Surprises in the Irish Synod Report

Archbishop Eamon Martin


About five years ago, I attended a lecture in Manhattan by an Irish Redemptorist priest, Fr. Tony Flannery. The event was sponsored by Call to Action, an organization that is critical of the Catholic Church because of its ineptitude in applying the gospel message to the realities of our time. Fr. Flannery was and still is banned from speaking publicly in any church-owned facility.

In his speech he explained why he is considered a persona non grata, an outcast, by the powers in Rome. He named three areas of disagreement, pointing out that he does not question any of the traditional Catholic dogmas.

He objects especially to the second-class status accorded to women in all areas of ecclesiastical life. He cautioned that while he favors full ordination rights for females the focus for now should be on achieving deaconate status, a step below the priesthood.

He favors ending mandatory celibacy and welcoming married priests, and he was adamant that his church’s attitude to the homosexual community could only be described as pathetic. He spoke with conviction and left no doubt about his continuing commitment to radical changes in his church.

Amazingly and ironically, in response to Pope Francis’ Synodal Way, the Irish church recently submitted what they call the National Synthesis of its recommendations to Rome, and they have come out in favor of the positions which led to Flannery’s exclusion from practicing as a priest.

The big boys in Rome silenced him, but what will they do now with the whole Irish church?

The National Synthesis document was based on reports prepared by all 26 Catholic dioceses on the island of Ireland following widespread consultations with the people over many months, culminating in a countrywide national symposium in Athlone in June.

Over 19,000 people participated in Dublin with about 5000 in Limerick and a few hundred in the mini-diocese of Achonry in the west of Ireland. Reports from all sides suggested enthusiastic involvement throughout the country with members over the age of 60 showing the highest level of interest.

Cynics warned that the submission to Rome would be a watered-down version of the ideas for change that emerged from the consultations. The bishops would wrap the radical concepts in language acceptable to the Vatican hierarchy.

Not this time! The National Synthesis document pulls no punches and fairly represents the thoughts and feelings expressed up and down the country, as well as during the big weekend in Athlone.

In a cover letter sent with the report, Archbishop Eamon Martin explained to Cardinal Mario Gresch, the secretary general of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican, that that there is a crying need in Ireland for healing, especially “among those who have suffered abuse by church personnel and in church institutions.”

He stressed that clear calls were heard in every diocese for “fresh models of responsibility and leadership which will especially recognize and facilitate the role of women. Our listening process has identified the need to be more inclusive in outreach, touching those who have left the church behind and, in some cases, feel excluded, forgotten or ignored.”

Pope Francis’ words are genuine. We believe him when he says he wants to hear from ordinary parishioners. Will he lead the response when the cry for change arrives in Rome from people all over the world?

In order to dampen expectations, he insists that the church is not a democratic institution. So, despite the strong support for radical changes, backed by a clear majority of the faithful, their ideas may well be set aside as traditionalists assert the pre-eminence of the church’s historical beliefs and practices.

During the struggle for democracy in Europe in the 19th and early 20th century, successive popes favored the old European autocracies with single strong leaders, which, of course, defines the Vatican. They still diminish the democratic process which claims that, despite its limitations, the people’s wisdom is the nearest we can get to an optimal system for selecting leaders and determining policy. Why is the church so dismissive of this approach? What are they afraid of in Rome? Is it just a power game?

Take the widespread belief that women should be ordained at a time when their services as pastors are clearly needed in many parishes. Most people in the United States and in Europe strongly support this needed alteration of church discipline. The Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC), a very credible Catholic organization, affirms the many women who feel called to priestly service.

A tribute to Francis, information about WOC is included in the Vatican website as part of the synodal discussions. However, it is very unlikely that he will overrule John Paul II’s arrogant and dogmatic statement that women should never be permitted to say Mass.

Back to the real world of male hierarchies who preach their openness to the Spirit of Wisdom, but always seem to revert back to glorifying tradition. In October 2019 the Amazon Synod of Bishops met in Rome to consider the church crisis in that region of South America. The people in large parts of a few countries there have very irregular access to the sacraments.

The Synod passed, with a big majority, two recommendations to help ameliorate the situation. First, open the deaconate to permit nuns and other dedicated women who are serving there to provide communion for the people. Second, allow viri probati, married men of sterling character from the local communities, to be ordained to the priesthood. Pope Francis took their recommendations under advisement. No action. That was almost three years ago. Tough luck on the people pleading for communion in the Amazon region.

Mary McAleese. photo.
Mary McAleese.

Former Irish president Mary McAleese, who has had a conflicted relationship with the church, especially with John Paul II, was elated by the document and congratulated the hierarchy for not doctoring the recommendations to placate Rome. The adjectives she used to commend it left no doubt about her satisfaction: “explosive, life-altering, dogma-altering, church-altering.”

Mrs. McAleese has a particular peeve with the church’s puerile insistence that the gay lifestyle is unnatural and sinful. Her son is a homosexual. This demeaning thinking has been repudiated by science for more than half a century. Rome, however, keeps beating the old drum based on an outmoded belief in their version of natural law.

Fr. Tim Hazelwood, one of the leaders of the Irish Association of Priests, described the document as “stunning” because “it is not trying to uphold any of the old negatives from the past.” Those “old negatives” did immense harm to the preaching of the gospel message.

Pope Francis will meet with a full synod of bishops in October of next year to decide what changes they will institute, based, supposedly, on the recommendations from Catholics all over the world. We live and hope!

Complete Article HERE!

Robert McElroy Becomes San Diego’s First Cardinal, With Vision Akin to Pope

Pope Francis speaks with Cardinal Robert McElroy at the consistory in St. Peter’s Basilica.

by Chris Stone

Robert W. McElroy became the first cardinal of San Diego Saturday, receiving his scarlet skullcap, ring and silk hat as he knelt before Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

McElroy, 68, was inducted along with 19 cardinals from around the world in a ceremony, known as a consistory, that was live streamed from 7-8 a.m. San Diego time (4-6 p.m. Rome time).

Among those in attendance was Bishop John Dolan, former auxiliary bishop of San Diego until he assumed duties of bishop of Phoenix this month.

After the consistory, the new cardinals met with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Afterwards, the cardinals were scheduled to greet the faithful of Rome and those visiting from their home countries for the customary post-Consistory congratulatory visits, according to Vatican News.

On Sunday, McElroy will celebrate his first Mass (live streamed) as a cardinal. On Monday and Tuesday, he will join the College of Cardinals for an in-depth study of Praedicate Evangelium regarding on the Roman Curia, and Tuesday evening they will celebrate Mass together with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica (live streamed).

The pope chose men from five continents who mostly agree with his vision of a more progressive and inclusive Roman Catholic Church and influencing their choice of his eventual successor.

Francis, 85, presided , telling the new cardinals to show concern for ordinary people despite the high rank that will bring them into contact with the powerful of the earth.

The ceremony marked the eight time Francis has put his stamp on the Church’s future with a new intake of cardinals who will serve as his top advisors and administrators at the Vatican and around the globe.

Pope Francis speaks during a consistory ceremony to elevate Roman Catholic prelates to the rank of cardinal, at Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, August 27, 2022.
Cardinal Robert McElroy (left) at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Screenshot of Vatican Media
Cardinal Robert McElroy (left) at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

The College of Cardinals now consists of 226 cardinals, including 132 electors and 94 non-electors. 52 cardinals were created by John Paul II of whom 11 are electors; 64 created by Benedict XVI of whom 38 are electors; and 112 created by Francis of whom 83 are electors, according to Vatican News.

Across the world they are distributed as: 106 in Europe, of whom 54 are electors; 60 in the Americas, of whom 38 are electors; 30 in Asia, of whom 20 are electors; 27 in Africa, of whom 17 are electors; and 5 cardinals in Oceania, of whom 3 are electors, according to Vatican News.

Those under 80 — 16 among the 20 newcomers — can enter a conclave to elect a new pope from among themselves after he dies or resigns. Cardinals over the age of 80 are not electors.

Among the significant appointment from the richer countries is that of McElroy, who is seen as a progressive. By giving San Diego its first cardinal, Francis bypassed conservative archbishops in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

McElroy has been an outspoken ally of Francis’ pastoral approach to social issues, such as protection of the environment and a more welcoming approach to gay Catholics.

He also has opposed conservative U.S. clergymen who want to ban Catholic politicians, including President Joe Biden and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, from receiving communion because of their support of abortion rights.

Four new countries will be granted a new cardinal: Mongolia, Paraguay, Singapore and East Timor.

Besides the United States, the the new cardinals come from Britain, South Korea, Spain, France, Nigeria, Brazil, Italy, Ghana and Colombia.

Cardinal Robert McElroy receives his skullcap and biretta from Pope Francis. Screenshot from EWTN.
Cardinal Robert McElroy receives his skullcap and biretta from Pope Francis.

One bishop to be named cardinal, Bishop Richard Kuuia Baawobr, 62, of Wa, Ghana, became ill after arriving in Rome and was unable to attend the ceremony.

“A Cardinal loves the Church, always with that same spiritual fire, whether dealing with great questions or handling everyday problems, with the powerful of this world or those ordinary people who are great in God’s eyes,” Francis said.

Sitting before the main altar of St. Peter’s Basilica, Francis asked them to remember “poor families, migrant and homeless persons.”

He read his homily in a strong voice, often going off script, even to joke about a Rome priest who was so close to his parishioners that he knew not only all their names, but also the names of their dogs.

Francis, elected as pope in 2013, has now chosen 83 of the 132 cardinal electors, or about 63%.

With each consistory, Francis has continued what one diplomat has called a “tilt towards Asia,” increasing the likelihood that the next pope could be from the region that is a growing economic and political powerhouse.

Resignation not at Hand

The 85-year-old pontiff told Reuters in an interview last month that if he does resign in the future for health reasons — instead of dying in office — he has no plans to do so anytime soon. This means he could name even more cardinals as soon as next year.

After reading his homily, Francis gave them each their ring and red hat, the color of which, along with their vestments, is to remind them that they should be willing to shed their blood for the faith.

Since his election as the first Latin American pope, Francis’ has often broken the mould used by his predecessors in picking cardinals. Often he has preferred men from developing nations and smaller cities, rather than from major capitals where having a cardinal used to be considered automatic.

Archbishop Leonardo Steiner of Manaus, Brazil, becomes the first cardinal from the Amazon region, underscoring Francis’ concern for indigenous people and the environment.

Rings to be given to the new cardinals at the consistory in Rome. Screenshot of Vatican Media

Another unexpected new cardinal elector is Archbishop Giorgio Marengo, an Italian who is the Catholic Church’s administrator in Mongolia. At 48, he is the youngest of the new cardinal electors.

Mongolia has fewer than 1,500 Catholics but is strategically significant because it borders with China, where the Vatican is trying to improve the situation for Catholics.

“The Holy Father cares for the Church wherever it is in the world. (We) feel that a tiny community is as important as a large community,” he told Reuters before the ceremony.

Complete Article HERE!

German Catholics reject Vatican’s abortion stance

A majority of German Catholics don’t approve of Pope Francis and the Vatican criticizing abortion, according to a survey commissioned by a Catholic weekly.

Pope Francis has modernized the Catholic Church, but remains a staunch opponent of abortion

By Darko Janjevic

A new survey reveals a large gap between German Catholics and church leaders when it comes to abortion.

The survey, conducted by INSA Consulere pollster on behalf of German Catholic weekly Die Tagespost, asked the responders for their stance on the following sentence: “It is good that the pope and the Church speak out against abortion.”

Only 17% of surveyed Catholics said they agreed with it, compared to 58% who oppose it.

The same survey also showed that only 13% of Protestants were in favor of the anti-abortion statements. Over two-thirds of Protestants disagreed with anti-abortion comments made by Pope Francis and Catholic leaders.

The pollsters questioned a total of 2,099 people in late July and early August.

Church changes, but only to a point

Pope Francis has moved the Catholic Church in a more liberal direction since taking over as pontiff in 2013. He has taken a tough stance on priests involved in child abuse and chastised Western governments for not welcoming migrants, called for more help for the poor and more efforts to preserve the environment. Publicly, he has worked to reduce prejudice against LGBTQ people, reassuring them that God “does not disown any of his children” and endorsing same-sex civil unions.

However, the 85-year-old has also disappointed some of his more liberal supporters by rejecting the blessing of gay marriages. He has also refused to shift from the Church’s traditional stance on celibacy for priests, and most notably, abortion, which the Vatican sees as an act of murder.

Pope’s stance on abortion: ‘Is it right to hire a hit man?’

In an interview with the Reuters news agency last month, Pope Francis restated his controversial view that having an abortion is akin to  hiring a hit man. 

“The moral question is whether it is right to take a human life to solve a problem. Indeed, is it right to hire a hit man to solve a problem?” the pope said.

The abortion issue is not the only one where the Vatican faces pushback from Germany. Less than three weeks ago, the Catholic Church spoke out against the progressive German Catholic movement known as the “Synodal Path,” warning them they do not have authority to instruct church leaders on matters of morality and doctrine.

The movement has previously called for allowing priests to marry, women to become deacons, and for same-sex couples to receive the Church’s blessing.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope Francis meets transgender guests of Rome church

Pope Francis waves to faithful as he arrives in the Paul VI hall for his the weekly general audience at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022.

By Nicole Winfield

Pope Francis has met with a fourth group of transgender people who found shelter at a Rome church, the Vatican newspaper reported Thursday.

L’Osservatore Romano said the encounter took place Wednesday on the sidelines of Francis’ weekly general audience. The newspaper quoted Sister Genevieve Jeanningros and the Rev. Andrea Conocchia as saying the pope’s welcome brought their guests hope.

The Blessed Immaculate Virgin community in the Torvaianica neighborhood on Rome’s outskirts opened its doors to transgender people during the coronavirus pandemic.

Francis previously met with some of them on April 27, June 22 and Aug. 3, the newspaper said.

“No one should encounter injustice or be thrown away, everyone has dignity of being a child of God,” the paper quoted Sister Jeanningros as saying.

Francis has earned praise from some members of the LBGTQ community for his outreach. When asked in 2013 about a purportedly gay priest, he replied, “Who am I to judge?” He has met individually and in groups with transgender people over the course of his pontificate.

But he has strongly opposed “gender theory” and has not changed church teaching that holds that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.” In 2021, he allowed publication of a Vatican document asserting that the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions since “God cannot bless sin.”

Recently, Francis wrote a letter praising the initiative of a Jesuit-run ministry for LGBTQ Catholics, called Outreach. The online resource is run by the Rev. James Martin, author of “Building a Bridge,” a book about the need for the church to better welcome and minister to LGBTQ Catholics.

Francis praised a recent Outreach event at New York’s Jesuit Fordham University, and encouraged organizers “to keep working in the culture of encounter, which shortens the distances and enriches us with differences, in the same manner of Jesus, who made himself close to everyone.”

The first Jesuit pope of the Roman Catholic Church has spoken of his own ministry to gay and transgender people, insisting they are children of God, loved by God and deserving of accompaniment by the church.

Complete Article HERE!

Why all the people of God must take some responsibility for clericalism

Clergy who share and reinforce people’s denial by insisting families are automatically love-filled places are setting up obstacles to God’s healing.

Pope Francis leads an audience with young people participating in a summer camp program sponsored by Alpha International, at the Vatican Aug. 5, 2022.

by Hatty Calbus

When in August 2018 the Pope wrote a “Letter to the People of God” that appeared to widen responsibility for abuse to the whole Church, there was outrage.

Pope Francis has described paedophile priests as “tools of Satan” and has often said that the cause of the clergy abuse crisis is “clericalism”.

But when in August 2018 he wrote a “Letter to the People of God” that appeared to widen responsibility for the abuse to the whole Church, there was outrage. “With shame and repentance,” he wrote, “we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that … we did not act in a timely manner, realising the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives.” The Pope concluded, “I invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting”.

And when a few weeks later the Archbishop of Strasbourg, Luc Ravel, echoed the Pope, he met similar indignation. But in his pastoral letter, Ravel identified an inconvenient truth about clericalism that is too often overlooked: “Authority is a game of two players: the one who exploits it and the one who lets that happen. Clericalism would never have borne the fruits of death if it had not been accepted, consented to, or even promoted by Christian communities.”

In other words, those priests who lord it over the laity are enabled by an attitude of: “Yes, Father, No, Father, three bags full, Father.” Ravel went on to say: “The relationship between priests and communities must evolve into an appropriate attitude that does not deny the authority of the priest but does not sanctify it in a form of idolatry.”

How many of us who still go to Mass have kept, along with our Catholic faith, something of an idolatrous attitude to the clergy? How many of us hand our spiritual lives over to a parish priest with as little thought as if we were children needing to rely on their parents for everything?

Clericalism is a distortion of true priesthood – and it is an abuse of authority found in every institution, not just in the Catholic Church. It is certainly a major factor in the misuse of power that is at the root of the sexual abuse of children by priests.

But all the people of God – bishops, clergy and lay people – have to take some responsibility for clericalism in the Church. Even though it is well-established that the great majority of cases of sexual abuse take place within families, and even after all that’s now known about the incidence of child sexual abuse in every organisation and institution where adults are in positions of power over children, it’s still often said that abuse is mostly carried out by celibate Catholic priests.

If celibate priests are kept as the focus, abuse can be kept at a convenient remove.

Unfortunately, it isn’t at a remove. The abuse prevention organisation Stop It Now! points out: “Some [paedophiles], but not all, have been abused themselves; others come from violent or unhappy family backgrounds.” Priests aren’t a separate species of church-creature: they have families.

Of course, a child who is abused doesn’t automatically become an abuser as an adult. But paedophile priests have often come from dysfunctional families where they have been abused physically and very often sexually. Although it’s taken time for the truth to come out, clergy abuse has proved hard to keep secret. If those men had married, then abused their own children, in most cases it would still be hidden.

To use the word “scapegoating” suggests an innocence blatantly lacking. The problem with focusing exclusively on paedophile priests is that it can allow us to neglect a wider evil. Stop It Now! says: “Many people have experienced someone close to them abusing a child. When something is so difficult to think about, it is only human to find ways of denying it to ourselves.”

Pretending it isn’t happening at home carries on at church. Archbishop Ravel said that as well as bishops covering up abuse – which lay people are of course right to be outraged by – there have also been lay people who have kept silent: “In the 30 or so cases I have had to deal with in my diocese, and when I speak with victims, I’ve realised people knew and didn’t say anything.”

How often has a priest’s inappropriate behaviour around children been an open secret? Those primarily responsible are the paedophile priests, followed by the bishops who’ve colluded with their crimes. But the laity can’t claim it’s nothing to do with them. As someone in the film Spotlight says: “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.” It also takes a village to cover it up.

Bishop James Checchio of Metuchen in New Jersey said: “Abuse gets power from silence and avoidance.” Large numbers of laypeople have seen or heard something that needed reporting and chosen silence and avoidance. Jesus said: “I am the truth” and “The truth will set you free.” Pope Francis wants the laity to “feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need” and advocates fasting and prayer as a way to “impel us to walk in the truth”.

He has repeatedly quoted St Paul: “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it.” His appeal is to solidarity. Unfortunately, solidarity with abuse survivors is uncomfortable. There is something in all of us that prefers to stay undisturbed. But the price of our quiet life is sometimes that others are left to live very disturbed lives.

Most bishops haven’t covered up abuse and most priests haven’t abused. What they have done, though, is reinforced the laity’s denial about their part by idealising the family and ignoring what goes on in far more homes than everyone wants to think. The psychiatrist and family therapist Robin Skynner said about the family: “It has enormous creative potential including that of life itself and it is not surprising that, when it becomes disordered, it possesses an equal potential for terrible destruction.” Family systems expert John Bradshaw cites research suggesting 96 per cent of families are dysfunctional.

This includes physical, emotional and sexual abuse, of partners as well as children. It means addictions, with their distortion or neglect of relationship – not just alcohol and drugs, but any unhealthy/sinful dependence – food, work, sex, exercise, social media, phones, one’s own children and more. It means common personality disorders like narcissism. Parents have vast power over their children, even determining how their brains develop. Dysfunctional families are where paedophile priests first learnt about the abuse of power. Warped Church structures might have facilitated their abusing, but they were formed in families. Bishops could recommend, seminaries could teach, priests could look at John Bradshaw and Robin Skynner and other experts on dysfunctional families such as Alice Miller and Gabor Maté.

Clergy who share and reinforce people’s denial by insisting families are automatically love-filled places are setting up obstacles to God’s healing. Honest, concerted efforts not to do this would give children more protection and open up paths for the healing he is waiting to bring.

Complete Article HERE!