Archive for category Pope Francis

A historic resignation / Commonweal

“The disclosure that the pope had ‘asked for’ the bishop’s resignation, appearing in a statement from the Diocese of Crookston, marked a significant advance in the long effort to hold prelates accountable for concealing clergy sexual abuse.”

Commonweal

“When Msgr. Roger Grundhaus wanted to baptize his niece’s baby in the cathedral of a nearby diocese, there was the simple matter of getting a letter from his bishop affirming that he was a priest in good standing.

“Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner of Crookston in northwest Minnesota obliged the retired priest, a former vicar general of his diocese. ‘He is a person of good moral character and reputation,’ he wrote in 2012. ‘I am unaware of anything in his background which would render him unsuitable to work with minor children.’

“But contrary to that blanket statement, Hoeppner had already heard allegations directly from a diaconate candidate, Ron Vasek, that Grundhaus had molested him in the early 1970s. And so, attorney Jeff Anderson confronted the bishop with the letter during a deposition: ‘That’s a lie, isn’t it?’

“‘Counsel, can you rephrase in a non-argumentative way?’ the diocesan lawyer interjected, and there was no admission from the bishop in settling the lawsuit.

“This letter was part of a trail of evidence leading to the announcement that Pope Francis had asked for and received Hoeppner’s resignation as bishop, a first in the United States under the 2019 Vatican regulations designed to prevent cover-ups of clergy sexual abuse. The disclosure that the pope had ‘asked for’ the bishop’s resignation, appearing in a statement from the Diocese of Crookston, marked a significant advance in the long effort to hold prelates accountable for concealing clergy sexual abuse.”

By Paul Moses, Commonweal — Read more …

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Pope asks U.S. bishop to resign after cover-up investigation / Associated Press

Hoeppner was the first bishop known to be investigated by the Vatican under a 2019 law that Francis approved laying out the procedures to conduct preliminary investigations against bishops accused of sex abuse or cover-up.

Associated Press

“Pope Francis asked a bishop in the U.S. state of Minnesota to resign after he was investigated by the Vatican for allegedly interfering with past investigations into clergy sexual abuse, officials said Tuesday.

“The Vatican said Francis accepted the resignation of Crookston Bishop Michael Hoeppner on Tuesday (Apr. 13) and named a temporary replacement to run the diocese. Hoeppner is 71, four years shy of the normal retirement age for bishops.

“The Roman Catholic Diocese of Crookston said in a statement that the pontiff asked Hoeppner to resign following the Vatican probe, which it said arose from reports that the bishop ‘had at times failed to observe applicable norms when presented with allegations of sexual abuse involving clergy.’

“The Vatican had tasked St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda with conducting a preliminary investigation. Last year, Hebda’s office announced that the Holy See had authorized a more in-depth probe.”

By Associated Press — Read more …

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Nun appointed to high-level Vatican post by Pope Francis says the ‘patriarchal mindset is changing’ / Associated Press in America: The Jesuit Review

“A French nun who has become the first woman to hold a voting position at the Vatican said Wednesday (Feb. 10) that her appointment is evidence the ‘patriarchal mindset is changing.'”

Associated Press in America: The Jesuit Review

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“A French nun who has become the first woman to hold a voting position at the Vatican said Wednesday that her appointment is evidence the “patriarchal mindset is changing” as more and more women assume high-level decision-making responsibilities in the Catholic hierarchy.

“Sister Nathalie Becquart said during a news conference that her appointment as an undersecretary in the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops office was a “brave signal and prophetic decision” by Pope Francis, who has repeatedly stressed the need for women to have a greater say in church governance.

“‘What I hope is that this will be seen also in the field, in the dioceses, in the parishes,” she said. “I hope this act will encourage other bishops, priests, religious authorities, and that all this will include women more and more.'”

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, in America: The Jesuit Review — Read more …

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Women’s Work: The pope makes it harder to keep women out of liturgy / Commonweal

“It (motu proprio, Spiritus Domini) removes a major excuse that men have used to keep women at a distance from the altar of the Lord. But it doesn’t require them to give us anything we don’t already have. Changing canon law in this way doesn’t force ordained men to get used to working with women. At best, it nudges them toward recognizing that they should want to.”

Commonweal (Also Voice of the Faithful webpage “Women’s Roles” — http://votf.org/node/1589)

“It must be difficult for a mainstream journalist covering the Vatican beat on days like January 11, when Pope Francis’s motu proprioSpiritus Domini, was announced. How to convey the significance of a tweak to canon law that clarifies women’s eligibility to be lectors and acolytes at Mass? Aren’t they…already doing those things?

“Pity the reporter who must quickly explain the existence of ‘stable ministries’ in the Church, and the now-obscure practice of formally instituting lay men into those roles. Even the most committed American Catholics were perplexed when the news broke because, as Anthony Ruff, OSB, wrote at the Pray Tell blog, ‘Up until now, females couldn’t be installed in these ministries, but they could do these ministries anyway.’ It’s no wonder so many outlets framed the news in terms of what hadn’t happened: ‘Pope says women can read at Mass, but still can’t be priests’ ran a typical headline.

“‘The Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women,’ Pope John Paul II declared in 1994 in an attempt to shut down that debate. Francis quoted that pronouncement in a letter accompanying Spiritus Domini, but he also wrote that he hoped the change he was making to canon law would help men preparing for ordination ‘better understand they are participants in a ministry shared with other baptized men and women.’ Francis’s modification to one canon—changing ‘lay men’ to ‘lay persons’—eliminates a long-standing excuse for discrimination against women, although you won’t find him or any other Vatican official putting it in those terms.”

By Mollie Wilson O’Reilly, Commonweal — Read more …

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In came Latin, incense and burned books, out went half the parishioners / National Catholic Reporter

‘The Charlotte Diocese is not alone. While Pope Francis preaches an accompaniment for all spiritual seekers and castigates clericalism … seminaries in the U.S. continue to graduate priests for ordination who look not to Francis, but to Pope John Paul II for inspiration. It is a quiet, awkward and uneasy kind of schism in church practice and discipline.”

National Catholic Reporter

“Religion scholar Maria Lichtmann felt a strangeness overcome St. Elizabeth of the Hill Country Parish in Boone, North Carolina, four years ago.

“Fr. Matthew Codd, the then-pastor at St. Elizabeth’s, was joined by a group of seminarians who went through the church’s theology library and removed books deemed heretical, including those of spiritual writers Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton. The books were later burned, she was told by a parish staff member.

“Lichtmann, a retired religious studies professor at Appalachian State University, left the region in part, she told NCR, because of the changes in the parish. She now lives in Georgia.

“‘I felt it was a lost cause,’ she said about St. Elizabeth’s.

“The spirit of hyper-orthodoxy in parish leadership continued, noted Lichtmann, after Codd was replaced in July 2019 by Fr. Brendan Buckler.

“Nearing 18 months since Buckler arrived, on the edge of Boone, a college town and popular retirement community in the mountain foothills, a few dozen now gather every other Sunday at a car restoration shop shared by a hospitable non-Catholic, the husband of a parishioner.”

By Peter Feuerherd, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Francis changes Catholic Church law: women explicitly allowed as lectors, altar servers / National Catholic Reporter

“Francis’ new letter, titled Spiritus Domini and issued motu proprio (on his own initiative), changes the Code of Canon Law to explicitly allow women to be installed in the Catholic Church as lectors and acolytes.”

National Catholic Reporter

“Pope Francis has changed Catholic Church law to make explicit that laywomen can act as readers and altar servers in liturgical celebrations, effectively removing a previous option for individual bishops to restrict those ministries only to men.

“In an unexpected apostolic letter published Jan. 11, the pontiff says he is making the change to recognize a ‘doctrinal development’ that has occurred in recent years.

“That change, the pope says, ‘shines a light on how some ministries instituted by the church have as their foundation that common condition of baptism and the royal priesthood received in the Sacrament of Baptism.’

“Francis’ new letter, titled Spiritus Domini and issued motu proprio (on his own initiative), changes the Code of Canon Law to explicitly allow women to be installed in the Catholic Church as lectors and acolytes.

“Lectors are ministers who proclaim readings at Mass and other liturgical celebrations. Acolytes are ministers who typically assist priests in preparing the altar during the Mass or in distributing Communion. Acolytes are often known as altar servers or Eucharistic ministers in common parlance.

“Laypeople who serve in those ministries are not ordained but can be formally instituted into the roles during a church ceremony.

“Although women in many U.S. Catholic dioceses already serve as readers and altar servers, the church’s canon law had technically only allowed for their service on a temporary basis and according to the whim of the local bishop.”

By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter — Read more … 

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Cardinal Pell’s acquittal was as opaque as his sexual abuse trial / The New York Times

“At every stage, critics argue, Australia’s courts exhibited a penchant for secrecy and insular decision-making that resembled the Catholic Church’s flawed and damaging response to sexual abuse within its ranks.” (The New York Times)

Cardinal George Pell walked out of prison on Tuesday after Australia’s highest court reversed his 2018 conviction for molesting two choirboys decades earlier — liberating the most senior Roman Catholic cleric to ever face trial over child sexual abuse.

The world may never be able to assess whether the court’s reasoning was sound.

The panel of seven judges ruled that the jury lacked sufficient doubt about the accusations against Cardinal Pell, the former archbishop of Melbourne and treasurer for the Vatican. Jurors, the court argued, ignored “compounding improbabilities” caused by conflicting accounts from the cardinal’s main accuser and other witnesses.

But no one outside the court case can test that comparison. The central evidence — the testimony of the main accuser, on which the case “was wholly dependent,” the judges wrote — has never been released, not in video, audio nor even redacted transcripts.

By Damien Cave and Livia Albeck-Ripka, The New York Times — Read more …

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In ‘Querida Amazonia,’ Francis’ sacramental imagination stops short of women / National Catholic Reporter

“How much disappointment and outrage would have erupted if the pope had moved forward with ordaining married men, but his retrograde words about women remained the same?” (National Catholic Reporter)

Perhaps no one was less surprised last week than I was when Pope Francis’ Querida Amazonia showed no openness to a female diaconate, and instead was laden with the language of gender complementarity in its discussion of women.

“For years I have used this column to document Francis’ beliefs about women and to plead with readers to be honest about how his thinking would seriously limit the possibilities of real change for women in the church. Beginning with his description of feminism as “chauvinism with skirts” early in his papacy in 2013 through his 2019 dithering on women deacons, I wrote on this topic at least 20 times in the last seven years.

“I did this not to sound like a broken record — though I most certainly did — but rather to spare myself and my fellow churchwomen from the heartbreak that I knew would come. Unless Francis moved beyond the theology of complementarity, women would never receive the justice they deserve from their church, an institution that they serve, sacrifice for, and very often sustain singlehandedly. The pope, unfortunately, never showed any signs of budging.

By Jamie Manson, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Pope Francis sets aside proposal on married priests / The New York Times

In his letter, which took the form of a 94-page booklet and has the power of church teaching, Francis notably made no mention of ordaining married men in good standing or elevating to the priesthood married deacons, a lower clerical rank that does not require celibacy. The silence amounted to a pocket veto of the proposal. (The New York Times)

Pope Francis has for now rejected a landmark proposal by bishops to allow the ordination of married men in remote areas, a potentially momentous change that conservatives had warned would set the Roman Catholic Church on a slippery slope toward lifting priestly celibacy and weakening church traditions.

“Francis’ decision, in a papal letter made public on Wednesday (Feb. 12), surprised many given the openness he had displayed on the subject and his frequently expressed desire for a more collegial and less top-down church.

“It disappointed supporters of Francis who had hoped for more revolutionary change. Coming seven years into his papacy, it also raised the question of whether Francis’ promotion of discussing once-taboo issues is resulting in a pontificate that is largely talk.

“His closest advisers have already acknowledged that the pope’s impact has waned on the global stage, especially on core issues like immigration and the environment. His legacy, they have said, will be inside the church, where his authority is absolute.”

By Jason Horowitz and Elisabetta Pololedo, The New York Times — Read more …

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Pope jettisons pontifical secret; Voice of the Faithful applauds

BOSTON, Mass., Dec. 18, 2019 – Pope Francis yesterday changed the Catholic Church’s Canon Law to abrogate the “pontifical secret,” the Vatican’s equivalent of “top secret,” with regard to clergy sexual abuse cases. Voice of the Faithful joins clergy abuse victims and survivors and their advocates in considering this reform long-overdue.

Voice of the Faithful has always promoted full transparency of clergy abuse, understanding that the Church used secrecy in an attempt to protect itself against scandal, which resulted in particularly unjust treatment of victims. Because of the Pope’s action, no one may in the future claim that they cannot hand over documentation of abuse, or testify at trials, or be uncooperative with civil authorities by claiming clergy abuse information is considered top secret by the Vatican.

The Church’s leading clergy abuse investigator, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, has called the Pope’s instruction “epochal.” Abuse survivor Marie Collins, a former member of the Papal Commission for the Protection of Minors who resigned in frustration at Vatican resistance, hailed the change, calling it “excellent” and a “real positive change.”

Will this reform usher in a new era of transparency and accountability in the Church? We can only hope.


Voice of the Faithful Statement, Dec. 18, 2019
Contact: Nick Ingala, nickingala@votf.org, 781-559-3360
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 the governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.

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