Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Et Cum Spiritu Tuo!

This Advent we are coming upon the second anniversary of the “new”, more traditional English liturgy/missal that was foisted upon the American Church. If the U.S. bishops had been less inclined to bend over backwards to ingratiate themselves to the way the Vatican winds were blowing at that time, this “much ado about nothing” debacle would never have happened. At weddings and funerals, there is still a discordant cacophony to the invitation “The Lord be with You”, where less regular Catholics and visiting Protestants still respond “And also with you.” The more regular Sunday Catholic attendees have been trained to respond “And with your Spirit”. They make this response, not because it makes sense, but because they had been admonished to.

A similar “new” liturgy/missal had been slated for implementation in Germany. But now, with the current direction of the winds of Rome (for pastoral wisdom) German bishops have rejected changing the liturgy to placate some Vatican commission at the expense of clarity and “the language of the people”. A German publication declared that there would be no new translation this Advent, nor will it be coming about in the foreseeable future.” An article on the matter was recently published in the NCR. Full text can be found at http://ncronline.org/news/global/new-german-missal-translation-runs-difficulties 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The real test of Francis' reform...

The National Catholic Reporter started a series of articles examining Pope Francis' recent interviews. You can find this and the other following articles published  on NCRonline.org.

Pope Francis shows courage: not only in his brave appearance in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, but also by entering into an open dialogue with critical nonbelievers. He has written an open letter to leading Italian intellectual Eugenio Scalfari, founder and longtime editor in chief of the major liberal Roman daily newspaper La Repubblica. These are not papal instructions, but a friendly exchange of arguments on equal levels.

Among the 12 questions from Scalfari printed in La Repubblica Sept. 11, the fourth seems to me of particular importance for a church leadership ready for reforms: Jesus perceived his kingdom not to be of this world -- "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" -- but the Catholic church especially, writes Scalfari, all too often submits to the temptations of worldly power and represses the spiritual dimension of the church in favor of worldliness.
Scalfari's question: "Does Pope Francis represent after all the priority of a poor and pastoral church over an institutional and worldly church?"
Let's focus on the facts:
  • From the beginning, Francis has dispensed with papal pomp and glory and engaged in direct contact with people.
  • In his words and gestures, he has not presented himself as the spiritual lord of lords, but rather as the "servant of the servants of God" (Gregory the Great).
  • Facing numerous financial scandals and the avarice of church leaders, he has initiated decisive reforms of the Vatican bank and the papal state and called for transparent financial politics.
  • By establishing a commission of eight cardinals from the different continents, he has underlined the need for curial reforms and collegiality with the bishops.
But he has not yet passed the decisive test of his will to reform. It is understandable and pleasing that a Latin American bishop puts the poor in the favelas of the great metropolises first. But the pope of the Catholic church cannot lose sight the fact that other groups of people in other countries suffer from other kinds of "poverty," and also yearn for the improvement of their situation. And these are people whom the pope can support even more directly than he can those in the favelas, for whom state organizations and society in general are primarily responsible.

The synoptic Gospels have developed a broader notion of poverty. In the Gospel of Luke, the beatitude of the poor refers without a doubt to the really poor, poor in a material sense. But in Matthew's Gospel, this beatitude refers to the "poor in spirit," the spiritually poor, who, as beggars before God, are aware of their spiritual poverty. Thus, in line with the other beatitudes, it includes not just the poor and hungry, but also those who cry, who are left out, marginalized, neglected, excluded, exploited, desperate. Jesus calls both the miserable and lost ones in a situation of extreme affliction (Luke) and those in a situation of inner distress (Matthew), all those who are weary and burdened, including those burdened by guilt.

Thus the number of poor who need support multiplies many times over. Support in particular from the pope, who can help more than others, due to his office. Support from him as the representative of the ecclesiastical institution and tradition means more than just comforting and encouraging words; it means deeds of mercy and charity. Offhand, three large groups of people come to mind who are "poor" in the Catholic church.

First, the divorced. From many countries and counted in the millions, many are excluded from the sacraments of the church for their whole life because they have remarried. Today's greater social mobility, flexibility and liberality as well as a noticeably longer life expectancy make greater demands on partners in a lifelong relationship. Certainly, the pope will emphatically uphold the necessary indissolubility of marriage even under these aggravating conditions. But this commandment will not be understood as an apodictic condemnation of those who fail and cannot expect forgiveness.
Rather, this commandment expresses a goal that demands lifelong faithfulness, as it is lived by innumerous couples already, but cannot be guaranteed. The mercy that Francis calls for would allow the church to admit divorced and remarried persons to the sacraments if they seriously wish it.

Second, women who are ostracized in the church because of the ecclesiastical position regarding contraception, artificial insemination and also abortion, and often find themselves in a situation of spiritual distress. There are millions of them in the whole world. Only a tiny minority of Catholic women obey the papal prohibition to practice "artificial" contraception, and many with a good conscience use artificial insemination. Abortion should not be banalized or even be used as a means of birth control. But women who for serious reasons decided to have an abortion, often experiencing great moral conflict, deserve understanding and mercy.

Third, priests who had to leave the priesthood because they married. Across the continents, they number in the tens of thousands. Many suitable young men do not even become priests in the first place because of the commandment of celibacy. Without doubt, voluntary celibacy of priests will continue to have its place in the Catholic church. But the legal commandment that church officials remain unmarried contradicts the freedom guaranteed in the New Testament, the ecumenic tradition of the first millennium and modern human rights. The abolition of mandatory celibacy would represent the most effective means against the catastrophic shortage of priests noticeable everywhere and the related collapse of pastoral care. Should the church maintain mandatory celibacy, there is no thinking of the desirable ordination of women into the priesthood.

All these reforms are urgent and should first be discussed in the summit of eight cardinals, which is to meet Oct. 1-2. Francis faces important decisions here. He has already shown great sensitivity and empathy with the hardships of people, and proved considerable courage in various situations. These qualities enable him to make the necessary and forward-looking decisions regarding these issues, some of which have been a problem for centuries.

In his interview, published Sept. 20 in Jesuit journals worldwide, including La Civiltà Cattolica and America, Francis recognizes the importance of questions such as contraception, homosexuality and abortion. But he refuses to put these questions too much at the center of the church's mission. He rightly calls for a "new balance" between these moral issues and the essential impulses of the Gospel itself. But this balance can only be reached when reforms that were postponed again and again are realized, so that these fundamentally secondary moral issues will not rob the proclamation of the Gospel of its "freshness and attractiveness." This will be the great challenge for Francis.

[Fr. Hans Küng, Swiss citizen, is professor emeritus of ecumenical theology at Tübingen University in Germany. He is the honorary president of the Global Ethic Foundation (www.weltethos.org [1]).

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Francis: Church should be "a home for all."

Wonder how Conservative spinmeisters are going to try and spin this one?  Pope Francis was critical of Ecclesial “purists” when he said “This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people." A New York Times article follows...

New York Times

September 19, 2013

Pope Bluntly Faults Church’s Focus on Gays and Abortion

Pope Francis, in the first extensive interview of his six-month-old papacy, said that the Roman Catholic church had grown “obsessed” with preaching about abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and that he has chosen not to speak of those issues despite recriminations from some critics.
In remarkably blunt language, Francis sought to set a new tone for the church, saying it should be a “home for all” and not a “small chapel” focused on doctrine, orthodoxy and a limited agenda of moral teachings.
“It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” the pope told the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, a fellow Jesuit and editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal whose content is routinely approved by the Vatican. “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.
“We have to find a new balance,” the pope continued, “otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”
The interview was conducted in Italian during three meetings in August in the pope’s spartan quarters in Casa Santa Marta, the Vatican guesthouse, and translated into English by a team of translators. Francis has chosen to live at Casa Santa Marta rather than in what he said were more isolated quarters at the Apostolic Palace, home to many of his predecessors.
The interview was released simultaneously on Thursday morning by 16 Jesuit journals around the world, and includes the pope’s lengthy reflections on his identity as a Jesuit. Pope Francis personally reviewed the transcript in Italian, said the Rev. James Martin, an editor-at-large of America, the Jesuit magazine in New York. America and La Civiltà Cattolica together had asked Francis to grant the interview, which America is publishing in its magazine and as an e-book.
“Some of the things in it really surprised me,” Father Martin said. “He seems even more of a free-thinker than I thought — creative, experimental, willing to live on the margins, push boundaries back a little bit.”
The new pope’s words are likely to have repercussions in a church whose bishops and priests in many countries, including the United States, often appeared to make combating abortion, gay marriage and contraception their top public policy priorities. These teachings are “clear” to him as “a son of the church,” he said, but they have to be taught in a larger context. “The proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives.”
From the outset of his papacy in March, Francis has chosen to use the global spotlight to focus instead on the church’s mandate to serve the poor and marginalized. He has washed the feet of juvenile prisoners, visited a center for refugees and hugged disabled pilgrims at his audiences.
His pastoral presence and humble gestures have made him wildly popular, according to recent surveys. But there has been a low rumble of discontent from some Catholic advocacy groups, and even from some bishops, who have taken note of his silence on abortion and gay marriage. Earlier this month, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, R.I., told his diocesan newspaper that he was “a little bit disappointed in Pope Francis” because he had not spoken about abortion. “Many people have noticed that,” the bishop was quoted as saying.
The interview is the first time Francis has explained the reasoning behind both his actions and omissions. He also expanded on the comments he made about homosexuality in July, on an airplane returning to Rome from Rio de Janeiro, where he had celebrated World Youth Day. In a remark then that produced headlines worldwide, the new pope said, “Who am I to judge?” At the time, some questioned whether he was referring only to gays in the priesthood, but in this interview he made clear that he had been speaking of gays and lesbians in general.
“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality,” he told Father Spadaro. “I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”
The interview also serves to present the pope as a human being, who loves Mozart and Dostoevsky and his grandmother, and whose favorite film is Fellini’s “La Strada.”
The 12,000-word interview ranges widely, and may confirm what many Catholics already suspected: that the chameleon-like Francis bears little resemblance to those on the church’s theological or political right wing. He said some people had assumed he was an “ultraconservative” because of his reputation when he served as the superior of his Jesuit province in Argentina. He pointed out that he was made superior at the “crazy” young age of 36, and that his leadership style was too authoritarian.
“But I have never been a right-winger,” he said. “It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems.”
Now, Francis said, he prefers a more consultative leadership style. He has appointed an advisory group of eight cardinals, a step he said was recommended by the cardinals at the consistory that elected him. They were demanding reform of the Vatican bureaucracy, he said, adding that from the eight, “I want to see that this is a real, not ceremonial consultation.”
The pope said he has found it “amazing” to see complaints about “lack of orthodoxy” flowing into the Vatican offices in Rome from conservative Catholics around the world. They ask the Vatican to investigate or discipline their priests, bishops or nuns. Such complaints, he said, “are better dealt with locally,” or else the Vatican offices risk becoming “institutions of censorship.”
Asked what it means for him to “think with the church,” a phrase used by the Jesuit founder St. Ignatius, Francis said that it did not mean “thinking with the hierarchy of the church.”
He said he thinks of the church “as the people of God, pastors and people together.”
“The church is the totality of God’s people,” he added, a notion popularized after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, which Francis praised for making the Gospel relevant to modern life, an approach he called “absolutely irreversible.”
And while he agreed with the decision of his predecessor, Pope Benedict, to allow the broader use of the traditional Latin-language Tridentine Mass, he said that the more traditional Mass risked becoming an ideology and that he was worried about its “exploitation.” Those who seek a broad revival of the Tridentine Mass have been among Francis’s harshest critics, and those remarks are not likely to comfort them.
In contrast to Benedict, who sometimes envisioned a smaller but purer church — a “faithful fragment” — Francis envisions the church as a big tent.
“This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people,” he said. “We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity.”

Thursday, August 15, 2013

When does our hope for Francis become denial?

While some are hopeful, not everyone is enamored with the new pope. Some are among the established conservative, and others are among the “liberal” crowd who question any changes as perhaps style – not substance. This is picked up on by Jamie Manson in an NCR article.

When does our hope for Francis become denial?

Jamie Manson
Jul. 31, 2013 Grace on the Margins

Full disclosure: I do not feel excited or hopeful about what Pope Francis said about women and gay priests [1] during his epic press conference on the way home to Rome.

Now, wait. Before you click me off as a hater or an incorrigible pessimist or an angry feminist lesbian or another choice label, please understand this: I don't dislike Pope Francis.

I think he has an authentic warmth. I appreciate his desire to be among the people. I laugh at some of his jokes, and there are themes in his sermons that genuinely move me. I share his desire to break down clericalism and the injustices of capitalism, and I believe wholeheartedly in his vision of ecological justice.

More substantively than even all of this, I share with him a deep passion for the poor and marginalized. Like Francis, I, too, have my most vivid encounters with Jesus among those who are homeless, mentally ill, incarcerated or suffering with addictions.

But Francis and I part ways on the topics of women's equality and the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people in the church. The pope's statements on the plane only reinforced the depth of my disagreement with him.

An excessive amount of commentary has been launched into cyberspace since the news of the pope's comments on women and gay priests hit the Internet, so I'll attempt to give the short, bullet-point version of why I do not share in the hope or excitement of some of my colleagues and friends.

• In terms of his much-touted use of the word "gay," I believe he used it not so much as a sign of respect but because the word was being used in the context of the rumored "gay lobby." Few people still know what this mysterious lobby inside the Curia is or what precisely they are advocating for (clearly it isn't LGBT rights), but Francis was again clear he was not pleased with this lobby, saying he needed to distinguish whether a person was gay or part of the gay lobby.

• After Francis delivered his now-legendary "Who am I to judge?" line, he immediately reaffirmed the teaching of the catechism. He may not have used the "intrinsically disordered" phrase, but he did make it clear that "the tendency isn't the problem." Obviously, same-sex acts and same-sex marriage still are the problem. The real question I think he was asking was, "Who am I do judge a celibate gay person who seeks the Lord and is of goodwill?"

• While his words about a new approach to divorced and remarried Catholics were encouraging, they were couched in his mentioning that a new "pastoral care of marriage" was being developed. My sense is the main thrust of initiative will be to make the boldest Roman Catholic declaration yet that marriage is between one man and one woman. Remember that just two years ago, as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, he called same-sex marriage an "anthropological setback," and on the plane, he affirmed the church's opposition to marriage equality.

• Pope Francis' words about women were spirit-breaking. The idea that we need a "deeper theology of women" is remarkable only because, for the past half-century, Catholic women theologians, many of them women religious, have been developing, writing and teaching a profound theology of women. Just because the hierarchy has not cared to read it doesn't mean it doesn't already exist. I shudder to think whom Francis would ask to formulate this "deeper theology."

• As a woman who has discerned a calling to the priesthood for more than 20 years, Francis' hiding behind John Paul II's theology and claiming that the "door is closed" on the ordination issue was profoundly painful. Hearing these words, I felt the same kind of humiliation I would have experienced if a door had literally been slammed in my face.

• Francis got some positive attention for saying women are more important than priests and bishops, even if they have no chance of being ordained. In essence, he said even though women will never have ecclesial decision-making power or the opportunity to exercise sacramental ministry, they are so much more special than the men who get to run and lead the church.

This last point raises an important question about the laity's response to Pope Francis: Who among progressive Catholics of the last two decades would have ever abided by such patronizing rhetoric? In previous papacies, this kind of a statement about women would have raised the ire of all progressive Catholics.

Francis locked the deadbolt on John Paul II's closed door to women, and he reaffirmed the church's woefully inadequate teaching on gays and lesbians as well as its ban on marriage equality. Yet we still hear that many progressive Catholics "cannot get enough" of the new pope.

I have even heard Catholic women who have been fierce fighters for the full inclusion of women in the church claim that they still feel hope and are excited about this pope and his proposed deeper theology of women.

Yes, Pope Francis is a warm pope of the people with a deep passion for many marginalized communities. But he is still advocating some very unjust, harmful doctrinal positions. So why do Catholics, especially many progressive Catholics, continue to give him a pass?

Francis is changing the tone in the hope that the church will be perceived in a better light, but there is little evidence to suggest he will or wants to make doctrinal changes on women's equality, same-sex relationships or contraception, and his response to the issue of clergy sex abuse has been underwhelming at best.

Have we gotten to the point where our desire to realize the church of our dreams and our insistence that Francis will be the man to make our dreams come true is clouding our perception of what Francis is really saying?

Recently, when I criticized the pope's words about the existence of a gay lobby, a friend chastised me, saying I had already decided I didn't like the pope, so there was nothing he could do that would please me.

I took the comment to heart, and I continue to use it as a litmus test for my own reactions to Francis. But I also turned the tables on my friend. Couldn't it also be argued that there are progressive Catholics who have decided they like this pope so much that they have practically given him immunity from any criticism?

Are we truly listening to the full context of what Francis is saying, or are we just hearing what our hearts most deeply want to hear? It is important to be people of hope, but at what point does being hopeful and optimistic slip into avoidance and denial of what this man truly believes?

I realize Catholics are starving for inspiring, authentic pastoral leadership, but honesty and solidarity demand that we speak out against unjust, spiritually harmful words, even if they are coming from a charismatic figure in whom we desperately want to believe and trust.

I want to be hopeful that Francis might have a transformation. Personally, my heart has a deep investment in it: I would love to be able to return to active Catholic ministry again, and I want all of the exceptional women and LGBT Catholics who have the ability to spiritually lead and inspire to be able to answer God's calling.

I want to believe real reforms are in the imminent future. Again, my heart is invested in this: I would love to have the opportunity to marry my partner in the church of my childhood, the church with the "sacramental view of the world" and the finest social justice teachings on the books. I want all LGBT couples to have the chance to marry in the church with which their hearts identify.

But there was nothing Francis said on that plane that leads me to think we are any closer to either of these possibilities. I remain hopeful justice will come someday, but I think it is important to accept the reality that the residual effects of a patriarchal, homophobic, clerical formation can still dwell within a man who is otherwise committed to justice and deeply pastoral.

For many progressive Catholics, the Benedict years were painful and divisive. But the upside of having a pope that was less pastoral and more rigidly orthodox was that it helped some Catholics break out of some of the trappings of our tradition: the passivity, the clericalism, the adulation of the papacy. Laypeople began to embrace the idea that God has infused all of God's people with deep sacramental power.

Since our new pope is so likeable and so obviously committed to justice for many marginalized groups, it appears that even some of the most liberal Catholics are gradually being lulled back into an odd, filial submission to Francis. Hearing so many English-speaking folk refer to him as "Papa" suggests this pope may even be fulfilling the need for a benevolent, spiritual father. I'm not sure how healthy this is spiritually or how helpful it is for the future of badly needed reforms in our church.

The response to the papal plane ride has set up an interesting challenging. How do we remain people of hope with a deep admiration for much of what the pope says and does while also not losing our prophetic edge in fighting for true justice for women, LGBT people, sexual abuse survivors and those suffering from lack of access to contraception?

If we cannot be honest about what this pope believes, and if we refuse to criticize him when criticism is justified, we could run the risk of giving the Vatican public relations machine exactly what it wants: a return to the days when the pope was an object of affection, adulation and unequivocal goodwill -- no questions asked.

[Jamie L. Manson is NCR books editor. She received her Master of Divinity degree from Yale Divinity School, where she studied Catholic theology and sexual ethics. Her NCR columns have won numerous awards, most recently second prize for Commentary of the Year from Religion Newswriters.]

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Eugene Kennedy, a friend of WEORC, composed the following article and offered a treasured photo of himself and Hans Kung.


           Austria’s Father Helmut Schuller’s current Tipping Point Tour on which he is calling Catholicism’s leaders and people back to the documents and spirit of renewal of Vatican II follows by half a century Swiss theologian Hans Kung’s tour of America, speaking on what then seemed a revolutionary idea, “The Church and Freedom.”

            Anyone who was in the crowd that packed McCormack Place to hear Kung, whose book on the Church and Reform, had ignited the imagination of Catholics as it revealed the possibilities of the Council that was then in session, will recall the electrical charge that exploded like a flash bulb in the crowd’s response to his presentation.  Prominent layman Dan Herr had introduced him and said later that the wave of enthusiasm that swept up from the crowd convinced him that the Church was really ready for change.

            Kung received at least half of the back of the ecclesiastical hand that has slapped Father Schuller for his prophet’s call to re-invigorate the Church by returning to the work of the Council in which Kung had played such an important role.  Kung received an interdict from the Catholic University of America but an honorary degree from St. Louis University.  One of the first actions taken by Pope John Paul II was to decree that Kung could no longer be regarded as a Catholic theologian at the University of Tubingen where, even stripped of that credential, he has continued to be a leader in Church reform and renewal.

            Father Schuller has been denied permission to speak in Catholic Churches or schools by bishops who, much as in Kung’s day, do not want to fail to ban a speaker or silence a theologian if that looks like the pope’s wishes.  Father Schuller enters the New Inquisition Sweepstakes not riding a sleek thoroughbred bearing theological colors but on the clerical Budweiser workhorse of hierarchical indenture,  He has worked as a Church official and knows that its stable of swayback horses desperately needs to be cleaned out or burned down so that the Church can enter fully into the only race that counts, the human race.

            You won’t find irony as rich as that associated with the punishment he received from the Austrian hierarchy.  They told him that he was no longer a monsignor, a title out of medieval court life, the loss of which turns out to be a tribute to Schuller who is committed to bringing the Church as a Servant to humanity in the 21st century.  Schuller is traveling on the energy generated by Kung and the reformers of Vatican II, urging people and bishops to commit themselves to the evangelization urged by that Council rather than the evangelization, a return to the middle ages and monsignors, urged as a new “interpretation” of Vatican II by those partners in retro-theology and Church discipline, Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

            If Schuller and Kung, following the same knight’s calling to retrieve the Holy Grail, might, in a sense, have been separated at birth, so, too, the Popes, John XXIII and Francis, separated by the same half century, nonetheless possess the same master pastoral gene.  John XXIII expressed it in his bringing his country roots with him into the Vatican, breaking centuries of traditions, such as the pope’s eating alone, and, when told that the workers would not come near him when he walked in the papal gardens, asked, “Why not, I won’t harm them?”  He disdained the official papal footwear and had a pair of familiar farmer’s boots modified for his many ambles around the Vatican and occasionally into Rome itself.  He laughed when he was told that the English journalists called him “Johnny Walker.”

            Pope Francis seems to many nervous Catholics too good to be true and they worry that this man who, in his large-hearted simplicity and common sense, may somehow turn out to be different than he has seemed, less like John in the long run and more like Benedict.  Any pope who can say that having the previous pope around is like having grandpa nearby does not seem likely to lose the humanity that makes him so attractive. 

            When John XXIII was pope and had broken down barriers by the kind of embrace that he gave the delegation of Jewish officials, saying, “I am Joseph and you are my brothers,” prompted philosopher Hannah Arendt, who had noted his work to save Jews during the war, to write, :We have a Christian sitting on the throne of Peter.”

            She would write the same thing if she heard of Pope Francis’s pastoral response when, on his plane returning from World Youth Day in Rio, he was asked about homosexuals and he answered, obviously from his heart, of their human goodness, of our need to support rather than censure them, and, who was he to judge them is they were seeking God in their own way? 

            The wonderful thing about these words about homosexuals is that nobody – no speechwriter, advisor, or P.R. expert, much less a curial official or a screenwriter – could have imagined the saving simplicity of Francis’s profoundly Christian words.  He speaks as John XXIII did when aked why he called Vatican II into session.  He did not respond by saying that the Church had to tighten up but that it had to open up, and his purpose was not to save monsignors or other trappings of the past, but that he did it for the people, “so that the human sojourn on earth might be less sad.”   That, of course, is why Francis urges bishops and priests to get out of the institution and into the midst of their people.  The Church is indeed to make the journey of all people less sad.

            So blessed are we that we have in Father Schuller a priest who calls us back to Vatican II much as Hans Kung had called us to it half a century ago.   Francis stands as unself-consciously as a pastoral pope as John XXIII did in that same era.  Father Schuller is not just calling for healthy reforms, he is bringing back, as is Pope Francis, the excitement that filled the Church at the time of Vatican II.  While Benedict XVI worked hard to bring us back to the 19th century of Vatican I, Francis is gently bidding us to rediscover the riches of that Council so that we may serve the world better, so that, in fact, we may join in making the “human sojourn on earth less sad.”

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Catholic Tipping Point: Conversations with Helmut Schüller

Internationally acclaimed Austrian priest activist,

Fr. Helmut Schüller to tour 15 US cities - July 16-August 7

Fr. Helmut Schuller is the charismatic founder of the Austrian Priests’ Initiative, (Pfarrer-Initiative) organized in 2006 to address a deepening shortage of priests forcing many Austrian parishes to close. His work inspired the establishment of similar priest groups in Germany, Ireland, France, the United States and Australia.

Schüller’s U.S. Tour comes in the midst of a steadily worsening priest shortage. A 2009 study from the National Federation of Priests’ Councils found that for every 100 U.S. priests who retire, only 30 are available to replace them.

In June 2011, the Pfarrer-Initiative issued a “Call to Disobedience” calling for lay leadership and preaching in parishes without a priest, permitting divorced and remarried Catholics to receive sacraments and support for the ordination of women and married men.

Fr. Schuller’s 15-city tour of the US is a result of an invitation by FutureChurch and the work of a coalition of nine church reform organizations*.

His visit is being called Catholic Tipping Point because priests and people worldwide are creating a critical mass transforming the Church from the bottom up.

From http://www.futurechurch.org/newsletter/events/helmut-schuller/

Wed 7/24, Chicago Hosted by Call To Action, Theatre Building of UNO Rogers Park
7400 Ridge Ave, Chicago (immediately south of St Scholastica Monastery
Registration and Networking 6 pm - 7 pm

Bob Heineman - bob@cta-usa.org - 847.682.1056

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Blackmail Vatican-Style: Gay Lobby?

Various news sources report that Pope Francis recently has referred to a "Gay Lobby" in the Vatican. The alledged group(s) use blackmail or the threat of blackmail to influence decisions and wield power. It's not simply an issue of homosexuality. Here's the New York Times article...

June 12, 2013

Pope Is Quoted Referring to a Vatican ‘Gay Lobby’

ROME — For years, perhaps even centuries, it has been an open secret in Rome: That some prelates in the Vatican hierarchy are gay. But the whispers were amplified this week when Pope Francis himself, in a private audience, appears to have acknowledged what he called a “gay lobby” operating inside the Vatican, vying for power and influence.

The remarks — which the Vatican spokesman did not deny and the participants at the private audience confirmed — appeared to be part of an effort by the pope to take on the entrenched interests in the Vatican that many believe were a factor in why the previous pope, Benedict XVI, resigned unexpectedly. They appear to underscore numerous reports in the prelude to the election of the pope, that corruption, blackmail and violation of one of the highest codes of Catholic conduct were part of the intrigue that scandalized the Vatican in recent years.

Francis, who portrays himself as a simple pope of the people, has made it clear that one of his highest priorities is to put the Vatican’s house in order. He has appointed a group of eight cardinals to advise him on how to overhaul the Vatican, and the head of the Vatican Bank has recently given a series of interviews to journalists — an openness unheard of under his predecessors.

“It’s pretty incredible that the pope said these things,” said Sandro Magister, a Vatican expert at the Italian weekly L’Espresso. “I don’t think there’s any doubt on the foundation of the phrases attributed to him. Otherwise they would have denied it.”
The pope made the remarks at the Vatican on June 6, while speaking to a meeting of the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Religious, the regional organization for priests and nuns of religious orders.

“In the Curia, there are also holy people, really, there are holy people. But there also is a stream of corruption, there is that as well, it is true,” he said in Spanish, according to a loose summary of the meeting posted on a Chilean Web site, Reflection and Liberation, and later translated into English by the blog Rorate Caeli.

“The ‘gay lobby’ is mentioned, and it is true, it is there ... We need to see what we can do,” Francis continued, in the document, produced here verbatim.

On Tuesday, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, did not deny the reports of Francis’s remarks, saying only that he had no comment on a private meeting — a marked shift from past months, in which the Vatican vehemently called such reports “unverified, unverifiable or completely false.”

Also on Tuesday, the Latin American group, known by its Spanish acronym CLAR, confirmed the remarks and issued an apology, saying it was distressed that its summary had been published.

Long the subject of speculation in Vatican circles, the term gay lobby had emerged most recently in juicy, unsourced reports in the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica and a news weekly, Panorama, before the March conclave in which Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, was elected.

Before his retirement on Feb. 28, the reports said, Benedict had been worn down by corruption scandals — including what they said was a network of gay priests inside the Vatican who used blackmail to gain influence and trade in state secrets.

A secret dossier compiled by three cardinals Benedict had asked to investigate a leaks scandal at the Vatican last year had revealed the network, which also included lay people who were aware of gay clerics inside the Vatican and who were in a position to blackmail them, the reports said.

Veteran watchers of the Roman Curia were unfazed by Francis’ remarks. One Vatican official, speaking on the traditional condition of anonymity, said he was not surprised that Francis had spoken of a gay lobby, but noted that the summary lacked “context and tone.”

“If you have an institution as big as the Vatican, there are some who will be homosexual, some maybe actively so,” the official said. “But whether there’s collusion or internal cooperation, I’ve certainly not been aware of it.”

Others said that the remarks were in line with the new pope’s emphasis on openness.
“A lobby of those who blackmail each other proliferates if you don’t talk about it, if there’s no air,” said Alberto Melloni, a Vatican historian and director of the John XXIII Foundation for Religious Studies in Bologna, a liberal Catholic research institute. “He’s right to talk about it, it breaks the mechanism in which omertà favors the use of blackmail. If no one talks about it, it’s a powerful weapon. In that way, he’s cut the issue down to size and conveys the sense that reforming the Curia is easy.”

“This is a question of blackmail and blackmailability, not homosexuality,” he added.
Two of the biggest internal threats to Benedict’s papacy, including a scandal of leaked documents, were driven by factions within the Vatican who used leaked information to vie for power. Those scandals contributed to Benedict’s decision to retire.

Writing in La Repubblica on Tuesday, the Vatican expert Paolo Rodari said that Francis had also mentioned the gay lobby in a meeting last month with bishops from Sicily.
In the summary of Francis’s remarks to the Latin American group, the pope said that he was moving ahead with improving Vatican governance, including with the committee of eight cardinals that he named in April. “I am very disorganized, I have never been good at this,” Francis is quoted as saying. “But the cardinals of the commission will move it forward.”

In its statement, CLAR added that it had not made a recording of Francis’s remarks, but that those present, a half-dozen men and women, had written a summary of his points for their personal use. “It’s clear that based on this, one cannot attribute with certainty to the Holy Father singular expressions in the text, but just the general sense,” the statement said.

The summary also quoted the pope as saying that he had not imagined he would be elected pope. He said he had come to Rome “only with the necessary clothes, I washed them at night, and suddenly this ... And I did not have any chance!” the summary read. “In the London betting houses I was in 44th place, look at that, the one who bet on me won a lot, of course...! This does not come from me,” he added, indicating it had been God’s will.

Gaia Pianigiani contributed reporting.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Remembering Andy Greeley

Chicago priest, Andrew Greeley, passed away last week at age 85 – five years are a debilitating accident. Eugene Kennedy, an inactive priest and friend of WEORC, paid Andrew a touching farewell in the weekend’s Chicago Tribune.

My brother Andrew

A friendship often tested, left to languish, and then

June 02, 2013|By Eugene Cullen Kennedy

Andrew Greeley, who was so deeply involved in the things of time, broke free of its shackles last week to enter fully the eternity whose boundaries he had broken, as easily as a champion miler does the tape, on almost every day of his long and remarkable life.

I knew Andrew for half a century and, thinking of his quick smile and his twinkling eyes, I recall him telling me once that he expected heaven to be a homecoming, the scene of a family reunion whose joy is not threatened, as it is so often in time, by the certainty that its magic and mystery will end with sundown.
Although he led and enjoyed a very public life in which he broke Teddy Roosevelt's mantra by speaking loudly and carrying a big stick in confronting the injustices and shortcomings he identified in the interlocking worlds of church and state, if, in other words, he acted like the scrappy Irishman whose persona he at times mischievously inhabited, I remember Andrew as a man who did not live nearly so much as a Celtic battler as he did the contemplative life of a monk who wanted to cast light on the depths of human existence.

That is why, of all his titles and degrees, he preferred that of priest and, through the many talents with which he was gifted, he saw his first calling as a minister to the needy and brokenhearted all around him. If that sometimes led him into places and into people's lives in unexpected and sometimes uncalled for interventions, he always entered with the heart of a priest who, in the words Pope John XXIII used to explain why he convened Vatican Council II, wanted "to make the human sojourn on Earth less sad."

It is no surprise that he wrote a series of mystery novels featuring a hero based on his own musings about himself, Father Blackie Ryan. These were really glints from his preoccupation with and absorption in mystery with a capital M. That, as he understood from the Catholic tradition, is, far more than religious practices or even creedal statements, the core of real religion.

That mystery includes the things some people think incompatible with the existence of God, the storms that strike haphazardly, the deaths of the innocent, the losses that pile up in the lives of good people, the heartbreak that is often found in the heart of the greatest of love stories. Andrew drew on these themes even in the novels that Graham Greene would have classified as "entertainments." These notions emerged as the fruit of the contemplation of the world to which, in quieter and deeper times, he immersed himself unself-consciously. Unlike many Christians, and even unlike many priests, he strove to practice what he preached every day.

We called each other friends and counted on each other but our friendship had been tested by times in which we drifted apart but could still hear each other's voices. Irish brothers have a way of falling out and then finding each other again. In our case, the cause of the falling out is complex and now irrelevant. The finding of our friendship again was the important thing and it was all his doing.

When I had cancer surgery and was sitting quietly, sorting out the situation with my wife at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Andrew came through the door to bring me his blessing, to cheer us up, and, in less than the time it takes to tell about it, to restore our friendship. As he said to me later with a smile, "Reconciliation is supposed to work that way." But he was the architect of the renewal of our friendship for, as he also said to me later, "I wasn't sure if you would throw me out of the hospital room."

That generous, brave, big-hearted man is the one I remember, the priest caught up in contemplating the mystery of our existence who in both word and deed lived by it. Andrew was caught up in the mystery of suffering beyond our capacity to understand it for the last five years of his life. His death has freed him from the grip that time had placed on him and has now allowed him to enter, like a pilgrim throwing his crutch away at Lourdes, the eternity whose depths were so familiar to him.

Remember him as you will, as novelist, professor, or even as a general agitator for the good and challenger of the bad, for all these are masks he wore at one time or another. I will remember him as a friend who bridged the gap of estrangement, who made our friendship whole again and did it by fully entering the mystery, even as he hails us now to join him at the family reunion he foresaw at the end of time.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Will Things Be Different Under Pope Francis?

From the first days of the new Pope’s reign things seemed different. 

Traditionalists were aghast the Francis didn’t wear an ermine cape when he first appeared on the balcony after being elected. Then he washed the feet of women (gasp!) on Holy Thursday. One can hope things are different…or perhaps the change is more in style than substance. Instead of Benedict’s rule with an iron fist, is it now an iron fist in a velvet glove? Reports are that Francis has already affirmed the investigations into American nuns. Time will tell, but at least Maureen Fiedler writing in the NCR questions this latest piece coming out of the Vatican.

Did Pope Francis get enough information on the LCWR mandate?

 |  NCR Today

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious has posted a statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in which Archbishop Gerhard Müller of the doctrinal congregation said he talked to Pope Francis about the LCWR mandate and claims the pope affirmed it.

I am frankly very skeptical of that information. First, I doubt this issue is on the top of the new pope's agenda or that he had much knowledge of this when he was an archbishop in Argentina.
And what does "affirm" mean? Affirm what? Some general, vague report? Did Müller give him a full explanation, talk about the opposition to it among U.S. Catholics or give him an outline of the actions proposed? Did he talk about the accusation that says U.S. women religious spend too much time on social justice and not enough on other issues? I frankly doubt the new pope would "affirm" that.

Did he even mention the questions raised by LCWR at the meeting several months ago? I doubt he gave both sides.
It could be a case of the "good 'ole boys" in the Curia wanting everything to remain the same and trying to make the new pope go along on an issue about which he knows little.
Two things: First, this is a wait-and-see situation. Second, LCWR would be well-advised to seek a private audience with Pope Francis to explain the full story.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Vocation Overseas Pipeline

In a December blog it was noted that there has been a slow-down in the number of ordinations in Poland. That, in turn, affects the recruitment of Polish priests and seminarians by US dioceses’ (including Chicago) to bolster their own dwindling and graying clergy.

So from where do dioceses import their priests now? Africa, and more specifically, Nigeria. At least that’s Chicago’s experience. Spokesman Fr. Jerry Boland said there were currently 160 international priests (ordained overseas) working in Chicago.  The largest single group is from Nigeria. This is not counting international religious-order priests or foreign-born seminarians studying to be ordained for Chicago.

Reports say the 24% of US major seminarians are foreign-born. Bishops counter complaints of some priests and laity about the newcomer’s language and cultural difficulties, by pointing to the gift of their valid and licit sacramental work. Other critics see the US Church wielding economic enticements to deprive other countries of their native vocations where the priest/parishioner ratio is often more desperate than in the United States.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Another Blow to Ecumenism?

The Vatican's had some  "success" with a special ordinate for disaffected Anglicans. Anglican bishops and priests were encouraged to "swim the Tiber" with their wives and congregations to become this special brand of Catholics and married Catholic priests. Now Rueters reports Roman ambitions to coax some Lutherans to defect to Rome.

Lutherans bristle at suggestion of joining Catholic Church

Tue, Jan 22 2013
By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

PARIS (Reuters) - Two leading Lutheran clerics have rejected suggestions from the Vatican that it could create a subdivision for converted Lutherans similar to its structures for Anglicans who join the Roman Catholic Church.

The dispute, concerning tiny numbers of believers but major issues in ecumenical relations, comes as the churches mark the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this week.

Rev Martin Junge, the Chilean-born secretary general of the World Lutheran Federation (WLF), said in a statement that the suggestion caused great concern and would "send wrong signals to LWF member churches around the world."

Bishop Friedrich Weber, the German Lutheran liaison with the Catholic Church, said the idea was unthinkable and amounted to "an unecumenical incitement to switch sides."

The Vatican announced special structures for disaffected Anglicans in 2009, creating a so-called ordinariate so conservatives opposed to female and homosexual bishops could become Catholic while retaining some of their traditions.

Several thousand Anglicans, including dozens of priests and a few bishops, have joined ordinariates established in England, Australia and Canada. Married clergy are exempted from the obligatory celibacy of the Catholic priesthood.

Relations among Christian churches have improved greatly since the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council and most now see each other more as partners than as competitors. A Catholic bishop attended an ecumenical service Weber celebrated last Sunday.

But this Vatican welcome has raised suspicions among some Protestants that the huge Catholic Church, which makes up half the world's 2.2 billion Christians, now wants to woo away believers from smaller churches torn by internal debate.