Archive for October, 2013

Not a Happy Day in Hartford / National Catholic Reporter

“Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you,” we read in 1 Peter 3:15. We are called to be “a people of hope.” Some days, watching and listening to Pope Francis, being hopeful comes easy, even naturally.

“Today (Oct. 29) is not one of those days. In naming Bishop Leonard Blair to become the next archbishop of Hartford, Conn., the Holy See has sent what can only be described as a counter-sign. This was a missed opportunity to send a signal to all the bishops in the United States that the Holy Father is calling for a different style of pastoral leadership in the Church. In June, Pope Francis spoke to the nuncios from around the world assembled in Rome. He sketched the type of pastoral leadership he expected in the appointment of bishops. The pope said he wanted pastors who would serve their people, not serve as overlords. They were, he famously said, to be men who “have the smell of the sheep.

“The good news is that Archbishop-designate Blair has the smell of the sheep. The bad news is that one suspects he thinks the sheep stink.”

By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter — Read the rest of Winters’ article by clicking here.

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Priest Demands Nienstedt Explain Handling of Clergy Sexual Abuse / Minnesota Public Radio

‘He needs to stand before us and explain himself,’ the Rev. Stephen O’Gara, pastor of the Church of the Assumption (St. Paul, Minn.), said in a Sunday (Oct. 27) homily. ‘Only then will we have the respect called to his office. It’s about arrogance, and we all fall victim to arrogance in some degree or in some place in our lives. But this is more. This is not some small matter. This is a big deal. It’s the first time, I must say, in 69 years that I’m embarrassed to be Catholic.'” By Madelaine Baran, Minnesota Public Radio — Read Baran’s entire article by clicking here.

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Task Force Supervisor to Control Group’s Access to Clergy Abuse Information / Minnesota Public Radio

The following story presents evidence suggesting some members of the Catholic hierarchy remain unwilling to come clean regarding clergy sexual abuse:

A task force created to address the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis will only have access to information provided by a church official. The task force will not investigate allegations against specific priests, and priest files will not be made public, according to an Oct. 21 letter to clergy by the Rev. Reginald Whitt. By Madeleine Baran, Minnesota Public Radio — Read the rest of this story by clicking here.

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Pope Francis Embodies My Hopes for the Church / Hans Kung

Since Pope Francis took office in March, almost everything he has said and done indicates that he is bent on carrying through a thorough reform of the Roman Catholic Church, beginning with the Vatican itself.” By Hans Kung, The Tablet. You can read the rest of Kung’s commentary by clicking here.

Voice of the Faithful® also finds hope in Pope Francis for Church reform. Many of the sentiments he has expressed complement those Voice of the Faithful has always espoused. Here are a few:

  • During an interview with America magazine, Pope Francis said, “Human self-understanding changes
    with time and so also human consciousness deepens. The view of the church’s teaching as a monolith
    to defend without nuance or different understanding is wrong.”
  • In its mission statement, VOTF commits itself to providing the Church with “a prayerful voice, attentive
    to the Spirit,” thereby attuning its organizational conscience to the Spirit’s guidance, as espoused by Vatican II. “Catholics should try to cooperate with all men and women of good will to promote whatever is true, whatever just, whatever holy, whatever lovable (cf. Phil. 4:8). They should hold discussions with them, excel them in prudence and courtesy, and initiate research on social and public practices which should be improved in line with the spirit of the Gospel.” (Apostolate/Laity #15)
  • In addressing the reorganization of Vatican congregations, Pope Francis said the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith should continue to “act decisively as far as cases of sexual abuse are concerned, promoting, above all, measures to protect minors, help for those who have suffered such violence in the past (and) the necessary procedures against those who are guilty.”
  • In its statement concerning Pope Francis’ Vatican reorganization, VOTF said,If Pope Francis wishes
    to demonstrate that the Church will, at last, ‘act decisively,’
    in matters of child sexual abuse, these are instances (examples of bishops allegedly complicit in abetting or covering up clergy sexual abuse) where he can hold accountable the bishops who fail to act in such cases. Voice of the Faithful® urges Pope Francis
    to call for investigations under canon law or to censure these bishops directly. He is the only person in the Church who can do so.”
  • In addressing the role of the clergy, Pope Francis said, Priests should be “shepherds living with the smell
    of the sheep
    ,” and, “Leaders of the Church have often been Narcissuses, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy … This Vatican-centric view neglects the world around us
    … The church is or should go back to being a community of God’s people, and priests, pastors and bishops who have the care of souls, are at the service of the people of God.”
  • Voice of the Faithful has long decried this clericalism in the Church. In 2011, VOTF criticized the John Jay Institute’s Study of the Causes and Context of the Sexual Abuse Crisis for describing clericalism but not naming it as a principal cause for clergy sex abuse and coverup. “Clericalism,” VOTF’s report noted, “is an overriding set of beliefs and behaviors in which the clergy view themselves as different, separate, and exempt from the norms, rules and consequences that apply to everyone else in society.”
  • In addressing women’s roles in the Church, Pope Francis said, “Women are asking deep questions that must be addressed. The Church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. The woman is essential for the Church … I say this because we must not confuse the function with the dignity. We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the Church.”
  • In its paper on re-establishing the ordained women’s diaconate, Voice of the Faithful® said, “One of the best kept secrets of the Catholic Church is that for the first half of its history, that is, for more than 11 centuries, women were ordained to the diaconate by bishops, within the sanctuary, with the laying on
    of hands … Yet, since the close of the Second Vatican Council, the Vatican has not moved to restore the female diaconate in the Catholic Church, even though, … the Church today has both the authority and the power to ordain women deacons.”

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Priest Abuse: The Difference Women Can Make / National Catholic Reporter

National Catholic Reporter’s Robert McClory suggests that two cases of clergy sexual abuse he reviews in his story show that, “if in the past, women had held authoritative positions in dioceses allowing them to examine charges regarding sex abuse and if more women were involved now in review boards and given access to evidence of clerical misconduct, the heinous careers of many people like Kownacki could have been interrupted at an early stage and many children spared the horror of abuse.’ McClory says these cases also suggest, ‘that clericalism is so deeply entrenched in many members of the clergy that they refuse to see the evidence of crime when it is right before their eyes.’”

Read the rest of McClory’s story by clicking here.

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Bishop’s Suspension a Symptom of German Catholic Church’s Wealth / Religion News Service

The news of the Vatican’s suspension yesterday of Limburg Germany’s Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst because of his lavish spending is rippling around the world. Many have pointed out how his lifestyle clashes with that of Pope Francis, who has urged his clergy to “smell like their sheep.” Bishop Franz-Peter’s actions are an egregious example of the clericalism infecting the Church, with the following story about the Church in Germany as a further example. We’re left to note, as well, that although Bishop Franz-Peter’s suspension was swift, the Vatican has yet to censure any bishop for credible allegations of involvement in covering up clergy sexual abuse.

The $20,000 bathtub and $482,000 walk-in closets ordered by “Bishop Bling-Bling” — the moniker of Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the now-suspended bishop of Limburg — have scandalized the German public.

But Tebartz-van Elst, 52, is only the latest German clergyman to run into trouble since Pope Francis took the helm of the Roman Catholic Church. Francis temporarily suspended the bishop on Wednesday while a church commission investigates the expenditures on the $42 million residence complex.

As the new pontiff tries to reform the way the church does business, German dioceses, which reportedly include the world’s wealthiest in Cologne, are chafing under the new direction as membership numbers continue to dwindle. By Nele Mailin Obermueller and Jabeen Bhatti, Religion News Service

Read the rest of this Religion News Service story by clicking here.

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Church Wavers on Child Sex Scandals in Pope’s Homeland / Global Post

Pope Francis’ promise of a more humble, tolerant Catholic Church may have earned rave reviews around the world, but in Latin America, a string of child sex scandals has left some wondering what’s really changed in the Vatican.” By Simeon Tegel, Global Post

Read the rest of Tegel’s report by clicking here.

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