Donations flood in after Catholic Church cuts fund to homeless agency

The first of hundreds of online donations to Francis House came in early Thursday, just after midnight, as news broke that the Catholic Church was cutting off funding to the homeless services agency because of its new director’s support of Planned Parenthood and gay marriage.

By Friday morning, people from Sacramento and across the country had contributed roughly $8,000 to the nonprofit group, and the checks and telephone calls continued throughout the day.

“We’ve been swamped,” said Michael Miiller, a member of the agency’s corporate advisory board. “The generosity has been incredible.”

In addition to donations from $20 to $1,500, the group has received offers of volunteer help and pledges of support from ordinary people and power brokers, including state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Sen. Roger Dickinson, both Democrats.

The cash and pledges will fill the gap created in January, when the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento decided to discontinue funding Francis House as part of its annual appeal, Miiller said.

The Sacramento Bee published a story on the development Thursday that quickly went viral on the Web, triggering a lively online discussion and telephone calls to Francis House and the Catholic diocese. The diocese heard from vocal supporters of its decision as well as those who opposed it, said spokesman Kevin Eckery.

“We’ve had calls on both sides,” Eckery said. “And we certainly don’t begrudge any additional money donated to Francis House. They do great work.”

For 41 years, Francis House has helped Sacramento’s poor with basic needs such as housing and transportation. It is one of the largest homeless services agencies in the region, with an annual budget of about $500,000. For at least two decades, it received annual donations from the diocese ranging from $7,500 to $10,000.

In January, in a hand-delivered letter to the agency’s executive director, the Rev. Faith Whitmore, the diocese said her “strong public support of Planned Parenthood and same-sex marriage” clashed with teachings of the church. Therefore, it is “impossible for the diocese to continue funding Francis House” as part of its Annual Catholic Appeal.

Whitmore, formerly the senior pastor of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Sacramento, took over leadership of Francis House in April after the sudden death of executive director Gregory Bunker.

She has been a vocal supporter of Planned Parenthood, which provides a range of women’s health services, including cancer screenings, contraception and abortion. The Catholic Church espouses “natural family planning,” and staunchly opposes abortion.

Planned Parenthood has long been a target of conservative groups over the abortion issue. Most recently, it found itself at odds with a longtime ally, the Susan G. Komen cancer foundation. Under pressure from anti-abortion activists, Komen cut funding to the agency for breast cancer screening but reversed its decision following a public outcry.

Whitmore said that, although she supports a woman’s right to choose an abortion, she has conflicted feelings about the issue.

“I am not pro-abortion,” she said. “But I do support Planned Parenthood because they do more to help women get needed health care than any organization in the country.”

Whitmore also has been a strong advocate of same-sex marriage, which the church opposes. The church was a primary financial backer of California’s Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

As news spread about the diocese’s decision to stop funding Francis House, its website lit up with donations. Supporters began arriving at the C Street agency when it opened a few hours later, and phoned and streamed in throughout the day.

Some expressed their unhappiness with the diocese’s decision, Miiller said. Others “just wanted to make sure that we were able to backfill the lost donations” from the church.

“We really don’t want to engage in politics,” Miiller said. “We just say, ‘Thank you so much for helping us help the poor.’ Our hope is that the support continues. The need is great.”

Complete Article HERE!

Inclusive ‘Old Catholic Church’ community formed in Saranac Lake

The Rev. Christopher Courtwright-Cox was at the heart of the Roman Catholic Church when he realized that he no longer could be affiliated with it.

It was at the height of the Catholic priest sex abuse scandal in 2004, and Cox was living in Vatican City. He had just completed his seminary training and been ordained as a deacon.

“I had this growing sense of anxiety and depression while I was over there, and I couldn’t really articulate it,” said Cox. “But when (the sex abuse scandal) happened, to hear behind closed doors the amount of secretiveness and homophobia, and the amount of misogyny within the hierarchy of the church, it dawned on me why I was struggling so much.

“I started thinking about the place of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people in the church,” said Cox, who is gay. “I got to thinking about the place of women in the church, and about divorced people and how they’re not allowed to receive communion. All these things started coalescing for me, and I realized I can’t do this because it’s destroying me and it’s destroying people I care about. So I decided to leave active ministry.”

That decision marked the start of a journey that would eventually bring Cox to Saranac Lake, where he recently founded the Crossroads Catholic Community, billed as an “ecumenical, inclusive, non-judgmental and independent” religious community that still retains most Catholic traditions and practices.

Cox credits the Rev. Ann Gaillard, rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, where Crossroads is renting space for its services, for coming up with the Crossroads name.

“Crossroads worked because St. Luke’s is literally at the crossroads of the community, at the corner of Main and Church (streets), in the heart of the village,” he said. “But it’s also at the heart of what I’m trying to do and what the Old Catholic Church is about, and that is being an ecumenical bridge among all of the Christian denominations.”

The term “Old Catholic Church” refers to a number of Christian churches that originated with groups that split from the Roman Catholic Church over certain doctrines, primarily the belief that the pope can make infallible statements on church doctrine.

Cox’s connection to the Episcopal Church is what led him to try to learn more about the Old Catholic Church. About a year-and-a-half after he left active ministry, Cox was living in Plattsburgh and was approached by a friend who encouraged him to visit an Episcopal church.

“I started attending the Episcopal church to check it out, and I was like, ‘It’s Catholic-lite, but it’s also Catholic right,'” Cox said. “It’s kept all the things about Catholicism that I love: the scriptures, the Eucharist, the priesthood, the ritual, the community. But it got rid of a lot of the moralizing.”

Cox became a member of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Essex. He later moved to Saranac Lake, where he worked as the spiritual director of St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers, a position he held for four years until he recently stepped down. During his time at St. Joseph’s he received his doctorate in pastoral counseling and started work on a master’s degree in theology.

“It was then that I realized, while I was writing my dissertation, the call that’s always really been in my heart, that I want to be in active ministry again,” Cox said. “It was at that time that I brought it up to my spiritual director, and he said, ‘Have you ever heard about the Old Catholic Church?'”

Cox contacted Bishop Rose Tressel, head of the United Catholic Church, which describes itself as “an old Catholic heritage church for the church’s homeless.” After giving it a lot of thought, Cox reactivated his ministry in August 2011 and founded the Crossroads Catholic Community, a member of the United Catholic Church.

Its services – held Wednesdays and Saturdays at St. Luke’s – are almost identical to those of the Roman Catholic Church, Cox said.

“The only real difference is that in the Eucharistic prayer, the pope is not prayed for as such; he’s prayed for as the bishop of Rome,” he said. “And we have more freedom in our liturgy; it’s not as rigid. We can draw from Orthodox sources, Old Catholic sources, Roman Catholic sources, Celtic sources. But the basic structure is the same: There’s a gathering around the scriptures, a sermon and the liturgy of the Eucharist, where all believers gather around the table to receive the body and blood of Christ.”

Cox says he averages about a dozen parishioners at the Saturday service, but he said he isn’t measuring his success by the number of people who attend.

“If just one person finds healing or finds peace with their own struggles, then that’s enough,” he said.

Crossroads has also been taking its message to the street. Cox, Gaillard and several of the Crossroads Community’s parishioners provided “Ashes to Go” on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 22, outside the Saranac Lake post office and in the Sears parking lot. About 60 people received ashes and blessings, Cox said.

Cox stressed that he’s not out to pick a fight with the Roman Catholic Church and its local parishes, like St. Bernard’s in Saranac Lake.

“What’s unique about this is you are free to come and go,” he said. “You can be a part of this community and still be a Baptist, a Methodist, an Episcopalian, a Roman Catholic – whatever you want. Our object is not conversion. It’s just a matter of belief and practice, and we want to return to what all of Christianity held in common.”

The Rev. Mark Reilly, pastor of St. Bernard’s, was reluctant to speak about the Crossroads group, although he said he is aware of it.

“To the degree that we may share some things as common as Christians, that’s one thing,” Reilly said. “To the degree that it’s another form of schism, that it appears to be, I need to be very careful.”

Gaillard called what Cox is doing “very exciting.”

“I think that the idea of that very specific ministry of reaching out the marginalized – it’s a very important one,” she said. “All churches seek to do that, but when you’ve got a different sort of ecclesiastical structure that supports it, that’s a new way of doing things, and that’s what he has.”

Crossroads parishioners like Angela Estes of Saranac Lake are just as enthusiastic. Estes said she grew up in the Roman Catholic Church but became dissatisfied with the church’s hierarchy in the wake of the priest sex abuse scandal and because she said she was “treated differently” when she got divorced.

Estes said she likes the Crossroads Community because “there’s no judgment at all, and the rules are not the same. You can be divorced, you can be gay, you can be a woman priest. It’s just church. It’s wonderful.”

Complete Article HERE!

Priest Charged With Patronizing a Prostitute

Police arrested a Northeast Philadelphia priest after he allegedly solicited sex and drugs from a female officer posing as a decoy.

Forty-eight-year-old Patrick McCormick, of the 3000 block of Levick Street, was charged with Patronizing a Prostitute on February 23rd.

The alleged incident happened around 11 p.m. on the 3300 block of Kensington Avenue.

Police say McCormick was arrested after soliciting sex and drugs from a female officer posing as a prostitute. McCormick saw the decoy on the street and offered her $50 to perform a sex act. Police say he also told her to bring a joint, according to investigators.

McCormick is an assistant pastor with St. Timothy Rectory on Levick Street in Northeast Philadelphia.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia, calling the information “deeply troubling” says McCormick notified them on February 24th that he was arrested but that the charge was a DUI.

Church officials said McCormick was placed on administrative leave.

Complete Article HERE!

Mother Church and the Rape of Her Children

I recommend that you read the entire article, but here are Richard Sipe’s conclusions.

Conclusion: The title of this volume—Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: A Decade of Crisis:—is actually a question. What has the Catholic Church learned? No one in June 2002 could possibly imagine the worldwide scope or dimensions that questions about abuse by Roman Catholic clergy would assume by 2012. The head of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, Wilton Gregory, proclaimed triumphantly in 2004, “the problem is history.”

My reflections focused on five fundamental issues that impinge on the Catholic Church and underlie its processes of learning about and preventing clergy sex abuse: secrecy, scandal, crisis, mandated celibacy, and clerical culture.

Secrecy was and remains foundational to the operation of the Catholic clerical world. Reviewing several thousand legal procedures over the past ten years demonstrates to me how assiduously—and violently—American cardinals and bishops fight to keep incriminating and embarrassing documents secret.

Within a decade, the fulminating scandal fed by revelation upon revelation of Catholic bishops and priests abusing boys and girls and superiors covering up their crime spread like a string of Chinese fire crackers from Boston’s Back Bay to the Vatican and Pope, from Dallas to Dublin and Bishops Conferences around the world. Sex abuse by priests is no longer a secret, but a scandal properly so defined: a widely publicized allegation or set of allegations that damages the reputation of an institution, individual or creed. Clergy abuse of the vulnerable is the biggest scandal the Catholic Church in America has ever faced and most probably equals the Twelfth and Sixteenth Century scandals in Europe. For example: tapes recorded during an April 2010 meeting between a victim, his bishop abuser, and a cardinal (Danneels of Belgium) reveal the prelate urging the victim not to tell anyone that the bishop sexually abused him. The European press claimed the tapes provided some of the most damaging documents to emerge in the scandal rocking the Roman Catholic Church.

Again in 2010 another cardinal, Dario Castrillon Hoyos of Columbia, used the familial argument to defend keeping priest abuse secret saying, “it [reporting priest abusers to the police] would have been like testifying against a family member at trial.” He also claimed in a radio interview reported by the Associated Press “that Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was involved in a 2001 decision to praise a French bishop for shielding a priest who was convicted of raping minors.”

Not long after February 27, 2004 when the Report on the Crisis in the Catholic Church in the United States was published and made public along with the John Jay Report Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke who served as interim Chair of the National Review Board said that the bishops did not want change, but only “business as usual.” She spoke in 2010 about the problem of “untruth” she sees in the church and the bishops.

The scandal of sex abuse by Catholic clergy has been a public relations nightmare—gargantuan and impossible. No spin makes gruesome facts go away. Many priests and bishops have violated in criminal ways their responsibilities as representatives of Mother Church. Scandal, of course, is not the real problem no matter how distressing; the crisis of betrayal of Mother Church’s children is the crux of the scandal. However, the question remains: has the church learned anything about truth and transparency in the past decade?

There is wide based agreement that the Catholic Church is in a crisis mode. The crisis has to do with human sexuality—specifically bishops and priests who present themselves as celibate and chaste while they violate minors and the vulnerable under the cloak of their religion. The denial, rationalization, lies, and cover up of clerical crime by Church authority is in evidence and provides an ongoing scandal and crisis.

There are repeated calls for the abrogation of the requirement of celibacy for ordination to the priesthood. Whatever the merits of the arguments, they will not solve all the problems of clerical sexual malfeasance. Bishops and priests exist in, maintain, and assiduously preserve a clerical culture within which secret sexual activity by clergy is tolerated.

Celibacy and chastity are taught in an educational mode and structure established for diocesan clergy at the Council of Trent. That tradition is dependent on a monastic-like schedule (horarium) and a system of sacramental confession and spiritual directors. It is no longer effective. Despite rules and screening procedures a significant number of clerical candidates are sexually active with one another or with priests—sometimes faculty. Celibate observance of religious order clerics has not proved better. But sexual activity in the clerical culture is not introduced from the bottom-up—from candidates for ordination—but from men established in the culture—priests, spiritual directors, rectors, superiors, even bishops. Homosexuality is a predominant operational orientation in clerical culture form Rome to Los Angeles.[23]

Culture always trumps reason. Is it possible to revise clerical culture? History, theology and human nature all conspire in favor of reforming dysfunctional systems eventually. Theologically, clerical culture is mutable, no matter how firmly grounded in custom and tradition. Jesuit Bernard Lonergan (1967) wrestling with the possibility of “transition of organization and structural forms in the Church” said among other things: “there is in the historicity, which results from human nature, an exigence for changing form, structures, methods; and it is on this level and through this medium of changing meaning that divine revelation has entered the world and that the Church’s witness is given to it.”[24]

Literary critic, Lionel Trilling (1965) talks about the power of forces that change culture. Somewhere in the mind “there is a hard, irreducible, stubborn core of biological urgency, and biological necessity, and biological reason, that culture cannot reach and that reserves the right, which sooner or later it will exercise, to judge culture and resist and revise it.”[25] There is hope.

Prevention of sexual abuse by priests and bishops presents a daunting agenda. A revision of clerical culture is required to deal effectively with clergy sexual violations of every stripe. The burden transcends the capacities and limits of law and psychiatry and rests squarely on the very core of religion and spiritual transformation—in theologian Bernard Haering’s words on “absolute sincerity and transparency.” Prevention will not occur without discussion of the realities of sexuality, celibacy, and the development of explicit and honest norms for sexual responsibility and accountability for human behavior on every level of the church. The darkness of secrecy breeds betrayal, abuse and violent assault. Revelations over the last decade have proved that. A Mother Church, that sustains, nourishes and, protects her children demands light, accountability, openness and truth. That is the task unveiled over the past ten years. It is vital that the Church respond. Any church that cannot tell the truth about itself runs the risk of having nothing significant to be heard.

Complete Article HERE!

BC Won’t Renew Contract Of Controversial Professor

Several students are protesting the decision by Boston College to not renew the contract of an adjunct professor in its School of Theology and Ministry who has openly questioned why the Catholic church won’t ordain women.

The Boston College mission statement on its website talks about the Jesuit foundation of the school that makes it unique. It reads: “No other institution so explicitly embodies the fundamental human desire to know.”

But after Father John Shea, a professor of pastoral care and counseling, asked church leaders for a theological explanation for why women are not being ordained to the priesthood of the Catholic church, he was let go. After nine years, Shea will leave his position at the end of this semester. He refused to comment.

The school says, as a matter of policy, it does not discuss personnel decisions*. But several of the BC students who are protesting the decision say there’s a climate of intolerance at the Jesuit university around openly discussing sensitive issues such as the ordination of women.

“I think the reason he was let go was because he was causing trouble,” said John Falcone, who worked as a graduate assistant with Shea.

Last year Shea wrote directly to Cardinal Sean O’Malley, telling him that he would step aside from active ministry until women are allowed to be ordained. Falcone says Shea has since paid a price for this position.

“I think the university, by any means necessary, is tying to avoid any kind of trouble or implication that the School of Theology and Ministry is not impeccably right wing orthodox,” Falcone said.

Recently, after Shea was told his contract would not be renewed, he wrote again to O’Malley, and to other Catholic leaders across the country, asking why the church won’t let women be priests.

Boston College said Shea’s contract was not renewed because his position was changed to a tenure-track job, a change the School of Theology and Ministry has sought for some time. But students in the program, including Paul Shoaf Kozak, are protesting his termination.

“John Shea is a highly respected faculty member,” Shoaf Kozak said. “He is, in fact, one of the only members of our department who teaches pastoral counseling. His classes are always full. He typically receives high evaluations from students.”

Shoaf Kozak signed a student-drafted letter to Boston College President William Leahy expressing disappointment with the decision not to renew Shea’s contract. The letter says there is an underlying message in the decision: you can’t disagree with Catholic teachings.

“There’s some suspicion, for sure, especially given the fact of the atmosphere right now of our church,” Shoaf Kozak said. “And at our school we’re not fully permitted to discuss issues in the public forum about homosexuality, female ordination, those issues that are very important for our generation of Catholics, here in a North American context.”

Boston College says this is not true. Spokesman Jack Dunn says the school doesn’t shy away from any conversations.

“Unfortunately some students apparently are upset over a personnel issue and while I’ll never discuss personnel issues, I can assure you that anger is misguided,” Dunn said. “It’s a terrific school, it’s a school that’s embracing the issues of the day, as a school of theology and ministry should.”

The Vatican has been clamping down on priests who have advocated for the ordination of women. Last year, a priest from the Maryknoll order was excommunicated because he took part in a women’s ordination ceremony.

Suzanne Thiel is the president of an origination known as Roman Catholic Women Priests, and is one of approximately 100 women who have gone through ordination ceremonies and call themselves priests. Thiel said the Catholic public has accepted female ordination, but church officials won’t talk about it.

“I think we have plenty of male priests who are open to women balancing out the ministry but they just are afraid for all kinds of reasons,” Thiel said. “Probably their retirement, especially, and just their whole priesthood from being cut off, because that’s how this hierarchy has been functioning.”

The primary theological explanation the Vatican gives is that women can’t be priests because a priest has to represent Christ, and women can’t do that because they’re not male.

Students in Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry say they expected an atmosphere that welcomes dialogue and values professors who embody the Christian spirit. They have asked BC President Leahy for an explanation of his decision not to renew Professor Shea’s contract.

Complete Article HERE!