Vatican aims to regain trust of US religious women, official says

In the final stage of the apostolic visitation of U.S. women’s religious communities, the Vatican congregation overseeing the study not only is facing mountains of paper, but must try to rebuild a relationship of trust with the women, said the congregation’s secretary.

U.S.-born Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, said, “I believe a visitation has to have a dialogical aspect, but the way this was structured at the beginning didn’t really favor that.”

In an interview Aug. 10 with Catholic News Service, Archbishop Tobin said the congregation hoped its review of the visitation reports and its responses to the participating religious communities would be marked by dialogue and would be a step toward healing.

“I’m an optimist, but also trying to be realistic: The trust that should characterize the daughters and sons of God and disciples of Jesus isn’t recovered overnight. I think women religious have a right to say, ‘Well, let’s see,'” he said.

The former prefect of the congregation, Cardinal Franc Rode, initiated the visitation in January 2009, saying its aim would be to study the community, prayer and apostolic life of the orders to learn why the number of religious women in the United States had declined so sharply since the 1960s.

Almost a year into the study, Cardinal Rode told Vatican Radio that the investigation was a response to concerns, including by “an important representative of the U.S. church” regarding “some irregularities or omissions in American religious life. Most of all, you could say, it involves a certain secular mentality that has spread in these religious families and, perhaps, also a certain ‘feminist’ spirit.”
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Archbishop Tobin said Mother Mary Clare Millea, superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the apostolic visitor appointed by the Vatican, has submitted her “overall draft report,” but the congregation is expecting another 400 reports from the sisters who visited each community and from many of the communities themselves.

The congregation, which has a staff of 40, including only three native English speakers, will need help reading, assessing and responding to the reports, he said.

One possibility, Archbishop Tobin said, is to ask religious congregations based in Rome to allow U.S. members of their general councils to serve as consultants to the congregation and help go through all the reports.

The fact that Cardinal Rode had decided the visitors’ reports would not be shared with the individual communities was only “part of the real harm done at the beginning,” Archbishop Tobin said. The situation was exacerbated by “rumors and, I would say, some rather unscrupulous canonical advisers exploited that” by sowing fear that the Vatican would replace the leadership of some communities or dissolve them altogether.

“It’s like Fox News, they keep people coming back because they keep them afraid,” Archbishop Tobin said.

“But certainly, on our side of the river or our side of the pond, we had created an atmosphere where that was possible,” and where the idea that some communities would be closed down “didn’t seem to be so outlandish.”

“It’s like preaching; it’s not what you say, it’s what they hear … and what a lot of these women heard was someone telling them their life was not loyal and faith-filled,” he said.

In the end, though, many congregations found the process was not as bad as they feared, he said, and “an important outcome that is already happening is that there is a growing number of women religious in the States who say, ‘We need reconciliation, but it has to happen among ourselves. It can’t be imposed by the Vatican.'”

Archbishop Tobin said reconciliation is needed within and among communities, including between those represented by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, which stereotypically are seen, respectively, as very progressive and very conservative.

“The visitors themselves were from the two different groups, and they found out from talking to each other that the caricatures weren’t accurate,” he said.

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Cardinal Policarpo summoned to Vatican for his statements on the ordination of women priests

The Lisbon patriarch, José da Cruz Policarpo, who during a recent interview stated that “no fundamental obstacle” exists, from a “theological stand point,” to the ordination of women priests had an exchange with the Papal Secretary of State Bertone, after he received a letter from the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith, cardinal William Levada, who invited him to clarify his position.

This is according an article by António Marujo published by the Portuguese newspaper Publico. The Vatican Insider has also written about it, reporting the clarification published by the Portuguese cardinal.

It has just been confirmed that the seventy-five year old patriarch of Lisbon, will be serving another two years as leader of the diocese in the Portuguese capital. During a long interview with the monthly publication “OA”, the Portuguese Law Society magazine, discussing the topic of women priests, states that “John Paul II at one point seemed to have settled the controversy.” Reference is made to the apostolic letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis (1994), one of the shortest documents written by Wojtyla, with which the Pope, after the Anglican Communion’s decision to open the ordination of women, confirmed that the Catholic Church would have never done it.

“I believe,” cardinal Policarpo said, “that the issue cannot be settled in these terms. From a theological stand point there is no fundamental obstacle (to women priests, Ed.); there is this tradition, let’s call it that way; it was never done any other way.”

In response to the interviewer’s question, intrigued by the cardinal’s statement that no theological reasons exist against the ordination of women, Policarpo answered, “I do not think there is any fundamental obstacle. It is the fundamental equality right of all members of the Church. The problem is rooted in a very strong tradition, which originates from Jesus and the ease with which the reformed Churches allowed women to become priests.”

A few days after, the cardinal disclosed a letter in which he clarified his thoughts, stating that he never “systematically analyzed the matter.” “Reactions to this interview forced me to ponder on the matter with more attention and I realized that, by not paying due attention to the statements of the teachings of the Church on the matter, I helped trigger these reactions.” Policarpo then added, “It would be painful for me if my words were to create confusion in our obedience to the Church and to the words of our Holy Father.”

Now, the Portuguese daily paper reveals a behind the scenes description of what happened over the past weeks, stating that the Lisbon patriarch was summoned by the Papal Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone. The conversation took place in Castel Gandolfo in the first half of July, while the Portuguese cardinal was in Rome to participate to a plenary session of the newly formed Papal Council for the new evangelization. Publico writes that Policarpo was treated with extreme kindness “because the Vatican was afraid he would react negatively to a strong reprimand.”

On July 2, a few days before the meeting with Bertone, Policarpo had received, through a papal nuncio in Lisbon, a letter by cardinal William Levada, prefect of the former Holy Office. According to a testimony obtained by Publico, the letter apparently had him very worried. For this reason, on 6 July, the patriarch wrote a clarification statement. The Portuguese daily paper, however, highlights that this was not the first time Policarpo had made statements of this kind about women priests: however, it was the first time that his words had been reported by the international press.

António Marujo’s article provides several of the cardinal’s statements as examples. In 1999, a year after his appointment as Lisbon patriarch of the diocesan center, Policarpo led people to believe that the matter of women priests had not been settled at all and that what was needed, was a period of maturing of the communities and the Church, since today the idea of “women carrying out duties that were unthinkable thirty years ago is now accepted within the Church.”

On May 2003, in Vienna, the cardinal responded in a similar fashion to a question during a press conference in which mention was made to a letter sent by Pope John Paul II in 1994 and the Congregation’s subsequent clarification of the Doctrine of the Faith. Policarpo explained that in his opinion the matter “is not settled that way; from a theological point of view, there is no fundamental obstacle; there is this tradition, let’s call it that way… it was never done any other way”. In that same interview, the Lisbon patriarch stated that at the present time it was not appropriate to raise the issue because it would have triggered “a series of reactions,” but he concluded saying that “If God wishes it to happen, and if it God’s plan, it will happen.”

The document of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith to which reference is made, was the answer to a doubt published by the former Holy Office (at the time led by cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who had archbishop Tarcisio Bertone as his right hand). It asked if “the doctrine, according to which, the Church cannot ordain women priests, as proposed in the apostolic Letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis” had to be “deemed definitive” and “part of the deposit of faith.” The answer, approved by Pope Wojtyla, was “affirmative.” The Congregation at the time explained that “this doctrine requires a permanent confirmation because, based God’s Word, written and constantly kept and applied in the Tradition of the Church since its origins, it was infallibly proposed by the ordinary and universal teachings of the Church” and thus, “it must be followed always, everywhere and by every faithful person, since it belongs to the deposit of faith.”

http://tinyurl.com/3rgnfl4

Federal Grand Jury Indicts KC Catholic Priest

A federal grand jury has indicted a Catholic priest on 13 counts of possessing and producing child pornography.

Shawn Ratigan, 45, is already facing state charges.

KMBC’s Micheal Mahoney reported that the indictment accuses Ratigan of 11 counts of production or an attempt to produce child porn. Prosecutors said Ratigan “exploited five minor victims.” They say the victims range from 2 to 12 years old.

“When a person who has been places in a position of trust exploits and customizes children, he victimizes the entire community,” said U.S. Attorney Beth Phillips.
Ratigan’s arrest on the child porn charges earlier in the year launched a firestorm of controversy surrounding the Kansas City Catholic diocese and its leader, Bishop Robert Finn.

http://tinyurl.com/3wsxmuq

Sex abuse scandal: Groups want alleged abusive clerics named

Standing outside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the South End, groups supporting victims of clergy sexual abuse accused Cardinal Sean O’Malley of maintaining “secrecy” and pressured him to craft a “comprehensive” list of accused Boston clergy.

At issue is a list of priests and church employees accused of abuse that is currently being compiled and that an official said is “very close” to being complete.

The groups are concerned that the list will not include the names of accused religious order clerics because they claimed the archdiocese believes they do not fall under its supervision.

“A child hurt by an order cleric is just as damaged as a child abused by a cleric whose check is signed by the archdiocese,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org.

A spokeswoman for the archdiocese said the list-making is ongoing.

“We understand there is great interest in this process. At this time, substantial progress has been made to facilitate the publication of names but it is complex and our work is ongoing. We continue to evaluate issues associated with disclosing information relating to deceased priests or those accused of a crime, whose guilt or innocence has not been established,” the statement said.

The groups at Thursday’s protest outside the cathedral released scores of names of accused order clerics who have worked in the archdiocese. Some have been arrested and others have been involved in settlements, the groups said.

http://tinyurl.com/3rcmyf5

Hundreds of Roman Catholic priests across the United States have died of AIDS-related illnesses

Remarkable series at The Kansas City Star. See the full series HERE!

Catholic priests are dying of AIDS, often in silence
Hundreds of Roman Catholic priests across the United States have died of AIDS-related illnesses, and hundreds more are living with HIV, the virus that causes the disease. It appears priests are dying of AIDS at a rate at least four times that of the general U.S. population.

Priests speak out in national survey
Six of 10 Roman Catholic priests in The Kansas City Star’s survey know at least one priest who died of an AIDS-related illness, and one-third know a priest currently living with AIDS.

• About The Star’s survey
AIDS, gay-related issues trouble many denominations
The Roman Catholic church may be the nation’s largest denomination, but it isn’t the only one grappling with the issues of homosexuality and AIDS. Many denominations have lost clergy to AIDS, and numerous churches are mired in battles over whether to ordain homosexuals or to perform same-sex marriages.

Homosexuality, AIDS and celibacy: the church’s views
The Roman Catholic Church has no national policy on dealing with priests who have HIV or AIDS. Nor does the church have specific guidelines on educating priests about sexuality. Priests and seminarians are expected to rely on church doctrine on homosexuality and celibacy and to follow their bishop’s or superior’s lead in ministering to colleagues afflicted with AIDS.

Florida priest finds acceptance after devastating news
In early 1989, the Rev. Dennis Rausch was thinking about leaving the priesthood. Though ordained for nearly a decade and serving as Catholic chaplain at a Florida university, Rausch felt unfulfilled. Then he tested positive for HIV.

MARK ZIEMAN: EDITOR AND VICE PRESIDENT
Priests’ stories carry crucial messages
The credibility and worth of any newspaper series should rest squarely on the stories themselves, not on columns such as this one. Our series beginning today on AIDS in the Catholic priesthood is no exception. That’s why I urge you to read our coverage for yourself.