Archive for February, 2015
Amid what the media has presented as a general feeling of optimism about the papacy of Francis, there are some matters that remain causes of concern among American Catholics. One of these is the current state of the priesthood, which has seen a dramatic decline in its numbers over the past forty years and a corresponding decline in new ordinations. At the same time, there are questions about the manner and consistency of seminary formation—including formation related to sexuality and sexual abuse—while parish communities express worries about the “ecclesiastical environments” created by priests who seem out of touch with the concerns of ordinary Catholics.”
By the editors at Commonweal magazine — Click here to see the rest of this story and the links to each of the stories in this three-part series.
As U.S. dioceses continue their Vatican-ordered consultations for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the family, a national clergy group has launched its own questionnaire in an effort to highlight the issues most pressing to priests.
“The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests sent a synod survey on Jan. 31 to its 1,000-plus members, asking each not to answer the 46 questions presented in the synod’s working document, the lineamenta, but instead to rank them in importance on a seven-point scale from ‘not important’ to ‘essential.’ Each question also offers comment space for priests to expand on those questions they deemed as essential.”
By Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this story.
Also of interest is, “Strong Catholic Families offers simplified survey for family synod,” by Soli Salgado, National Catholic Reporter.
A committee of theology teachers from the four high schools administered by the San Francisco archdiocese will be asked to expand and clarify a statement on church teachings and practices developed by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone and scheduled for inclusion in those schools’ 2015-16 faculty handbooks.
“In an open letter to teachers dated Feb. 24 as well as during an hour-long meeting with the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle on Tuesday (Feb. 24), Cordileone said he has been surprised by the uproar generated by the Feb. 3 release of the handbook insertion, ‘Statement of the High Schools of the Archdiocese of San Francisco Regarding the Teachings and Practice of the Catholic Church.’
“An archdiocesan ‘media advisory’ issued late Tuesday appeared to counter a Chronicle characterization of the committee’s formation and the newspaper’s meeting with Cordileone as the archbishop backing down.”
By Dan Morris-Young, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this story.
Under pressure from his Catholic schools community, the archbishop of the San Francisco archdiocese is re-wording strict guidelines he proposed for teachers that would require them to reject homosexuality, use of contraception, and other “evil” behavior.
“Most significantly, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said he is dropping an effort to designate high school teachers as “ministers,” which, under a 2012 US Supreme Court ruling, would have eliminated them from government-mandated employee protections by placing them solely under Church control.”
By Kevin Fagan, San Francisco Chronicle, on Cruxnow.com — Click here to read the rest of this story.
The Catholic priesthood is aging at an alarming rate, and thousands of U.S. diocesan priests are expected to retire within the next few years. With most diocesan priest pension plans significantly underfunded, questions over where the money comes from to support them may point to a major crisis in the making …
“Half of all priests currently in active ministry also expect to retire by 2019, and most of them expect to receive the pension payments they’ve been promised. Church leaders have known for decades about the looming priest shortage and its implications for sustaining Catholic parishes as Eucharistic communities. Another, more hidden crisis lurks in diocesan pension reserves that are underfunded, many of them seriously …
“The hierarchy must admit that changes are needed in financial management. At the same time, priests and laity must demand more financial transparency and accountability. Pell (Cardinal George Pell, Prefect for the Secretariat for the Economy), referring to anticipated changes in the Vatican bank said, ‘There need to be changes in the economic area — not just with the so-called Vatican bank — but more generally there is work there to be done [and] a need to ensure that things are being properly done.’
“Let’s hope the American hierarchy gets the message.”
By Jack Ruhl, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this story.
As clergy child abuse scandals jolt the church, Pope Francis has defrocked predatory bishops from Peru and Poland after secret Vatican proceedings. He also intervened on a victim’s behalf in Spain, which emboldened prosecutors to indict a priest who was part of an alleged ring of clergy abusers in the Grenada diocese, according to press reports.
“‘A zero tolerance approach must be adopted,’ Francis told reporters on an airline press conference from Tel Aviv to Rome last May, a sentiment he has backed with action in the intervening months.
“But the 17-member papal advisory commission on the abuse crisis faces a glaring loophole over bishops who have sheltered predators — a loophole that creates a tripwire to Pope Francis’s stated goal.”
By Jason Berry, GlobalPost.com — Click here to read the rest of this story.
An organization seeking to influence Pope Francis’ view of women — and to propose female professionals he might tap to lead high church offices — will be hosting a live-streamed event from the Vatican for the second time next month.
“Called Voices of Faith, the event will feature storytelling presentations from 10 women from various parts of the world who have overcome adversity or have reached the highest places available for women below the hierarchy’s stained-glass ceiling.
“The event will be held March 8, the day marked as International Women’s Day, at the Vatican’s iconic Casina Pio IV, a white marble structure inside the Vatican Gardens that houses the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.”
By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this story.
Following up on hints given during a CBS “60 Minutes” interview last fall, Cardinal Sean O’Malley told John Allen of The Boston Globe on Monday, Feb. 16, that the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors will present “proposals for new accountability mechanisms to the pope within two months’ time.”
Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful® has been calling for bishops to be held accountable for coverups of clergy sexual abuse since 2002 and for penalties to be applied to those who continue failing to follow even basic standards. We are encouraged that there is at least a proposed deadline for presenting accountability procedures.
But the Vatican has often promised changes, reform and accountability without implementing such plans effectively and consistently. It seems that Cardinal O’Malley recognizes how damaging this record is. In the interview, he told Allen, “a lack of accountability for bishops who fail to make ‘zero tolerance’ policies stick has damaged the church’s credibility.”
It remains to be seen whether these new proposals will be realistic in terms of justice and whether they will be adopted and then implemented. If not, it will be yet another missed opportunity to demonstrate that the Church no longer will tolerate clergy sexual abuse and its coverups and that justice is more important than a hierarch’s position.
Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.
Catholics who want to give input to their local bishops ahead of October’s global Synod of Bishops on the family have ample opportunity — but they better hurry.
“A preliminary sampling of 21 dioceses around the U.S. found all were seeking input from individual Catholics through online surveys or parish consultations, and information on how to provide that input was easily available through the local diocesan newspaper, the diocesan website, or both.
“But most dioceses in this preliminary sampling are closing the consultation in early March, and at least a few are closing the consultations as early as Friday. Many dioceses issued the invitation to participate in surveys in January. Juneau, Alaska, seems to be earliest, issuing an invitation Jan. 14.
“In 2013, Pope Francis initiated a two-year churchwide consultation on the family that included an extraordinary Synod of Bishops, which met at the Vatican in October 2014, and an ordinary Synod of Bishops, which will meet Oct. 4-25 at the Vatican and focus on the theme, ‘The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World.’”
By Dennis Coday, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this story.
Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley (head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors) said on Monday (Feb. 16) that a prior climate of denial among Catholic cardinals on the need for reform with regard to the church’s child sexual abuse scandals has been largely driven underground.
“O’Malley also said that a lack of accountability for bishops who fail to make “zero tolerance” policies stick has damaged the church’s credibility, and vowed that he will present proposals for new accountability mechanisms to the pope within two months’ time.
“O’Malley spoke Monday in an exclusive interview with the Globe during a Rome event to present an expanded antiabuse initiative at the Jesuit-run Gregorian University.”
By John L. Allen, Jr., The Boston Globe — Click here to read the rest of this story.