Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Benefits of Making Priestly Celibacy Optional -


The Benefits of Making Priestly Celibacy Optional

Anthony Dragani

Anthony Dragani is an associate professor of religious studies at Mount Aloysius College.

Updated November 21, 2014, 5:46 PM

The Catholic Church already has many married priests. In fact, in parts of the world the majority of Catholic priests are married men with families. These priests serve in the Eastern Catholic Churches, which are in full communion with the Pope, but otherwise resemble Orthodox Christian Churches.

In the United States, most people associate Catholic with Roman Catholic. But the Catholic Church is a communion of 23 churches, each recognizing the leadership of the Pope while maintaining their own distinctive identities and disciplines. While the Latin Church, which is popularly known as the Roman Catholic Church, has a discipline of mandatory priestly celibacy, most of the Eastern Catholic Churches do not.

Being Eastern Catholic, married priests are a reality that I’m already familiar with. My own pastor is a married man with children and grandchildren, and he is an exemplary priest. I’ve also had celibate pastors who are equally outstanding. In my experience, a priest being married or celibate makes little difference as to whether or not he is effective in his ministry.

If priestly celibacy were optional, more people would become priests, there would be greater transparency and celibacy would be a spiritual gift.

Based on my observations, if married priests became more common in the Catholic Church, change wouldn’t be drastic, but there would be benefits:

First, voluntary celibacy would increase the pool of candidates to the priesthood. It’s no secret that the Catholic Church is suffering from a priest shortage in parts of the world. In some cases a single priest must serve three or more parishes. While ordaining married men wouldn’t solve this problem entirely, it would make a difference.

Also, making celibacy optional would foster a culture of greater transparency within the Catholic Church. While most celibate priests do keep their promise of celibacy, there are some who try, but fail. Sometimes these priests resort to living double lives. I’ve seen this happen too many times.

Priests who are engaged in clandestine relationships, even with consenting adults, are compromised. They live with a secret. And these priests, who may go on to become bishops, are sometimes hesitant to investigate rumors of sexual misconduct by other clergy, as they fear their own secrets being exposed. People living with secrets breed a culture of secrecy.

Finally, if priestly celibacy were optional, there would be a greater appreciation for celibacy as a spiritual gift. In Eastern Christianity celibacy is viewed as a sacred calling in and of itself, without it being tied to the priesthood. Because candidates for the priesthood can freely choose to accept or reject celibacy, they can discern whether or not they have this special calling without their future ministries hanging in the balance. Many do choose celibacy, either as priests or monks, and this is viewed as a gift from God, but it is not demanded of anyone.

When celibacy is a requirement for the priesthood, some men force themselves to commit to celibacy, even if it is clear that they don’t possess this gift. While this works out for some, for others it leads to a life of torment and hypocrisy. If candidates for the priesthood are given the choice, those who choose celibacy are more likely to be at peace with this state of life, and this allows celibacy to be seen for what it is – a gift from God, not a burden to be endured. And when celibacy is freely chosen as a gift, not as a prerequisite for ministry, the result is a healthier church for everyone

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Twin Cities Archdiocese weighs bankruptcy, cites costs of sex abuse cases | Star Tribune


The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, facing an unprecedented wave of clergy abuse lawsuits, said Thursday that it is weighing whether to declare bankruptcy.

A bankruptcy filing would give a federal judge control over the church’s finances, and could affect how much money would be paid to the victims of clergy sex abuse.

In making the announcement, the church released a financial report that reflected how it is spending money addressing the child abuse lawsuits. In its most recent fiscal year, for example, the archdiocese said it spent $4.2 million to hire outside professionals to investigate its own handling of abuse charges over the years and to explore its financial options.

The 2014 finances do not reflect any payments to victims. With 18 cases pending and more likely to follow, the archdiocese said total claims would likely outstrip the $5.3 million it has set aside to compensate victims.

“The road ahead offers ‘trouble’ of its own,” wrote Archbishop John Nienstedt in his column in the Catholic Spirit newspaper Thursday. “We have no idea how many more legal claims may be made against us.”

No final decision has been made about filing for bankruptcy, said Chief Financial Officer Tom Mertens, adding that such a move would not be an attempt to avoid paying abuse victims.

Read more by clicking on the following:  Twin Cities Archdiocese weighs bankruptcy, cites costs of sex abuse cases | Star Tribune

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cardinal's demotion helps Pope Francis quell 'conservative backlash' -- for now | Fox News


There have been voices of protest by some conservatives since Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected in 2013, with American-based conservative blog “Rorate Caeli” posting an article about the new pope on the day he was elected called “The Horror!” Concern and even anger at what conservatives in the Church perceive to be growing confusion and lack of clarity in regards to Church doctrine continued to grow, culminating in the near mutiny following the October meeting, known as an Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

The Synod was called by Francis to discuss the topic of the family, and Francis encouraged bishops to speak openly about controversial topics. But when he assigned German Cardinal Walter Kasper -- the de facto leader of the progressive wing of the Church and long-time antagonist of Pope Benedict XVI -- the job of setting the agenda, conservative anger ignited.

A working document for the session, released in early October, expressed views that represented a radical shift from traditional Catholic teaching. The document opened up the possibility of admitting divorced and remarried couples to Holy Communion and instructed pastors to avoid “any language or behavior which might be construed as discrimination,” while also calling for greater acceptance of gays.

The language on the latter was in stark contrast to previous expressions by the Church that, while condemning “unjust discrimination,” described homosexuality in a 1986 document as a ”tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus...must be seen as an objective disorder.”

The synod document elicited what Allen called “a tsunami of conservative backlash” with  Voices of the Family, a coalition of pro-life groups, slamming the document as a betrayal, “one of the worst official documents drafted in Church history.”

Although the apparent change in tone was praised by many media outlets, conservative bishops and cardinals across the globe condemned the document and the pope’s handling of the Synod, yet it was in America in particular where fingers were pointed directly at the pope.

“You might say that the Synod was a a turning point for conservatives, the end of the honeymoon,” Zuhlsdorf told

In the aftermath, now-silent American bishops had plenty to say.

“Pope Francis is fond of creating a mess," Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Diocese of Providence, wrote in a blog post. "Mission accomplished.”

Said Archbishop Charles Chaput, a leading conservative bishop: “Confusion is of the devil.”

But both Tobin and Chaput declined comment, following the stunning demotion of Burke, who blasted Francis for allowing Kasper to exercise such powerful influence over the Church's direction.

“The Pope named Cardinal Kasper to the Synod and has let the debate go along this track,” Burke said in an interview with Il Foglio. Meanwhile, in another interview, for Catholic World Report, Burke said that a statement from the pope affirming Catholic teaching was “long overdue."

Burke was toughest on Francis for the Kasper connection, noting in an interview with Buzzfeed that Kasper’s implicit claim to be speaking for the pope has not been corrected by the pontiff and “the lack of clarity about the matter has certainly done a lot of harm.”


Burkepic1.jpgExpand / Contract

Cardinal Raymond Burke's stunning demotion seems to have stopped a conservative revolt against Pope Francis, at least for the time being. (The Associated Press)

Burke, who was prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura -- the highest court in the Vatican and a position of considerable power -- when he spoke out, was shifted to the largely ceremonial role of patron to the sovereign military order of Malta. Burke, whose demotion is without precedent in recent Church history, has since denied that he is attacking Francis, yet many remain unconvinced.

Read more:  Cardinal's demotion helps Pope Francis quell 'conservative backlash' -- for now | Fox News

Reflections on my ’60 Minutes’ interview | Crux



By Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley

The Pilot November 19, 2014

Last Sunday evening I was privileged to be featured on the CBS television program “60 Minutes,” which is actually three 20 minute segments. I was featured in segment two of the broadcast. The whole experience was fascinating. I was very impressed by the entire team, their work ethic, professionalism and dedication. Those 20 minutes are distilled out of many hours of hard work. Correspondent Norah O’Donnell and producers Frank Devine and Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson are all Catholics. Their faith and their regard for the Church was evident. Frank is a very well-informed Catholic who can engage in theological debate about “internal form” or any aspect of the life of the Church.

From the beginning of the process I was aware that the questions would not be about the weather and the Red Sox. The program’s interviews include difficult questions that are often on many people’s minds. For some people, being featured on 60 Minutes would be exhilarating, but television interviews are not at the top of my list of favorite things to do. Newscasts these days can be about sound bites and quick messaging. In contrast, 60 Minutes does a good job of trying to go deeper into the topics they address. My interview touched on three provocative issues that are seldom addressed by members of the hierarchy, but which once raised capture everyone’s attention. These matters call for more time and consideration than can be given in a 20 minute broadcast segment.

Not surprisingly, Norah asked a question about Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of St. Joseph-Kansas City and accountability. While it is the case that the sexual abuse policies adopted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops would preclude someone convicted of not reporting a crime from teaching religious education or having any position supervising children, some of the advance reporting about this matter did not reflect the nuances of my answer to the question. In response to Norah, I said that the Vatican must attend to this situation. The Holy Father is aware of this need, and recently an Episcopal Visitator was sent to Bishop Finn’s diocese. The Holy See had the sensitivity to send a Canadian bishop to conduct the visitation.

One of the significant concerns of the members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Children, on which I serve as President, is the accountability of bishops. We are all aware that Catholics want their leaders to be held accountable for the safety of children, but the accountability has been sporadic. We need clear protocols that will replace the improvisation and inertia that has often been the response in these matters. Bishops also deserve due process that allows them to have an opportunity for a fair hearing. The situation in the Diocese of St. Joseph-Kansas City is a painful one; we pray that the visitation will help. After all that American Catholics have been through in the past decade, survivors and the community at large understandably are demanding transparency and accountability. As a Church, the safety of children must be our priority. At the same time, we need to provide justice for all and avoid crowd-based condemnations.

Another topic that has garnered much attention is the recent visitation of Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and the communities of religious women. These were two different activities, conducted by distinct Roman congregations. I trust that there were serious concerns that gave rise to the visitations, but it would seem that better planning and a wider participation of American religious and U.S. bishops would have been helpful. The Church personnel who carried out these assignments have done an admirable job under very difficult circumstances. Unfortunately, many religious women have been alienated by the process and the bishops in this country have been blamed for shortfalls in communications and the process. Hopefully when the final report of the visitations is presented, it will be a more positive experience that will contribute to healing in our Church and be helpful for the cause of religious life. The upcoming Year of Consecrated Life called for by Pope Francis will be an opportunity to celebrate the great achievements of our religious and introduce a new generation of Catholics to consecrated life and its many opportunities to accomplish good works in the name of the Church.

A topic also of significant concern in the Church that was addressed during the interview is the discussion concerning the ordination of women to the priesthood. This is particularly painful to many Catholic women who feel that the teaching on women’s ordination is a rejection and unfair.

Throughout history, many wonderful Catholic women have wished to be priests, among them St. Therese, the Little Flower. In my comments I was trying to communicate that women are often holier, smarter and more hard-working than men, and that the most important member of the Church is a woman, the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Church is called to be faithful to Christ’s will, and that is not always easy or popular. Understanding the Church’s teaching is always a process that begins with faith.

As a person who is just an occasional viewer of television, I am amazed to learn of the number of people who watch 60 Minutes each week; this is certainly a credit to the quality of the program. I hope that one take-away from my 60 Minutes interview will be that cardinals, bishops and priests are human, and that we love the Church.


Reflections on my ’60 Minutes’ interview | Crux

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Group Fighting Sexual Abuse Says Bishop Finn May Survive Scandal - KMBZ


The Kansas City-St Joseph Diocese was referenced in a segment on "60 Minutes" this past Sunday. Bishop Robert Finn has remained in service, despite repeated calls for him to step down.
David Clohessy, national director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), says after the program he had a flood of calls from Catholics here and other areas encouraged that the Pontiff will remove Finn, but he says even that wouldn't be a cure all.
"Even if Finn is removed, that's no tremendous sign of progress because there are literally hundreds of Catholic officials around the world still on the job, who have done what Finn did, and not been criminally convicted," said Clohessy.
Finn was criminally convicted in 2012 of failure to report suspected child abuse in the Shawn Ratigan case. Ratigan is serving 50 years in federal prison on a child pornography conviction.

Group Fighting Sexual Abuse Says Bishop Finn May Survive Scandal - KMBZ

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Cardinal O’Malley’s warning shot about Bishop Finn is just the start (ANALYSIS) - Religion News Service


…In September, Francis also sent a Canadian archbishop to investigate Finn, which is seen as a prelude to Finn’s possible dismissal, and senior Vatican officials have said such a dismissal would be justified.

Earlier this month, the Vatican issued a statement clarifying when and why bishops must resign or retire, but also stressing that the pope “may consider it necessary to ask a bishop to present the resignation of his pastoral office, after letting him know the motives for such a request and after listening attentively to his justifications, in fraternal dialogue.”

Essentially, Francis is putting underperforming bishops on notice.

But some church leaders still want further clarity, and a better system. In September, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan said Francis needed to find “some way of putting teeth” into a process for punishing bishops that go beyond “fraternal exhortations” delivered by back channels.

“I would find it immensely helpful and see it as part of Pope Francis’ long-range plan to flesh out how bishops can hold one another more accountable,” Dolan told the Catholic news site Crux…..

Click on the following to read the entire article:  Cardinal O’Malley’s warning shot about Bishop Finn is just the start (ANALYSIS) - Religion News Service

Weekly Contributions for the weekend of November 16, 2014



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