Former North Side Catholic nun gets ordained

The Nun’s Story …

A former North Side Catholic nun was ordained a priest recently in an unsanctioned church ceremony in Fort Myers, Fla.

She was immediately ex-communicated from the Catholic church.

“I reject that,” said Judy Beaumont, 74 — the former Sister Mary Daniel — who grew up in Rogers Park before becoming a Benedictine nun who taught theology at St. Scholastica Academy.

Beaumont, who is now referred to as Pastor Judy, was ordained by the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests.

“We are following our conscience and we are full loyal members of the church,” said Beaumont.

“We will do everything we can to bring about a new way of inclusivity in the church,” said Beaumont, who is now the 11th priest ordained by her group.

The key differences in the women’s “ordination” ceremony are:

† They don’t take a vow of obedience to the bishop. (“It basically denies you the ability to follow your conscience.”)

† Their bishop is a woman, who serves as a spiritual adviser.

† They don’t take a vow of celibacy and allow married, single, grandmothers, gay and straight women into the priestly fold.

† Rather than always referring to God as a “he,” their church language is more inclusive. The “Our Father” prayer reads “Our Mother/Father, who art in heaven.”

“The institutional church will not hire any of us to do church ministry, so we do what we can ministering in hospitals and to the homeless,” she said. “We hold Sunday mass in “church” houses and live on donations. “Stepping outside the institution is hard.”

Two more women are being ordained priests in the next few days, Beaumont added. “I didn’t decide I wanted to become a priest, it was a calling,” she said.

Complete Article HERE!

Birth Control Debate: Why Catholic Bishops Have Lost Their Grip on U.S. Politics—and Their Flock

COMMENTARY

The Vatican’s timing was ironic. While Roman Catholic bishops in the U.S. were trying to revive their moral and political clout last week by battling President Obama over contraception coverage and religious liberty, a papally endorsed symposium was underway in Rome on how the Church has to change if it wants to prevent sexual abuse crises, the very tragedy that has shriveled the stature of Catholic prelates worldwide over the past decade, especially in the U.S. One monsignor at the Vatican gathering even suggested the hierarchy had been guilty of “omertà,” the Mafia code of silence, by protecting abusive priests.

The Roman forum was a reminder—and the birth control clash is turning out to be one as well — of just how much influence the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has lost in the 10 years since the abuse crisis erupted in America. It hopes that its protest of a new federal rule requiring religiously affiliated institutions like Catholic hospitals and universities to provide no-cost contraception in their health insurance coverage, even if church doctrine forbids birth control, will help restore the bishops’ relevance. They did win a partial victory last Friday when Obama, acknowledging the uproar, said those institutions would no longer have to pay for the contraception coverage themselves. But the President did not fully genuflect: The compromise will still oblige religious-based employers to offer the coverage, while their insurance providers foot the bill.

Although major Catholic groups like Catholic Charities and Catholic Health Services accepted that revision, the bishops are holding out for more. But their crusade to be exempted from the mandate is likely to fall short of its grail. If so, it’s because Obama read the Catholic flock better than its shepherds did.

Granted, the bishops, led by New York Archbishop and Cardinal-elect Timothy Dolan, did get the White House to acknowledge how high-handedly and ham-handedly it had managed the contraception debate—confirming along the way the public’s wariness of the so-called liberal elite—and convinced it to craft a deal that should have been policy in the first place. Yet in his refusal to cave completely to the religious liberty campaign, Obama has illustrated the reality that the bishops no longer speak for most U.S. Catholics—the nation’s largest religious denomination and a critical swing-voter group—on a host of moral issues, according to polls.

Not on abortion or the death penalty (a majority of Catholics believe those should remain legal); on divorce or homosexuality (most say those are acceptable); on women being ordained as priests and priests getting married (ditto); or on masturbation and pre-marital sex (ditto again, Your Excellencies).

And especially not on contraception. Ever since Pope Paul VI reaffirmed the Church’s senseless ban on birth control in 1968, few doctrines have been as vilified, ridiculed and outright ignored by Catholics – evidenced by a recent study showing that 98% of American Catholic women have used some form of contraception. It’s hard to believe, as the bishops would have it, that those women simply succumbed to society’s pressure to do the secular thing. They’ve decided, in keeping with their faith’s precept of exercising personal conscience, that family planning is the moral and societally responsible thing to do—for example, preventing unwanted pregnancies and therefore abortions. And it explains why a recent Public Religion Research Institute poll found most Catholics support the contraception coverage mandate even for Catholic-affiliated organizations. Presumably most endorse Friday’s compromise.

Far more Evangelical Protestants, according to the PRRI survey, back the bishops than Catholics do. But that hardly makes the bishops, when it comes to the more independent Catholic vote, the same force to be reckoned with that they were in the 20th century. That is, before 2002 and the horror stories of how prelates like Cardinal Bernard Law, then Boston’s archbishop, had serially shielded alleged pedophile priests. It’s true that some bishops, like Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl, confronted rather than coddled accused priests. But when it became clear that so many of the men in miters cared more about safeguarding the clerical corporation than about protecting kids, episcopal “authority” vanished like so much incense smoke—and Catholics increasingly abandoned the 2,000-year-old notion that their church and their religion are the same thing.

That’s essentially what Catholics like me are asking for, especially from my colleagues in the media, during episodes like the contraception and religious liberty fracas: Stop equating what the bishops say with what we think, because we’re not the obedient, monolithic bloc that newspapers and cable news networks so tiresomely insist is in “jeopardy” for this or that party whenever they smell church-state friction. When a hardline U.S. bishop calls for withholding communion from a Catholic politician who supports legalized abortion, stop assuming all Catholics have the prelate’s back rather than the pol’s. When Catholic politicians draft legislation like the religious liberty bills popping up on Capitol Hill right now, stop accepting their assertion that the birth-control ban is “a major tenet” of Catholic faith, as Florida Senator Marco Rubio called it this month. For the vast majority of Catholics, it isn’t.

And for that matter, stop forgetting that in the 2008 election, 54% of Catholic voters ignored their bishops and backed a pro-choice presidential candidate like Obama. I certainly don’t point that out as some kind of endorsement of Obama in 2012. I’m simply noting that pundits and politicians need smarter criteria for gauging the Catholic vote—just as advisers in Obama’s White House shouldn’t have been so clueless about religious issues when they first decreed the contraception mandate. If the tragedy of the 2002 abuse crisis reminds us of anything, it’s that religion does matter in politics. Just ask the church leaders who are still paying a political price for their religious code of silence.

Complete Article HERE!

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

COMMENTARY

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!