this October, reforms on such matters could come quickly.

“I think there will be a lot of progress on questions like this,” he said.

In terms of the single most powerful theme to emerge from last October’s summit, McElory said it was the sense that the time has come for a “paradigm shift” with regard to the inclusion of women in the Church.

McElroy said that while there were contrasting opinions on women deacons, a more “full-bodied” discussion ensued beyond a “binary” yes or no. For example, he said there was some discussion of perhaps ending the transitional diaconate, which would make ordination as a deacon the final step before priesthood.

Doing so, McElroy said, might sever the connection between the diaconate and the priesthood, which “could make it easier to have women deacons”.

In response to question about the perception that certain American bishops are anti-Francis, McElroy said the political dimension is less important than a bishop having a pastoral orientation.

“The ultimate criterion for a bishop is, is he pastoral? The question of whether he’s strongly pro-Francis, medium Pope Francis, Okay but not great with Pope Francis, leaning for or against, is secondary,” he said.

Going forward, he explained, a major practical challenge for the Church will be to find ways to make it more participatory and rooted in listening, but without replicating the cumbersome system of the synod itself.

“The process of discernment used in Rome is far too time-consuming to use with regularity in parish and diocesan life and decision-making,” he said. “It won’t work here.”

Instead, McElroy called for “analogical methods of discernment” which would be “practical for general use in our diocese and our parishes and groups of faith”.

With regard to Catholic doctrine, without offering specific examples McElroy suggested that in general it is time for change.

“It is becoming clear that on some issues, the understanding of human nature and moral reality upon which previous declarations of doctrine were made were in fact limited or defective,” McElroy said.

End celibacy and bar on married priests

— Or risk having none in the western world in 30 years, former President Mary McAleese argues

Former Irish President Mary McAleese.

Trinity University Chancellor McAleese responding to comments by influential Vatican figure suggesting revising celibacy requirement

By John Breslin

The Catholic Church must end celibacy and the bar on married priests or there will be none left in the western world in 30 years time, former President Mary McAleese has said.

Mrs McAleese, currently chancellor of Trinity University, was speaking after a highly influential figure within the Vatican suggesting revising the requirement that priests be celibate.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, an adviser to Pope Francis, said: “If it were up to me, I would revise the requirement that priests have to be celibate. Experience has shown me that this is something we need to seriously think about.”

Senior Vatican figure believes conversation on celibacy of priests must start
Archbishop Charles Scicluna

He told the Times of Malta: “This is probably the first time I’m saying it publicly and it will sound heretical to some people.”

“I am delighted he came out and said it because he is regarded very, very highly by pretty much everybody in the church,” said Ms McAleese, a canon lawyer and also a supporter of ordaining women.

Archbishop Scicluna first came to prominence in 2018 when he was tasked with investigating allegations of a sexual abuse cover-up in Chile.

This followed what Ms McAleese described as one of Pope Francis’ worst visits of his papacy, during which he essentially denied there was any evidence supporting the allegations of a cover up by senior clergy.

After their investigation in Chile, Scicluna and colleague Monsignor Jordi Bertomeu delivered a 2,600-page dossier which prompted the Pope to apologize for mishandling the issue.

“It established his credentials and integrity….when he speaks, people listen,” said Ms McAleese.

Many within the Vatican agree here are no theological arguments in favour of celibacy and that the bar on priests was introduced a millennia ago in order to protect the property rights of the church.

Pope Francis applauds while he remembers late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who died a year ago (Andrew Medichini/AP)
Pope Francis

Pope Francis has agreed there is no formal church doctrine on celibacy and marriage, and admitted a future pontiff may change the rules, but he has decided not to do so, Ms McAleese said, adding she believes the most “interesting possibilities” for the next Pope are from the “excellent leadership” in Belgium and Germany.

Proposals in recent years, ruled out by the Pope, include allowing elderly married men in the Amazon to be ordained to cover a chronic shortage in remote areas and to let the previously ordained who have married to return to church duties.

The latter are still regarded as ordained but Ms McAleese said proposals to allow older men to become priests or for ones to return “does not really solve anything”.

An entirely new cohort of eligible, younger, men are needed, she said, adding a warning if the status quo is maintained the church will be “looking at the western world in 30 years where there will not be any priests”.

Opposition to married priests – and ordaining women – is strongest in the more conservative “global south”, where the church is still growing and it is argued celibacy allows a man to devote himself entirely to the church.

Ms McAleese is not impressed, comparing the situation to Ireland 100 years ago. Young men, often surrounded by poverty, saw the church as a route to education, a job, status and influence, Ms McAleese said.

“And we know where that ends up,” she said.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope Francis: To be ‘scandalized’ by gay couple blessings is ‘hypocrisy’

Pope Francis greets pilgrims at his general audience on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, at the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican.

By Matthew Santucci

Pope Francis this week again defended the Vatican’s controversial document authorizing blessings for same-sex couples, with the Holy Father arguing that humans “must all respect each other” and stating that blessings should be extended to “everyone.”

The pope’s comments come from an exclusive Italian-language interview he gave to the Italian weekly print periodical Credere, which will be available in newsstands across Italy on Thursday.

When asked by editor Father Vincenzo Vitale about Fiducia Supplicans — the December document published by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) that authorized nonliturgical blessings for same-sex couples and others in “irregular situations” — the pope said that “the gravest sins … are those that disguise themselves with a more ‘angelic’ appearance.”

“No one is scandalized if I give a blessing to an entrepreneur who perhaps exploits people: and this is a very serious sin,” the Holy Father said. “Whereas they are scandalized if I give it to a homosexual … This is hypocrisy! We must all respect each other. Everyone.”

“I don’t bless a ‘homosexual marriage,’” the pope said. “I bless two people who love each other and I also ask them to pray for me.”

“Always in confessions, when these situations arrive, homosexual people, remarried people, I always pray and bless,” he continued. “The blessing is not to be denied to anyone. Everyone, everyone. Mind you, I am talking about people: those who are capable of receiving baptism,” Francis continued.

Pope Francis has come to the defense of the document several times since its publication. In a Jan. 26 audience with members of the DDF, the pope said that “moral perfection” isn’t a requirement for receiving a blessing.

The intent of the blessings, the pope said at the time, is “to concretely show the closeness of the Lord and of the Church to all those who, finding themselves in different situations, ask help to carry on — sometimes to begin — a journey of faith.”

Those comments came after the 87-year-old pontiff appeared on the Italian prime-time TV talk show “Che Tempo Che Fa” on Jan. 14, which he joined via livestream from his residence at Casa Santa Marta.

Answering questions regarding Fiducia Supplicans, the pope said that “the Lord blesses everyone who is capable of being baptized, that is, every person.”

“But we are to take them by the hand and help them go down that road, not condemn them from the beginning,” he told the network. “And this is the pastoral work of the Church. This is very important work for confessors.”

The pope’s comments at Credere come amid continuing controversy over Fiducia Supplicans, which has been met with widespread criticism and concern centered on how it might be misconstrued. Backlash has come particularly from Church leaders in Africa and Eastern Europe.

Credere, which is part of the San Paolo Editorial Group and available only in print, was established on the occasion of the election of Pope Francis in 2013.

It is distributed throughout Italy with a weekly circulation of 60,000 copies and 200,000 readers, the Italian daily newspaper La Stampa reported.

Complete Article HERE!

No, Married Priests will not Solve the Abuse Crisis

By Mary Pezzulo

They’ve been talking about married priests on X/Twitter lately.

A Vatican official brought up ending the usual requirement for priestly celibacy in the Roman Catholic Church as a possible way to help priests not feel the need to live “double live.”  He didn’t draw any links between celibacy and sexual abuse, but since he also investigates clerical abuse he mentioned how it’s changed his point of view. And people got to talking. The question was asked, as I’ve often heard it asked: could letting priests have a wife help prevent the horrific sexual abuse scandals that just seem to keep happening? And as I always do when it’s asked, I cringed.

I am all in favor of examining the expectation that priests should be celibate. There are many reasons it might be good to have a married priesthood more like they do in the Eastern tradition. But it’s very dangerous to claim that giving priests wives will stop them from abusing. I don’t think there’s any evidence that not being allowed to have sex makes people abusive, and I think it’s dangerous to claim that it does.

If a vow of celibacy was really the cause of sexual abuse, we wouldn’t be having a depressingly familiar crisis in Evangelical Protestant churches right now, but we certainly are. Baptist pastors are men who can marry; in fact, a married pastor is not merely permitted but presumed to be the norm. They’re supposed to have a helpmate and children. It hasn’t stopped them from acting eerily like Catholic priests have been caught acting time and again. Anybody, from any walk of life, can abuse, but what is it about those religious traditions that makes sexual abuse by clergy so endemic there? What do they have in common? It’s not clerical celibacy.

And in any case, if you say that being married will keep a man from abusing, you’re putting the responsibility to stop him onto his wife.

You’re suggesting either that the wife will hold him accountable and protect any potential victims, or that she’s supposed to sexually gratify him so he doesn’t seek victims in the first place.

If you believe that married priests would end the abuse crisis because women would hold their husbands accountable: I don’t know how to begin to explain how crass it is to instrumentalize Catholic women and the sacrament of Holy Matrimony by using it as a pair of handcuffs for an abusive man. But most of the people who support giving priests wives to end sexual abuse seem to be claiming the latter. They seem to think that sexual abuse happens because priests are celibate, so having an outlet in the form of a wife will satisfy them so they don’t find a victim to force themselves onto.

This is also a disgusting instrumentalization of women, and of sex, which is supposed to be a free gift of love from one spouse to another. And it assumes that abusers abuse because they’re craving sex, which isn’t the case– most abusive people abuse because they get off on dominating others and making them suffer, not because they’re desperate to have sex. Sex and sexual abuse are fundamentally different things. But in addition, this idea betrays an extremely disturbing notion about how sexual urges and self control are supposed to work.

You don’t have to accept the Church’s teaching on sexuality to see the problem.

Any kind of healthy or ethical relationship with sex begins with the understanding that people don’t have to act on their urges. Sex, or at least sex with another person, is one of those things you can’t have merely because you think you’d like it; it always involves another person’s consent, and even if the other person is willing you can’t just have it wherever and whenever you think might be fun. No one can constantly be sexually gratified exactly as they’d like. Everybody is, in practice, celibate most of the time. You have to have self-control to exist among other people.

Being a functioning human involves being able to say “no” when your urges say “yes–” whether your urge is to shoplift Nutella and eat the whole jar in the supermarket, or to drive your car at 120 miles per hour in the middle of the city, or to have sex. If you can’t handle that, you shouldn’t be a priest;  you shouldn’t even be allowed around other people. You should be locked up.

I am deeply disturbed that a sizable number of people don’t seem to understand that having an outlet for his sexual urges isn’t going to fix a man who can’t control himself– even if that were fair to his wife.

If you want to say that expecting a man to be celibate for his entire life is bad for his mental health, we can have that argument. If you want to say that a vow of celibacy, combined with the Church’s stance on sexual issues, is only going to be attractive to a man who’s prone to abuse, we can argue about that too. We can sure talk about ordaining married men for other reasons. But if you think that sexual abuse is something that happens because a man needs an outlet one way or another so we’d better give him a wife, that’s not a position that can be defended. Because women are people, and because that’s not how sexuality works.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope Francis says opponents of gay couples blessings are ‘small ideological groups’ and Africans

Pope Francis leads the Angelus prayer at the Vatican, Jan 7, 2024.

By Anugrah Kumar

Addressing the controversy surrounding the Vatican’s decision to allow blessings for same-sex couples, Pope Francis said the critics of the guidance, except for Africans, belong to “small ideological groups.”

The pontiff claimed that even in Africa, the resistance is more cultural, as homosexuality is generally not tolerated, Reuters quoted him as saying in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa.

Francis was referring to the December 2023 document “Fiducia Supplicans” issued by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has sparked widespread debate within the Catholic Church. The guidance stated that priests may bless same-sex couples that approach them for blessings but distinguishes between liturgical blessings and pastoral blessings, which do not give approval to same-sex relationships.

“Those who protest vehemently belong to small ideological groups,” Francis was quoted as saying. “A special case are Africans: for them homosexuality is something ‘bad’ from a cultural point of view, they don’t tolerate it.”

“But in general, I trust that gradually everyone will be reassured by the spirit of the ‘Fiducia Supplicans’ declaration by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith: it aims to include, not divide,” the pope said.

He acknowledged the strong resistance from African bishops as there are harsh legal penalties for same-sex relationships in some African countries. The pope stressed the importance of context and sensitivity when blessing same-sex couples.

Pope Francis remains undeterred despite opposition from some theological conservatives. He advised focusing on moving forward rather than dwelling on talks of schism, which he believes are led by small groups.

“We must leave them to it and move on … and look forward,” he said.

In his remarks at the plenary session of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith last Friday, Pope Francis clarified that the Church’s teachings on homosexual practices and same-sex relationships remain unchanged. The “Fiducia Supplicans” declaration, while allowing blessings for same-sex couples, does not equate these blessings with marriage, nor does it validate relationships deemed irregular by the Church.

The Pope explained that these blessings are meant to demonstrate the Church’s closeness to those in various situations without demanding moral perfection. He emphasized that the blessings are for the individuals, not the union, and should consider the local context and sensitivities.

Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez, author of the declaration, released a statement earlier this month to clarify the document’s intent. He stated that the blessings, lasting no more than 15 seconds, are a pastoral response and do not justify anything morally unacceptable. The declaration has faced opposition from some bishops, like the leader of the Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana, Kazakhstan, who has prohibited these blessings in his diocese.

The Vatican’s guidance is part of a series of responses to questions from bishops worldwide. It includes clarifications on issues like the eligibility of single mothers who have confessed their sins to receive the eucharist.

Complete Article HERE!