In rare move, Vatican official chastised Texas Bishop Strickland at conference

Bishop Joseph E. Strickland

by Religion News Service

If Texas Bishop Joseph E. Strickland is known outside of his diocese for anything, it’s for controversy.

The conservative firebrand, who oversees the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, has sparked backlash from critics for everything from voicing support for priests who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to offering a prayer at a “Jericho March” event in the weeks leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. More recently, Strickland challenged Pope Francis, announcing on his Twitter feed that he believes the pontiff is “undermining the Deposit of Faith.” His efforts have inspired some detractors to call for Strickland’s resignation, while others have urged Vatican intervention.

But according to multiple sources, Strickland has already been on the receiving end of the Vatican’s ire for more than a year: He was chastised by a representative of the Holy See in 2021, they say — a move that simultaneously signals the potential for formal Vatican disciplinary action and exemplifies the difficulty of reining in a controversial cleric.

“(Strickland) doesn’t really care,” Barber said of the alleged encounter. “It’s the truth that sets us free. If he goes down because he’s speaking the truth, oh well.”

A separate source who is familiar with the meeting but who chose to remain anonymous, as they have not been given permission to discuss the matter publicly, told Religion News Service the incident took place in November 2021 at the annual USCCB meeting in Baltimore, Maryland. The source said the nuncio specifically confronted Strickland about his Twitter feed, which had garnered controversy at the time for, among other things, posts that opposed the three major COVID-19 vaccines distributed in the U.S. at the time.

Asked about the encounter via email this week, Strickland said he would “prefer not to comment.”

The nuncio’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

For his part, Barber told RNS he did not wish to speak further about the incident and would not name the source of his information. Instead, he criticized Pope Francis, accusing him of being ambiguous about important moral questions and calling the pontiff a “disaster for the Catholic Church.”

Strickland would hardly be the first cleric in U.S. history to be reprimanded by the Holy See. In the 1980s, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — headed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who went on to become Pope Benedict XVI — launched an investigation into Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen, an outspoken liberal cleric and critic of nuclear power, who oversaw the Archdiocese of Seattle at the time. The Holy See ultimately appointed an auxiliary bishop to the region who shared authority with Hunthausen.

But it’s highly unusual for the public to learn about less formal admonishments doled out to bishops by Vatican officials behind closed doors. What’s more, Massimo Faggioli, a professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University and an expert on U.S. Catholicism, said a nuncio privately dressing-down a U.S. bishop at a conference is particularly rare, and showcases the delicate situation facing modern popes when it comes to cowing outspoken, media-savvy clerics who buck the party line.

Strickland has become a popular figure in right-wing Catholic circles for his criticism of President Joe Biden and oppositional stance against COVID-19 vaccines, which includes expressing support for priests who have challenged their own bishops by refusing to get vaccinated. (Strickland’s position contrasts sharply with that of Pope Francis, who has advocated repeatedly for the use of vaccines, even calling them an “act of love.”) In addition to the Terry and Jesse Show, Strickland has appeared on a number of conservative and far-right Catholic websites, ranging from EWTN to Church Militant.

Church Militant also organized a protest outside the same November 2021 USCCB meeting where the nuncio is alleged to have confronted Strickland. Speakers at the event, where some participants waved anti-Biden “Let’s go Brandon” flags, praised Strickland from the stage. He also posed for photographs with staffers from Church Militant, an outlet that has railed against other bishops using language critics have decried as homophobic and racist.

Church officials wishing to curtail Strickland’s influence could take dramatic steps like they did with Hunthausen, Faggioli said, but “there’s no measure that can deprive him of the access to these various blogs or influencers” the bishop often utilizes to amplify his message.

“I believe that the fear is that, if he’s removed, his visibility will be amplified,” Faggioli said.

What’s more, if the alleged scolding was meant to cow Strickland, Faggioli said, it doesn’t appear to have had much of an effect. Since the 2021 meeting, the Texas bishop has been embroiled in multiple controversies over challenging the authority or rhetoric of church officials — be it his fellow bishops or the pope. And while Strickland’s much-maligned tweet about Pope Francis earlier this month was an attempt to distance himself from a podcaster who questioned whether Francis is, in fact, the pope, his effort still resulted in controversy.

“I don’t know how much that dressing down worked,” Faggioli said.

Complete Article HERE!

LGBTQ Catholics dream of a changed church, while seeing reasons to hope


As a child in inner-city Milwaukee, Father Bryan Massingale’s grandmother gave him a leather-bound copy of The New Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language, along with a dream that he might need it someday.

“My grandmother was not delusional. She did not live in denial of reality,” said Massingale, a Jesuit priest who holds an endowed chair in ethics at Fordham University, in New York City. “Her gift was a vision, an act of hope. It was a dream, a hope, a reminder that the neighborhood, with its drugs, violence and rodent-infested corner store with overpriced goods, did not define or limit who I could be.”

That’s important to know, he declared, since he was speaking as “a Black, gay priest and theologian” at Fordham’s recent Ignatian Q Conference for LGBTQ students from Jesuit campuses. This event was a “space for our dreaming, for queer dreams” of hope for “despised and disdained and stigmatized peoples,” he added.

“I dream of a church where gay priests and lesbian sisters are acknowledged as the holy and faithful leaders they already are,” he said, in a published version of his address. “I dream of a church where LGBTQ employees and schoolteachers can teach our children, serve God’s people and have their vocations, sexuality and committed loves affirmed. …

“I dream of a church that enthusiastically celebrates same-sex loves as incarnations of God’s love among us.”

Theological visions of this kind inspire hope for some Catholics and concern for others.

Thus, the North American phase of the Vatican’s global Synod on Synodality found “strong tensions within the Church,” while participants in the virtual assemblies also “felt hope and encouragement and a desire for the synodal process to continue,” according to the 36-page report (.pdf here) released on April 12 by U.S. and Canadian Catholic leaders.

Catholics are “called to act co-responsibly in a synodal fashion, not to wait until we know how to do everything perfectly, but to walk together as imperfect people,” said one group, in its summary of the process. Another group added: “When Church structures and practices are dynamic and able to move with the Holy Spirit, everyone is able to ‘use their gifts in service of the Church and of each other.'”

Calling for “greater inclusivity and welcome” within the church, the final report said this was especially true with “women, young people, immigrants, racial or linguistic minorities, LGBTQ+ persons” and “people who are divorced and remarried without an annulment.”

But the report also warned about the “danger of false or unrealistic expectations regarding what the synodal process is meant to be and to ‘produce,’ since people living in “North American culture” tend to focus on “measurable results and … winners and losers.” Some participants, for example, questioned calls for “radical inclusion,” while asking about the “pastoral and even doctrinal implications” of that term.

The explosive nature of these debates jumped into the news weeks later when the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York hosted, next to a side altar, a “God is Trans” exhibit.

In his written explanation of his art, Adah Unachukwu said this display “maps the queer spiritual journey” through “Sacrifice, Identity and Communion.” There is, he added, “no devil; just past selves” and “Communion rounds out the spiritual journey, by placing God and the mortal on the same plane.”

After seeing headlines, Archdiocese of New York officials promised to investigate the exhibit at the Paulist Fathers parish. The congregation also offers, on its website, an “Out at St. Paul” ministry to the “Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Trans and Queer community.”

Media reports early this week noted that parish leaders changed the name of this art exhibit, but that it remained in place.

Massingale delivered his Fordham address before that controversy. However, he did stress that Catholics must dare to share dreams of change – even those with “an inherently subversive quality” – while seeking a “new and more just social order.”

Referring to the “wedding banquet at Cana,” when Jesus turned water into wine, the Jesuit theologian called for a changed church in which “people of all races, genders and sexualities rejoice at the presence of love” and a world in which “spiritual wounds will be healed, where faith-based violence will be no more, where fear and intolerance are relics of history.”

Complete Article HERE!

In a historic shift

— Pope Francis allows women to vote at bishops’ meetings

Pope Francis leaves at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, Wednesday, April 26, 2023.

By The Associated Press

Pope Francis has decided to give women the right to vote at an upcoming meeting of bishops, an historic reform that reflects his hopes to give women greater decision-making responsibilities and laypeople more say in the life of the Catholic Church.

Francis approved changes to the norms governing the Synod of Bishops, a Vatican body that gathers the world’s bishops together for periodic meetings, following years of demands by women to have the right to vote.

The Vatican on Wednesday published the modifications he approved, which emphasize his vision for the lay faithful taking on a greater role in church affairs that have long been left to clerics, bishops and cardinals.

Catholic women’s groups that have long criticized the Vatican for treating women as second-class citizens immediately praised the move as historic in the 2,000-year life of the church.

“This is a significant crack in the stained glass ceiling, and the result of sustained advocacy, activism and the witness” of a campaign of Catholic women’s groups demanding the right to vote, said Kate McElwee of the Women’s Ordination Conference, which advocates for women priests.

Ever since the Second Vatican Council, the 1960s meetings that modernized the church, popes have summoned the world’s bishops to Rome for a few weeks at a time to debate particular topics. At the end of the meetings, the bishops vote on specific proposals and put them to the pope, who then produces a document taking their views into account.

Until now, the only people who could vote were men. But under the new changes, five religious sisters will join five priests as voting representatives for religious orders. In addition, Francis has decided to appoint 70 non-bishop members of the synod and has asked that half of them be women. They too will have a vote.

The aim is also to include young people among these 70 non-bishop members, who will be proposed by regional blocs, with Francis making a final decision.

“It’s an important change, it’s not a revolution,” said Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, a top organizer of the synod.

The next meeting, scheduled for Oct. 4-29, is focused on the very topic of making the church more reflective of, and responsive to, the laity, a process known as “synodality” that Francis has championed for years.

The October meeting has been preceded by an unprecedented two-year canvassing of the lay Catholic faithful about their vision for the church and how it can better respond to the needs of Catholics today.

So far only one women is known to be a voting member of that October meeting, Sister Nathalie Becquart, a French nun who is undersecretary in the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops office. When she was appointed to the position in 2021, she called Francis “brave” for having pushed the envelope on women’s participation.

By the end of next month, seven regional blocs will propose 20 names apiece of non-bishop members to Francis, who will select 10 names apiece to bring the total to 70.

Cardinal Mario Grech, who is in charge of the synod, stressed that with the changes, some 21% of the gathered representatives at the October meeting will be non-bishops, with half of that group women.

Acknowledging the unease within the hierarchy of Francis’ vision of inclusivity, he stressed that the synod itself would continue to have a majority of bishops calling the shots.

“Change is normal in life and history,” Hollerich told reporters. “Sometimes there are revolutions in history, but revolutions have victims. We don’t want to have victims,” he said, chuckling.

Catholic Women’s Ordination, a British-based group that says it’s devoted to fighting misogyny in the church, welcomed the reform but asked for more.

“CWO would want transparency, and lay people elected from dioceses rather than chosen by the hierarchy, but it is a start!” said the CWO’s Pat Brown.

Hollerich declined to say how the female members of the meeting would be called, given that members have long been known as “synodal fathers.” Asked if they would be known as “synodal mothers,” he responded that it would be up to the women to decide.

Francis has upheld the Catholic Church’s ban on ordaining women as priests, but has done more than any pope in recent time to give women greater say in decision-making roles in the church.

He has appointed several women to high-ranking Vatican positions, though no women head any of the major Vatican offices or departments, known as dicasteries.

Complete Article HERE!

Georgetown panel argues for ‘women’s ordination’ in face of papal teaching

Panelists discuss “the question of women’s ordination” April 17, 2023, at Georgetown University in Washington. From left are Annie Selak, associate director of the Women’s Center at Georgetown; Teresa Delgado, professor of theology and religious studies at St. John’s University in New York and dean of its College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Lin Henke, a senior in Georgetown’s College of Arts and Sciences; author Alice McDermott; Angele Cabrini White, founder and chairperson of the Black and Women’s History Ministry at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church in Washington; and Mary E. Hunt, co-founder and co-director of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual in Silver Spring, Md.


A Georgetown panel considered “the question of women’s ordination” April 17, describing the matter as “unfinished” despite Pope Francis’ current teaching and St. John Paul II’s 1994 teaching that Jesus Christ reserved the sacred priesthood to men alone even as the Lord promoted the dignity of women.

In the panel discussion titled “Faith, Feminism, and Being Unfinished: The Question of Women’s Ordination,” participants described the sole ordination of men as exclusionary of women, characterizing it as an example of a patriarchy holding on to power.

Sister Celeste Mokrzycki, a Sister of St. Joseph and chaplain for Georgetown’s School of Health and the School of Nursing, painted a picture during the event that its webpage called “the movement of the Spirit among participants.”

A file photo shows an extraordinary minister of the holy Eucharist distributing Communion during Mass. A Georgetown panel said April 17, 2023, that “the question of women’s ordination” is “unfinished,” despite Pope Francis reiterating church teaching that ordination is reserved for men.

The end result was a depiction of a woman as a priest.

“This painting is a reminder we are all always in progress,” Annie Selak, associate director of the Georgetown University Women’s Center, said. “There are few things that are fixed.”

Theologian Pia de Solenni, a former chancellor for the Diocese of Orange, Calif., who did not participate in the Georgetown panel, said while the church should work to include religious and laywomen in leadership roles, its teaching is fixed on the matter of ordination.

“The gender or sex matters,” de Solenni said. “It’s significant. This person is the bridegroom to the church.”

Discussions about the concept of women’s ordination have increased in recent decades as women in many nations and societies have gained a more equal status to men in civil society.

However, Pope Francis has said that “the last word is clear,” on the church’s position on the concept of female priests, while expressing support for “the feminine dimension of the church.” He pointed to St. John Paul’s 1994 apostolic letter “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis,” which said that sacred priesthood in both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches “from the beginning always been reserved to men alone” in faithfulness to Jesus Christ’s plan for the church. The Holy Father also explicitly invoked his Petrine ministry to say “that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the church’s faithful.”

St. John Paul II also explained women do not have less in dignity than men, and the “presence and the role of women in the life and mission of the church … remain absolutely necessary and irreplaceable.”

However, panelist Mary Hunt, co-founder and co-director of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual, called the church’s limitation of the priesthood to those who are biologically male “dated at best” as society shifts its understanding of gender.

“How can we share the power?” she asked with respect to making women priests. “Yes, women and nonbinary people want power to minister. How can we share the resources of the institutional church that belong to all of us?”

Sister Celeste Mokrzycki, a Sister of St. Joseph of Philadelphia, who is chaplain for the School of Nursing and the School of Health at Georgetown University in Washington, paints during a a panel discussion on “the question of women’s ordination” at Georgetown April 17, 2023.

Panelists suggested women’s ordination would be more inclusive and lead to changes in the church in the areas of financial mismanagement or sexual abuse.

Teresa Delgado, dean of St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and professor of theology and religious studies at St. John’s University, suggested women’s ordination would make the church “focused less on the doctrinal and more on popular religiosity” and help “decolonialize” the church.

Some panelists suggested the church’s teaching against intentional abortion is rooted in women’s exclusion from the priesthood.

After the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, novelist Alice McDermott said she saw her own presence in church that following Sunday “as a kind of collusion, a collusion with misogyny, with hypocrisy, with the conviction that to be female is to be deemed to be the lesser, less complex, less moral, less valuable, less worthy.”

The Catholic Church teaches that all human life is sacred and must be respected from conception to natural death and, as such, opposes direct abortion as an act of violence that takes the life of the unborn child. The same teaching that human life is sacred from conception to natural death also guides the church’s opposition to practices like physician assisted suicide and the death penalty. In the wake of the Dobbs ruling, the U.S. bishops have reiterated the church’s commitment to serving both women and unborn children.

De Solenni described the notion of the priesthood as power as being an example of the abuses of clericalism, and a violation of church teaching, arguing “the catechism is clear that the priest is a servant.”

“The other Sunday, we had the Gospel reading about Jesus washing the feet of the disciples,” she said. “I mean, he was modeling what it means to be a servant; only the lowest servant would wash somebody’s feet. So if you look at this as power, it’s upside down.”

The Gospels demonstrate the crucial role of women in Christ’s earthly ministry, de Solenni said, noting Mary of Bethany washes the feet of Christ shortly before he washes the feet of his apostles.

De Solenni also noted, “His mother’s Fiat precedes his Fiat in the Garden of Gethsemane,” she said.

De Solenni also rejected the argument that church teaching sees women as inferior to men.

“The church teaches that men and women are fundamentally equal,” she said. “So there’s clericalism and other abuses — and yes, there’s a lived experience where women have not been treated as equals — but that is not what the church teaches.”

Complete Article HERE!

Father Bob’s blunt response to clergy on same-sex marriage

— Tributes are flowing for high-profile Catholic priest Father Bob Maguire, who has died at age 88.

Father Bob Maguire


Father Bob is being remembered for his charity work and social justice campaigning, helping the poor, homeless and marginalised and minority communities in Melbourne, including LGBTQIA+ people.

The “maverick” priest was a high-profile media personality, known for speaking his mind and frequently called out church leaders.

In 2017, Father Bob Maguire gave a blunt instruction to fellow clergy during the same-sex marriage postal survey.

After a Catholic Archbishop cited society’s ban on incestuous marriages to argue why same-sex couples couldn’t wed, he urged fellow clergy to “shut their mouths” during the campaign.

Speaking to The New Daily, Father Bob declared “clergy are the worst politicians” and urged the church to show compassion.

“When it comes to these issues I think we should shut our mouths,” he said.

“A big number of people [would] want to hear a strong line. But it would be better if the church and other religions were involved in pastoral care with their communities rather than in politics.”

He added that he had no problem with same-sex marriage becoming secular law and said the issue was one for the “secular world”.

Years earlier, Father Bob Maguire made headlines in 2011, telling the Herald Sun he was open to blessing same-sex civil union ceremonies, albeit outside the church.

He said he didn’t have a personal view. But he said he considered it his duty to help anyone in need, including gay couples.

“Not only do I have an administrative responsibility but I have also pastoral responsibility,” he explained.

“And pastoral care would be taking care of the two people involved and their friends and their associates.”

Father Bob lashed out at Cardinal George Pell

But at that time, Father Bob Maguire accused Catholic Cardinal George Pell of punishing him for being “open to all”.

He described his ejection from South Melbourne’s parish as a “dishonourable discharge”.

“George Pell has declared those of us Vatican II-ists to be Cafeteria Catholics. Whereas he and his lot are authentic Catholics,” Fr Maguire told AAP.

“We live in the real world, we’re open to all, we’re not exclusive, not easily offended, we’re sacrificial.

“We put ourselves at the service of all kinds of people whether they’re church-going or not.”

Father Bob ‘stood up for LGBTIQA+ equality when few others would’

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese led tributes to Father Bob Maguire, describing him as a “great Australian”.

“An irrepressibly cheerful champion for all those battling disadvantage, he dedicated his life to brightening the lives of those most in need,” the PM said.

Rodney Croome, from Just.Equal Australia and ex-Australian Marriage Equality campaign director, said Father Bob was a staunch supporter of LGBTQIA+ Australians.

“Fr Bob Maguire was a brave and tireless advocate for LGBTIQA+ equality. He will be greatly missed,” Croome said.

“He stood up for the recognition of same-sex relationships and against anti-gay and anti-trans prejudice when few other public leaders were willing to do the same.”

Rodney added, “At a personal level I found my conversations with Fr Bob a source of great inspiration that kept me going during tough times.”

“Fr Bob was always true to his Christian values of love and inclusion, regardless of the fears and prejudices of others.”

Complete Article HERE!