Have mercy on gays, says Church rebel

The head of a group of “disobedient” parish priests has called for mercy on homosexuals.

Helmut Schüller, who set up the Preachers’ Initiative last June, said at the weekend that showing mercy on same-sex couples was more important than clerical law and regulations. He called on Catholic Church leaders and members to show respect and charity to homosexuals. Schüller added that inner values mattered more than anything else.

It was the first time Schüller published another demand on Roman Catholic Church bishops and the Vatican since presenting a list of ideas last summer. At that time, Schüller – who heads the parish of Probstdorf in Lower Austria – said the Vatican should allow priests to give Holy Communion to people who married a second time at registry offices after getting divorced following church weddings. The Preachers’ Initiative also wants the Austrian Church to allow women to hold sermons. The group is in favour of getting rid of the celibate too to increase the declining number of young men interested in becoming Catholic priests.

Schüller, who once headed Caritas Austria – appealed to Austrian priests on Saturday to fight appeals by clerical leaders on them to take care of more than one parish community at the same time. Schüller claimed that pastoral care – “a key aspect of preachers’ duties” – would be continuously neglected this way.

The Probstdorf parish priest recently rejected claims that his initiative suffered a standstill. “We just need to stop and take a breath,” he told magazine profil. Schüller explained that his movement spent the past weeks on agreeing on a strategy and a path every member agreed with. The ex-Caritas chief said that the group currently consisted of around 400 priests. He pointed out that many preachers joined the movement in the past few weeks.

He said on Saturday that the group of Catholic preachers – who angered Viennese Archbishop Christoph Cardinal Schönborn and other high-ranking representatives of the Austrian Church by declaring themselves “disobedient” – planned to cooperate with movements in several countries all over the world including Australia. Schüller stressed that the ideals of the Austrian Preachers’ Initiative were endorsed by many groups of Catholic priests abroad.

Schönborn said in several recent interviews he had no intention of denying the need for reforms in the Austrian Catholic Church. However, the head of the Austrian Church also criticised Schüller’s group for choosing the term “disobedience”. Schönborn and Schüller did not hold talks in the past weeks about a possible agreement after having met a few times last year when Schönborn tried to end the dispute before it garnered more public attention.

The archbishop of the Diocese of Vienna headed an Austrian delegation who gathered with Vatican representatives in Rome around two weeks ago. Reports have it that the clerics also spoke about Schüller’s movement and possible reactions to avoid a drifting apart of the Austrian Church. “I appreciate that the Worldwide Church starts thinking about our ideals. Maybe this was the start of something,” Schüller said when being informed by the press that such a meeting took place.

More people than ever since the end of World War Two (WWII) left the Austrian Church in 2010 when 58,603 cancellations of memberships were registered. The number declined by 32 per cent in 2011. A spokesman for the Conference of Austrian Bishops said that the Church appreciated this development – but also underlined that the decrease would not mean that everything was perfectly fine again in the Church.

Widespread refusal to carry out reforms and accept modern lifestyles but also an increasing number of reported cases of sexual abuse by clerics are main aspects for Austrians’ decision to leave the Church. Another reason seen as a key motivation is a fee colloquially known as Church tax. All members but unemployed people and needy pensioners are asked to transfer 1.1 per cent of their incomes to the Church. Critics of the tradition-rich rule point out that the Church benefited in many other ways as well such as low taxation of their properties and financial support by the state to renovate and restore monasteries and abbeys.

Complete Article HERE!

Father Bob: tradition v modern life


The death throes of the latest Australian Catholic cause célèbre are being played out over the next few days.

Yesterday was Father Bob Maguire’s last Sunday Mass at his beloved St Peter and Paul’s Church in South Melbourne. The place was packed to the gunnels as usual. On Wednesday, he will be made to retire and be relocated, much against his will and the will of his parish, which fought the dismissal with a Jesuitical doggedness. The parish community, led by the local council’s deputy mayor, Frank O’Connor, still failed to move the stony heart of Archbishop Denis Hart.

Father Bob is one of three priests sacked in recent years. While he has passed the retirement age for priests, hence his removal, Bishop William Morris of Toowoomba was made to leave last year for merely raising the issue of the ordination of women. And before that, Father Peter Kennedy got the chop from St Mary’s of South Brisbane for breaching church rules.

These beautiful men are the sacrificial lambs as an ancient faith battles to accommodate modernity. Social change has been a post-war challenge for many institutions and Catholicism, through Vatican II, the Papal encyclical Humanae Vitae, the sex abuse scandal and now the banishment of Father Bob, lurches one step forward and two back into this third millennium.

What is the import of this dispute? Will Father Bob become a forgotten man in a tiny local battle in a small corner of the world or will he become a powerful metaphor that helps the Church grapple with change? Will this parochial stoush become a global touchpaper? Only time will tell.

Father Bob is 77. He is not just a national media figure with a show on ABC radio station Triple J, 55,000 followers on Twitter, appearances on SBS television guru, but he is also famous for his welfare work with the Open Family Foundation. He is the most celebrated Catholic in the country and yet he is being forced from office. That is because he is also a constant challenge to the leadership in a faith where the notion of obedience is enshrined in the idea of the apostolic succession. Obedience is at the heart of his organisation and his vows.

The core of this debate was alluded to in November when Father Bob argued that this act of retrenchment was vengeance against a ‘‘Cafeteria Catholic’’ by Cardinal George Pell. The idea of the ‘‘Cafeteria Catholic’’ was first raised in America the 1970s and is a pejorative term that decries those Catholics who dissent from orthodoxy, by implying they choose their views as one chooses a meal in a cafeteria. There are Catholics now who, rather than follow the line from Rome on the controversial issues, desire the freedom to choose.

The Australian version of ‘‘Cafeteria Catholicism’’ was recently spelled out by Cardinal Pell when he travelled to Cork, Ireland in August last year.
His Eminence divided the Catholic world into two – ‘‘authentic’’ and ‘‘cafeteria’’ Catholics. This dichotomy is to be found in all organisations for there are always conservatives and reformers in every assembly. ‘‘Cafeteria Catholics’’ is a delightful jab at one’s foes. Somehow food is the perfect put down. One only has to think of Chardonnay Socialists, Latte Lefties and now Cafeteria Catholics.

However, cafeterias are also places where people engage in life. They are not posh. They are not sinful. They are vibrant hubs where humans congregate and thrive. That His Eminence would view the word ‘‘cafeteria’’ as a put down indicates a willingness to take his faith to the margins of Australian society rather than sacrifice his religious purity.

So it is a shame to see the promotion of change resistance when change so obviously beckons. The ‘‘Cafeteria Catholics’’ like Father Bob are derided as liberal Christians who ‘‘give to priority to the contemporary understandings’’. The Pell Doctrine appears to favour a religiously pure Church even if that means smaller numbers and getting rid of Father Bob.
So this is not just a local battle on the age of a retiring priest. It is a fundamental and globally significant difference of the view of change and modernity in the largest denomination in the world.

Despite this significance, lest we forget that it also is an act of cruelty to evict an elderly man and his beloved dog, Franklin, from their home.
What is your view?

Should the godless care about how slowly venerable faiths take to modernity?
Is the failure of churches to embrace change a cause of sadness or an opportunity for atheism?

Are Cardinal Pell and Archbishop Dennis Hart the best things that ever happened to Australian atheism?

Is the tale of the Bobster an irrelevant local issue or a metaphor of historic significance?
Over to you . . .

Complete Article HERE!

More dirty laundry

Incoming Fresno Bishop Armando Ochoa has been sued by five parishioners from an El Paso, Texas, parish who say the bishop converted funds they donated specifically for construction of a chapel for the traditional Latin Mass to other uses — and they want their money back.

A Mass of Installation for Bishop Ochoa is scheduled tomorrow in Fresno. Pope Benedict XVI named him as the new Fresno bishop on Dec. 1. Before leaving El Paso, where he had been bishop since 1996, Bishop Ochoa took the extraordinary step of suing one of his priests, Fr. Michael Rodriguez. The bishop’s lawsuit alleges that Fr. Rodriguez, a problematic and outspoken priest, committed financial irregularities and violations of diocesan policy on the handling of parish funds.

The parishioners’ lawsuit, announced in a Jan. 30 press release, is the latest development in the ongoing legal battle. The five parishioners say that more than six weeks ago they asked for a meeting with Bishop Ochoa “to resolve this situation in private and in a spirit of Christian charity,” but never received a response from the chancery.

“We did not donate our money in order for it to be seized by the diocese or San Juan Bautista Parish and used for other purposes,” said the news release. “We simply asked that our money be used for the specific intention for which it had been donated or that it be returned to the rightful owners.”

In a Jan. 11 press release, Bishop Ochoa said Fr. Rodriguez had been removed as administrator of San Juan Bautista Parish on Sept. 20, 2011 “based on credible information and documents that show that he intentionally and materially failed to comply with the Manual of Policies and Procedures of Parish Finances of the Roman Catholic Diocese of El Paso.”

“Fr. Rodriguez’s handling and use of donated funds has compromised the financial integrity of San Juan Bautista,” Bishop Ochoa said in the press release. “I have appealed repeatedly to Fr. Rodriguez to make a complete disclosure and a thorough accounting of his financial administration of the parish but he has refused to do so.”

The bishop said Fr. Rodriguez’s refusal to provide financial information left him with no alternative but to file a lawsuit against the priest and his brother, David Rodriguez.
The parishioners’ lawsuit sheds new light on the conflict between Fr. Rodriguez and Bishop Ochoa. According to the suit, beginning in 2007, parishioners
“expressed a desire to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in accordance with the Usus Antiquior of the Roman Rite and to do so with the installation of an altar and sanctuary designed for such Mass.”

Their donations, said the parishioners, “were not to be used for any other purpose.” Fr. Rodriguez, they said, collected the money and moved forward with plans for the altar and sanctuary, including the approval of architectural plans.

Parishioners James Herget and Marie Celeste Herget allege in the suit they contributed $32,820; parishioners Mario A. Macias and Francella Macias estimate their donations at $6200; and parishioner Aurora L. Alvarado alleges she contributed $1070. All of them ask that their money either be used to complete the traditional altar and sanctuary — or be returned to them.

Bishop Ochoa and Fr. Rodriguez have been at odds since 2010, when the priest began attending city council meetings to speak out against homosexuality. Fr. Rodriguez also authored several opinion pieces in the El Paso Times critical of the El Paso City Council for extending health insurance to all employees regardless of marital status or sexual orientation.

When Fr. Rodriguez became involved in a recall campaign against some in city government responsible for that policy, Bishop Ochoa removed him as parish administrator. “This type of intervention in the political process by religious organizations such as the Diocese of El Paso and San Juan Bautista Church is not permitted under Section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code,” said Bishop Ochoa in a statement issued at the time.

Fr. Rodriguez has adamantly denied any wrongdoing, saying that Bishop Ochoa’s allegations that he improperly handled donated funds were not true.

“I have always honored, respected, and made good use of the financial patrimony of San Juan Bautista,” said Fr. Rodriguez in a Jan. 12 statement. “I stake my entire reputation on this claim.”

According to Fr. Rodriguez, he met with Bishop Ochoa on Sept. 20, 2011, and “opened my heart to my bishop, like a son to a father, and was completely honest and forthcoming with him as to the financial affairs of San Juan Bautista. I told him everything. He chose not to believe me… I have never misappropriated or misused parish funds.”

Fr. Rodriguez said “the real reason” for Bishop Ochoa’s lawsuit against him “is due to my defense of the Catholic Church’s teaching with regard to homosexuality as well as my adherence to the Roman Liturgy of 1962.” He said he would “continue to proclaim and teach the truths of the Roman Catholic Church, especially in the area of sexual morality, no matter the cost” and would also “continue to adhere to the Ancient Rite of the Roman Catholic Church, no matter the cost.”

True to his word, Fr. Rodriguez was back before the El Paso City Council yesterday with a statement attempting to explain the Church’s teachings regarding homosexuality to his elected representatives.

Complete Article HERE!

Towson priest charged with indecent exposure

A Towson priest has been removed from duty at the Church of the Immaculate Conception after being arrested last week on indecent exposure charges.

According to a police report of the incident, Mark Stewart Bullock, 47, was at Bush River Books & Movies, an Abingdon adult store on the 3900 block of Pulaski Highway, the night of Jan. 16, when two deputies, investigating complaints of indecent exposure, discovered him nude from the waist down in a movie theater inside the shop.

Bullock was sitting on a couch with “his pants completely off,” stated the report, which went on to state that “Bullock was not wearing any underwear and [was] exposing his penis.” He was sitting in a public area where store customers could see him, sheriff’s deputies said.

The deputies instructed Bullock to get dressed and charged him with indecent exposure, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum fine of $1,000 and three years in prison, police said.

Bullock could not be reached Sunday. A court date is set for March 6.

In a letter to parishioners, Rev. Joseph Barr said the Baltimore Archdiocese removed Bullock’s “faculties to function as a priest and initiated an investigation to learn more about the incident” as soon as officials were made aware of the arrest.

Bullock has been ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation, and he is no longer allowed to celebrate Mass publicly or to present himself as a priest, the letter said. The removal from the ministry is indefinite, it added.

“He will no longer reside at the parish rectory and is not permitted to attend or participate in any parish or school functions,” Barr noted in the letter.

“I realize this information may be shocking and painful for you to hear, which I sincerely regret,” Barr wrote. “However, in the interest of transparency and out of an abundance of care for this parish and our community, I wanted to share this news with you directly and ask for your prayers for Fr. Bullock and for our parish.”

Barr could not be reached Sunday, nor could a spokesman for the Baltimore Archdiocese.

The arrest appears to be Bullock’s first, according to online court records. He lists the church’s address, on the 200 block of Ware Ave., as home.

Monica Worrell, a spokeswoman for the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, said deputies routinely look in on adult bookstores to ensure they are complying with the law. This particular shop was drawing more traffic than normal, according to community members, who had voiced concerns at a council meeting, leading the sheriff’s office to investigate.

“Throughout the course of doing that, we found violations of law,” Worrell said. Several arrests were made, she said.

Complete Article HERE!

Lawyer: Church official threw monsignor ‘under the bus’ amid child sex accusations in Philly

An indicted Catholic church official is showing signs he won’t take the fall alone for the priest abuse scandal in Philadelphia, with his lawyer saying Wednesday that a successor threw him “under the bus.”

Monsignor William Lynn, 61, is the only official from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia facing trial for allegedly failing to remove accused predators from the priesthood. He served as secretary of clergy from 1992 to 2004.

Defense lawyers argue that Lynn took orders from then-Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and other superiors in the church hierarchy.

Prosecutors hope to include dozens of old abuse allegations to show a pattern of conduct at the trial, which is scheduled to start in late March and last several months.

One such case involves a West Chester University chaplain accused in 1994 of taking pictures of students in their underwear.

He next became chaplain of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, worked with a parish youth group and later admitted taking boys on overnight trips, one to Jamaica, before retiring to the New Jersey shore, prosecutors said.

When a New Jersey diocese asked the Philadelphia archdiocese about the priest, Monsignor Timothy Senior allegedly wrote in a letter that Lynn, his predecessor, did not fully investigate complaints against the priest.

“Maybe that’s an answer to why Monsignor Senior is not here (as a defendant). He obviously doesn’t mind throwing Monsignor Lynn under the bus,” defense lawyer Jeffrey Lindy argued.

Prosecutors call the archdiocese “an unindicted co-conspirator” in the case. A 2005 grand jury report blasted Bevilacqua and his successor, Cardinal Justin Rigali, for their handling of abuse complaints, but they were never charged. Bevilacqua is now 88 and in failing health.

A judge will hear more arguments Monday on whether 27 of the 63 priests described in that grand jury report can be referenced at Lynn’s trial. Prosecutors want to show that Lynn kept them on the job despite knowing of complaints stored in “secret archives” at the archdiocese.

They have detailed the cases over a three-day pretrial hearing this week. The cases include a priest who allegedly pinned loincloths on naked boys playing Jesus in a Passion play, and whipped them, in keeping with the drama; a priest who held what prosecutors called “masturbation camps” at the rectory, having boys strip naked and teaching them to masturbate; and a pastor written up for disobedience for complaining to Bevilacqua about an accused priest being transferred to his parish.

“I truly would love a jury to see how these were handled,” Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington said in court. “The more cases they see … the clearer the picture becomes.”

Although some of the abuse dates to the 1960s through 1980s, before Lynn’s time as secretary for clergy, he had access to the secret files. And many of the cases were not reported until years later, during his tenure.

Defense lawyers hope to limit the trial evidence to Lynn’s handling of the priest and ex-priest on trial with him. The Rev. James Brennan, 48, and defrocked priest Edward Avery, 69, are charged with rape. All have denied the charges.

The archdiocese declined to respond to the comments made Wednesday about Monsignor Senior, citing a gag order in the case.

Lynn is on leave from the archdiocese. Jury selection is set to start next month.

Complete Article HERE!