Saturday, February 28, 2009

An Focal Scóir - February 2009

We enter Spring with St Brigids Day, Candlemas Day and the feast of Saint Blaise, and the month of the Purification of Mary...

...and the Holocaust furore continues, Cardinal O'Malley defends Il Papa, RC in charge of US Republican party, Il Papa heals one schism but begins another, women priests want their excommunication lifted, new Patriarch in Russia...

...Anglican schism or reformation, Il Papa intentions for February, martyrs of Tyburn Tree remembered, gay marriage possible in Portugal, Irish RC priests CSA in USA, jubilee of Bishop Smith, Cardinal & Il Papa agree on annulments... Cardinal to be announced for NY by Il Papa, CofE to be re-organised, German Jews see Il Papa actions as a breach of trust, call for Il Papa to step down, Legionaries Of Christ comment on inappropriate behaviour of founder Maciel, Cardinal O'Malley lashes Obama on abortion, rare internal criticism heard in Vatican, YouTube Vatican site claims 750,000 hits in first week...

...AB Martin says Irish RC Church has failed parents, Cardinal Kasper claims Vatican botched Holocaust issue, Merkel criticises Vatican handling of SSPX Holocaust denying bishop, Il Papa an embarrassment in German homeland, new Russian Patriarch not too enthused (yet) with Vatican visit... Presbyterian moderator elected, Priests sing for Prince Charles, Vatican orders SSPX to recant remarks in relation to Holocaust, Vatican claims Il Papa was unaware of Holocaust remarks, Austrian RC not happy with SSPX remarks of Il Papa, Maciel fathered a daughter, Chicago Cathedral ravaged by fire...

...celibacy no longer sacrosanct in Poland, Ferns clergy volunteer for Garda clearance, Cardinal Hoyos considered the one responsible for SSPX faux-pax, Cardinal O'Connor Murphy condemns Il Papa decision to lift excommunication of SSPX, Legionaries need transparency, Christian groups respond to atheist adverts, Il Papa fallibility explored, Jesuits face more lawsuits...

...female apostolic visit to convents begins, Irish Christian Brothers settle more CSA actions, focus on suicide marks world day of sick, Cardinal O'Mahoney in LA faces questioning of CSA, Il Papa to visit Germany in 2010, Irish Bishop calls for renewal of Irish Catholic church...

...internet used by RC to encourage vocations, Il Papa trip to Holy Land to proceed, Brisbane priest sacked over feud, Hayes & Finch clerical rip-off, Lombardi claims Vatican needs to improve communications, Bishop Williamson removed from seminary post for Holocaust remarks, Galway Novena 2009...

...Il Papa and Nazi Youth, WomenPriests want decree lifted, Vatican to re-evaluate Darwinism, Limerick to host biggest theology conference, Czech cardinal to retire, Anglican Synod permits women bishops, Dutch RC Church Tribunal green lights priest relationship with woman, Vietnam and Vatican to establish ties, Il Papa to visit Portugal soon...

...Cloyne CSA claims added to, marriage prep courses rise in demand, Aussie Bishop under Vatican investigation, Austrian RC to hold emergency bishops conference, Vatican marks 80th Anniversary, St Valentines Day, CW Aid Appeal Update, 'bogus' Mass cards no longer permitted in Ireland...

...Church of Ireland's population on the rise, recession making way for morality, Il Papa message for Lent 2009, SSPX bishop says SSPX cannot accept all of Vatican II, anti-Vatican protests in London, priest turns down Bishop job in Austria, Fr Kennedy in Brisbane collapses, Hal the Healer strikes again...

...alert for conman dressed as priest, 1st South Korean Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan dies (RIP), Fr Kennedy to retire post-collapse, Pelosi and Brown to meet Il Papa, 2 attempted assassination attempts on JPII in Poland, 10 for Canonisation, DaVinci sequel angers Vatican...

...theologians calls for implementation of Vatican II, Bray shenanigans 21 & 22, calls for boycott of St Obama candles, LA CSA now a Fed Case, St Marys Brisbane rumbles on, Il Papa appoints assembly for Africa, Vatican rescinds Austrian bishop appointment, German theologians clash with Bishop over Il Papa...

...Spanish priest murdered in Cuba, diocesan appointments in Kilmore and Ardagh and Clonmacnoise, AB Martin criticises 'pretend' RC's, only 3 Irish dioceses fully complied with audit of CSA, JPII target of assassinations on trips to Poland, Il Papa rebukes Pelosi...

...Nigerian cardinal to lead Vatican Lenten retreat, SSPX leader says uniting with Vatican will not be easy, Satan is sexist by all accounts, Il Vaticano soccer tournament returns, eugenics on way back, St Patricks Day celebrations piddled on by bishop, ex-nun confessions not helpful to Kerala church...

...anti-semitism alive on SSPX website, homophobic church not welcomed in UK, nuns freed in Somalia, clerical showdown in Brisbane, Great Continental Mission in Latin America announced, excommunication sought for Pelosi, SSPX Holocaust denier thrown out of Argentina, Jewish relations on the mend...

...Il Papa to visit Scotland (?), Brisbane continues to rumble, Feast of the Chair of St Peter the Apostle, Vatican Vindictiveness plays out, names of 10 new saints announced, preparing for Lent 2009, questions raised in Cloyne re CSA, Irish Pioneers ask for cut in alcohol consumption, 1 in 10 of Irish Anglican ministers was RC, increase of marriage in Ireland...

...Irish bishop fears recession will reduce birth rate, Dolan to NY confirmed, Legion Of Christ to respond to scandal, 2010 UK Papal visit considered, majority of Poland RC priests want end to celibacy, Irish diocese of Ferns paid out €8million in CSA settlements, AB Martin not happy with inconsistencies in Child Protection Guidelines, 56 allegations of Clerical CSA in Ireland in 2008...

...Filipino nuns threatened by military, Tutu says recession will help Ireland get real, Il Papa meets Il Diablo, Hayes and Finch Clerical Rip-Off (Update), Ash Wednesday sees the beginning of Lent, Clerical CSA in Ireland dominates yet again, 400 years of King James Bible, Il Papa and Vatican II...

...Germany applauds Merkel attack on Il Papa, Clerical Love, call for Irish primary schools to be handed to Irish State (97% in Church hands), support for same-sex marriages in Ireland, Holocaust-denying bishop recants on remarks, Church of Wales launches CSA case review...

...Hans Kung draws criticism from Vatican, Irish priest fails to have rape conviction overturned, Msgr Fellay rejects Vatican II, Vatican rejects Williamson apology, clerical hands in the till, Vatican halts joint ecumenical service, Bishop Willie 'Wishy Washy' Walsh Lenten Pastoral, Il Papa upsets the Jews (again), UK Cardinal to take seat in House Of Lords, Vatican stance on drugs is endangering lives claims UN Organisation.

And there ends the month of February, feast month of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which began with the Feast of St Brigid and please God, the season of Spring and renewal as we begin our Lenten journey into ourselves and ultimately, Christ.

Sotto Voce

Lent 2009

Daily Lent Prayer
"Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall declare your praise."

Opening Prayer
look upon our weakness
and reach out to help us with your loving power.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, you Son
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Daily Meditation

A Saturday of Lent
and more on "True Fasting."

Each of the Saturdays of Lent are more upbeat and "lighter" in tone.
We are preparing for Sunday.

Our reading from Isaiah 58 continues,
as does our self-examination
regarding what true fasting is for us this Lent.

What patterns will I change?


Let us always and everywhere give thanks to Christ our Savior, and ask him with confidence:
Lord, help us with your grace.

May we keep our bodies pure,
- as temples of the Holy Spirit.

May we offer ourselves this morning to the service of others,
- and do your will in all things throughout the day.

Teach us to seek the bread of everlasting life,
- the bread that is your gift.

May your Mother, the refuge of sinners, pray for us,
- and gain for us your loving forgiveness.

Closing Prayer

Loving creator,
I am not asking to overcome my weakness,
but to use it in some way to glorify you.

Let me be aware of
the many ways you reach out to help me today
and let me stand in awe of the power
that you use in such loving ways.

The Christ Side Of Life....

Prayer to St Mark The Evangelist

(traditional language)

Almighty God, who by the hand of Mark the evangelist hast given to thy Church the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God: We thank thee for this witness, and pray that we may be firmly grounded in its truth; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

(contemporary language)

Almighty God, who by the hand of Mark the evangelist have given to your Church the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God: We thank you for this witness, and pray that we may be firmly grounded in its truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Year of Vocations

Prayer for Vocations

O Holy Spirit, Spirit of wisdom and divine love, impart Your knowledge, understanding, and counsel to the faithful that they may know the vocation wherein they can best serve God.

Give them courage and strength to follow God's holy will.

Guide their uncertain steps, strengthen their resolutions, shield their chastity, fashion their minds, conquer their hearts, and lead them to the vineyards where they will labour in God's holy service.


Vocations 2008 - Promo Video

Pauline Year (29th June 2008/09) Prayer

Glorious Saint Paul,
Apostle full of zeal,
Martyr by Christ's love,
obtain for us a profound faith,
a firm hope,
a burning love for the Lord
so that we can say with you:
"It is no longer I but the Christ who lives in me."

Help us to become apostles
who serve the Church with a pure conscience,
witnesses of its greatness and its beauty
amid the darkness of our time.

With you we praise God our Father,
"To Him be the glory in the Church and in Christ
from age to age forever."


Vatican sustains ruling on Korean visionary

Kwangju archdiocese has dispelled rumors that its declaration on an alleged Marian visionary would be overturned by the Vatican.

The archdiocese on Feb. 24 released its statement, "The Position of the Archdiocese of Kwangju in relation to the Matter of Julia Youn in Naju."

In the statement, the archdiocese quoted a letter from the Vatican-based Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith saying it respects the archdiocesan decision on the alleged visionary as the official position of the universal Church. The Vatican letter was dated April 24, 2008.

Archbishop Andreas Choi Chang-mou of Kwangju had declared in January 2008 that Youn and her followers, who had insisted on so-called divine miracles revolving around her, had incurred latae sententiae excommunication.

This means the excommunication is not imposed by judgment but automatically results from an action that places one outside the community of faith.

According to the website created by Youn's followers, the Catholic laywoman started receiving Marian "revelations" after her statue of the Blessed Mother "started weeping" in 1985. After that, she and her followers established "the Blessed Mother's Mountain," the name they gave to their center in Naju, located in Kwangju archdiocese.

Kwangju archdiocese, however, issued directives in 1998, 2003 and 2005 banning Catholics from visiting and participating in ceremonies there. The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea in its biannual plenary assembly in February 2008 supported the archdiocese's declaration of excommunication.

Youn's followers, however, have insisted that the Vatican has different views regarding Youn.

According to their website, Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Vatican-based Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, had urged the Korean bishops to recognize Youn during their ad limina visit to Rome in November 2007.

It reported that Cardinal Dias had sent a letter to this effect to the Korean Catholic bishops in February 2008 and another to the archdiocese in August that year.

However, the archdiocese's statement reminded Catholics that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the only competent authority to rule on the issue. Hence, it urged Catholics not to be confused by "those who try to damage relations between the Vatican, and the Korean bishops and Kwangju archdiocese."

Father John Chrysostomus Kim Kye-hong, Kwangju archdiocesan chancellor, told UCA News on Feb. 26 that the local Church recently decided to disclose the Vatican letter.

This was done in consultation with the apostolic nunciature in Korea because Youn's followers were "distorting" the "private" concerns of Cardinal Dias who had urged better pastoral efforts in this regard, he said.

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: VCRN)

Vatican's stance on UN drugs policy 'risks lives'

The Vatican has been accused of putting the lives of thousands at risk by attempting to influence UN drugs policy on the eve of a major international declaration.

The Vatican's objection to "harm reduction" strategies, such as needle exchange schemes, has ignited a fierce debate between the US and the EU over how drugs should be tackled.

A new UN declaration of intent is due to be signed in Vienna on 11 March.

However, there are major disagreements between member countries over whether a commitment to "harm reduction" should be included in the document, which is published every 10 years.

Now the Vatican has issued a statement that claims that using drugs is "anti-life" and "so-called harm reduction leads to liberalisation of the use of drugs".

The Vatican's last-minute intervention appears to have led to Italy withdrawing from the EU consensus on the issue and thrown the talks over the declaration into confusion.

In 1998, the declaration of intent was "a drug-free world - we can do it", which critics claimed was unrealistic and did not address the complex nature of drug treatment.

In favour of including support for a harm reduction clause are most EU countries, Brazil and other Latin American countries, Australia and New Zealand. They argue that some commitment to tackling HIV and addiction through needle exchange programmes and methadone and other drugs should be included.

Opposed to this are the US, Russia and Japan.

The US position has been that such inclusion sends the wrong message, although there have been indications a more liberal policy might be adopted under Barack Obama.

"By making a statement against harm reduction, the Vatican has indicated that its moral objection to drug use is more important than its commitment to the sanctity of life," said Release, the UK-based drugs and legal advice charity.

"If the Vatican is allowed to influence the UN to adopt a naïve and ineffective drug policy, it will needlessly lead to the increased spread of blood-borne viruses and the death of thousands more people from HIV/Aids."

Release argues that drug treatment programmes are vital for people suffering from HIV/Aids and that not to accept this will put their lives at risk. "Needle and syringe exchange programmes have significantly contributed to the reduction of HIV transmission among people who use drugs," it said.

A spokesman for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) confirmed last night that "there are still differences of opinion" over the statement.

Other drug charities and foundations have also been critical of the Vatican's move. Mike Trace, chairman of the International Drug Policy Consortium, said: "Progressive governments, including the UK, are now faced with the dilemma of trying to rescue reasonable support for harm reduction or not sign the declaration."

Antonio Costa, the head of UNODC, has claimed harm reduction has been appropriated by "a vocal minority". He said in a speech last November: "This kind of harm reduction can prevent the spread of blood-borne diseases. But it does not solve the underlying problem, and can even perpetuate drug use."

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: GUK)

Brazil priest suspended for views

A Roman Catholic priest in Brazil who defended the use of contraceptives and the rights of homosexuals has been suspended by his local archbishop.

Father Luiz Couto has been told he can resume his priestly duties in the north-eastern state of Paraiba if he publicly renounces his views.

The priest is also a member of Congress for the Workers' Party of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

He says he will continue to celebrate Mass at home with friends.

It appears that Father Couto landed in trouble with the Church authorities because of an interview that he gave to a local newspaper defending the use of condoms as a matter of public health.

He also spoke out against discrimination against homosexuals and said he was opposed to celibacy for priests.

Death threats

The archbishop in the state of Paraiba, Aldo Pagotto, said the ambiguous views expressed in the interview over gay marriage and contraceptives were diametrically opposed to the official teaching of the Church.

"This is intolerable," the archbishop said in an interview with Brazil's TV Globo.

Father Couto says he has not been officially notified of the decision and will continue to celebrate Mass at home with friends. Archbishop Pagotto is reported as saying the suspension will be lifted if the priest publicly renounces the views expressed in the interview.

A spokesman for the suspended clergyman said he was not an advocate of gay marriage, but an opponent of discrimination.

As an elected member of Congress for President Lula's Workers' Party, Father Couto has been a high profile advocate for human rights.

He has received threats to his life in the past for his opposition to death squads that operate in the north east of Brazil.

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: RGNC)

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor set to be first Roman Catholic bishop in Lords since 16th century

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor is on course to become the first Roman Catholic bishop to sit in the House of Lords since the Reformation.

The Archbishop of Westminster looks almost certain to be offered a peerage after his retirement, which is expected within weeks.

The Prime Minister said during an interview with The Tablet, the Roman Catholic weekly, that the Cardinal’s leadership qualities had gained him public respect and confirmed that discussions of his elevation to the Lords would “be discussed at a later stage”.

The prospect of offering Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor a life peerage is understood to have been discussed during Gordon Brown’s meeting with the Pope at the Holy See last week.

Mr Brown said: “He has shown not just a great modesty, but a great sensitivity to representing the feelings and sentiments of people throughout the Church.

“He is widely respected across the world for his interest in international development. He has shown great leadership on those issues, such as world poverty, where people look to the Church for leadership.

“I think he has shown great integrity right throughout the period in which he has been Cardinal and that has earned the respect of people far beyond the Catholic Church and right across the country.”

The Church of England, as the Established Church, has 26 lords spiritual.

The ennoblement of Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor would, however, require a special dispensation from the Pope because the Catholic Church bans its clergy from any office that might involve the exercise of political power.

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, 76, will be the first Archbishop of Westminster since the Reformation to retire; previous archbishops have died in office.

He will remain an active member of the College of Cardinals and retain an interest in the affairs of the Holy See.

The move would strengthen the Catholic Church’s increasingly significant role in political debate on issues such as euthanasia, gay adoption, church schools and abortion.

The Cardinal is due to retire in the next few weeks after his successor is announced. The Congregation for Bishops in Rome is examining the candidates and a decision is expected in mid-March.

The favourites to succeed him are Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham and Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff.

Bishop Bernard Longley, an auxiliary in Westminster, is also being considered.

In a public address at Westminster Cathedral last night, his last before he retires, the Cardinal warned against pessimism about the future of the influence of religion in public life.

He said: “The greatest danger for us at the moment is to let ourselves believe what secular culture wants us to believe about ourselves, namely, that we are becoming less and less influential and in decline. I believe that the Church has a vigorous life, and a crucial role to play in our society – more important than at any other time in our recent history.”

He also gave an indication of what his priorities might be were he sitting in the House of Lords, criticising the use of legislation to limit religious freedom and praising the contributions made by Christian charities in providing public services.

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: TTUK)

First Catholic to represent UK at Holy See defies all stereotypes

Raised on a small farm in Newry, Francis Campbell now moves in the corridors of power in the Vatican and Whitehall.

HOW MANY ambassadors to the Holy See have been appointed through open competition advertised in the Financial Times and the Guardian ?

How many have held summer jobs which, by turns, saw them work in Harrods, as a hospital porter, an aircraft cleaner and sandwich maker?

Or, indeed, how many such ambassadors took up that appointment at the young age of 35, having already served four years as a policy adviser and private secretary at No 10 Downing Street?

The answer, of course, is only one that we know of, namely Francis Campbell, current British ambassador to the Holy See.

Yet, arguably the most remarkable aspect of 38-year-old Newry-born Campbell’s CV is that he is the first Catholic to hold the position of emissary of the Court of St James to the Holy See since the Reformation.

For those like your correspondent, who were raised in midst of the bitter sectarian divide of Northern Ireland, it is always refreshing to encounter people who defy cultural stereotyping.

Francis Campbell, born to a woman from Galway and a man from Rathfriland, Co Down, grew up in a household where both parents were GAA enthusiasts and where much of his childhood summers were spent “across the Border”, either in Galway or Dundalk.

Educated by priests at St Colman’s in Newry and at St Michael’s in Omeath, Co Louth, Campbell, according to a clichéd view, looked like a young man headed for a career anywhere other than the British foreign service. How come a bright, politically engaged young Catholic northerner, who cut his political teeth in the ranks of the SDLP, ends up here?

Campbell has no difficulty with the question. He says simply that he is both “British and Irish” and that he is not “going to exaggerate one identity at the expense of the other”.

Having grown up with parents who had worked in London and Canada, far from the pressure cooker of sectarian tensions in the North, certainly helped. He also recalls the culture shock of his first summer visit to an uncle and aunt in London as a young teenager: “Growing up in the Troubles, you did not know any other world. For me, London was an exposure, in London your religion did not identify you, it wasn’t an issue. That took a lot of adjusting to. I realised the prism of the Northern Irish looking glass misshaped everything.”

Life on the small farm outside Newry was not always easy. The shortage of work and the sectarian violence of the times forced his father to leave home and find work in the mines in Canada’s North-West territories. For 17 years, his father would return home for a few weeks just once every year or 18 months.

Did he not feel angry at a bigoted Northern Irish state that had forced his father out? “I felt alienated growing up and for me faith was the way of dealing with that alienation.

“It can be very easy to be sucked into man-made divisions on the basis of one attribute. For me, the universality of Christianity and Catholicism challenges that, it asks you fundamental questions, by what standards do you want your life determined? For me, it was faith”

It comes as no surprise to hear Francis Campbell say that for a long time he considered becoming a priest. The church’s loss, however, was to be Whitehall’s gain. Having studied at Queens in Belfast, Leuven in Belgium and at the University of Pennsylvania, he joined the foreign office in 1997 aged 27.

When he returned recently to old alma mater, Queens, the careers officer said to him: “You’re the first student who has come back here to talk to our students about a career in the foreign office who is talking with a local accent. You do not know the difference that makes.”

Nowadays, he is occasionally contacted by someone from Northern Ireland applying for a job in the British diplomatic service. How should I handle the “Irish” question, he is asked? “My answer is ‘straight up’, you don’t have to turn your back on who you are to be a British diplomat. Be truthful, be honest, be proud of who you are and know that the system in London is open enough to be accepting of all.”

That system was certainly accepting of Francis Campbell, who within two years found himself in Downing Street, first as a policy adviser and then as a private secretary to prime minister Tony Blair. Of Blair, he recalls two things.

First, his remarkable ability to absorb pressure. Second, there was the day the prime minister had an audience with Pope Benedict. Unfortunately, that audience came right in the middle of difficult and very lengthy 27-country EU negotiations in Brussels about the Lisbon Treaty, negotiations in which the Polish delegation raised a number of issues.

Hoping to speed up the cumbersome process, French president Nicolas Sarkozy announced to the table that “Tony has got to see the Pope so let’s not drag it out.” At which point, Polish president Lech Kaczynski leaned across to Mr Blair and said: “Are these stories about you converting to Catholicism true, Tony?”

“Oh no, don’t tell me you are going to add that to your list of problems,” Blair replied.

Blair’s visit to the Holy See was not a casual matter. Campbell argues that in a post 9/11 world, religion plays a much more important role. Religion might seem like a marginal issue to western societies but this is not replicated around the rest of the world. When Gordon Brown recently visited Pope Benedict, it was the fourth visit by a British PM in the last six years. In the previous 30 years, there had been just one such visit, a reflection of the “growing importance” of the Vatican in domestic British politics and international relations.

Campbell points out too that Pope John Paul II’s funeral still remains the largest gathering ever of world leaders: “This is an entity with a defined head that speaks to at least 17.5 per cent of the world’s population, and many more beyond, one of the world’s key global opinion-formers. In terms of transnational networked worlds, this organisation is one of the biggest, if not the biggest.”

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: IT)

African bishops hope papal visit encourages peace, justice in Africa

A group of Nigerian bishops expressed hope that Pope Benedict XVI's first visit to Africa will spur the troubled continent on a path toward peace, justice and reconciliation.

Three bishops from Nigeria said they are looking at Pope Benedict's March 17-23 visit to Cameroon and Angola as an opportunity to show that the church wants to help heal divisions that continue to tear apart the continent.

During his trip, the pope is set to present the working document for the October Synod of Bishops for Africa, which will be dedicated to finding ways Africa can overcome lingering conflicts and seek reconciliation, justice and peace.

Bishops from Nigeria were at the Vatican Feb. 5-28 for their "ad limina" visits to report on the status of their dioceses. The visits gave Pope Benedict the chance to get a firsthand account about the situation on the ground.

Nigerian Bishop Michael Odogwu Elue of Issele-Uku said that the problems of ethnic conflict, poverty, corrupt political leaders and religious intolerance would give synod participants "enough work for a lifetime."

Bishop Anthony Okonkwo Gbuji, the retired bishop of Enugu, said, "We don't need to look very far to see problems and know reconciliation is needed."

He said the bishops see the pope's upcoming trip "as an opportunity for us to really emphasize that reconciliation is serious for the church."

"The head of Christendom is coming to bring that message powerfully to the people who need reconciliation, peace and love," he said.

Bishop Elue, whose diocese is in the southern Niger Delta region, said the problem of kidnapping people for ransom has become more widespread.

While foreign oil workers continue to be abducted as a method of intimidation or extracting ransom money, criminals are now seizing local Nigerians as a way to raise cash, he said.

Seeking ransom has become a very lucrative business, he said, and appears to be more prevalent today than armed robbery.

Once a person has been freed from abduction he or she still risks a repeated snatching because there is no one group that is coordinating the kidnappings, he said.

"There doesn't seem to be any recognizable group that you can work with and talk to" in the hopes of guaranteeing one's future security, he said.

People who are economically well-off or have a high political or social profile are more at risk, he said, and often they send their children to school abroad out of fear the youngsters will be abducted if they stayed in the area, said Bishop Elue.

Bishop Gbuji, 77, said the Nigerian government has succeeded in preventing local conflicts and skirmishes from "exploding into a holocaust."

He said Nigeria "became very wise after the Nigerian civil war" from1967 to 1970, which still "remains very fresh in our minds."

The government created a federal police force and army that are dispatched immediately to quell an uprising before it gets out of hand, he said.

"That way, no nation, particular state or tribe can rise against another without intervention from federal authorities," he said.

Bishop Gbuji said many of the episodes of violence in Nigeria are triggered by "very minor things" because people have easy access to guns and will use them "to fight back in the face of little provocation."

Usually, he said, it just takes "a third party to intervene and say, 'Stop. What are you doing? Don't you know life is precious?'"

Once a conflict has been resolved, people easily "go back to business as usual as if nothing had happened," he said.

While religious life is growing by leaps and bounds in Nigeria, Bishop Francis Ogbonna Okobo of Nsukka, 72, said he would like to see a more thorough teaching of church belief and a more careful administration of the sacraments, especially the sacraments of initiation.

It is important "people know what they are doing, what they are getting into and what is expected of them; we can't baptize the whole world overnight," he said.

He said if adults had a deeper understanding of their Christian faith, "there would be no crises between one religion and another" since people would be less likely "to regard it as their religion against our religion."

"Christ never promised that those who are going to heaven are (only) those who are Christians or Roman Catholics," said Bishop Okobo.

People who are not baptized members of a Christian community, but "who are, as it were, Christian in spirit, people who have love -- real Christian love" will be saved, he said.

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: RCNH)

Pope Benedict angers Jews

The Vatican said on Friday that an apology by traditionalist bishop Richard Williamson, who denied the full extent of the Holocaust, fell short of meeting the Holy See's demand for a full and public recanting of his position.

Following is a timeline of recent events.

1964 Pope Paul VI becomes the first modern pope to visit the Holy Land but this does little to improve relations. He never utters the word Israel during the trip to the Jewish state, which the Vatican did not recognise at the time.

1965 The Second Vatican Council issues a document "Nostra Aetate" ("In Our Times"), repudiating the notion of collective Jewish guilt for Jesus Christ's death for the first time.

1986 Pope John Paul II becomes the first pope since the days of the early Church to visit a Jewish place of worship when he enters Rome's synagogue. He calls Jews "our beloved elder brothers."

1994 The Vatican establishes diplomatic relations with Israel.

1998 The Vatican apologises in the document "We Remember, a reflection on the Shoah" for Catholics who failed to do enough to help Jews against Nazi persecution. It also defends wartime Pope Pius XII from accusations that he ignored the Holocaust. Jews welcome the condemnation of anti-Semitism but say it fails to account adequately for the role of Catholic teachings in spawning it and criticise its defence of Pius.

2000 Pope John Paul visits Israel and its Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, crowning two decades of effort to reconcile Catholics and Jews and sweep away centuries of suspicion.

2005 New Pope Benedict XVI visits the Cologne synagogue. The appeal by the head of the Jewish community there to open all Vatican archives concerning World War Two shows that Pius XII remains an obstacle on the road to reconciliation. Pope John Paul had put Pius on the road to sainthood.

December 2007 Moves to make Pius a saint are delayed as Benedict has said he wants to review older documents from World War Two and study new ones that have come to light.

February 2008 Pope Benedict orders changes to a Latin prayer used by traditionalist Catholics for Jews at Good Friday services. Jews criticised the new version because it still says they should recognise Jesus Christ as the saviour of all men and it keeps an underlying call to conversion.

November 2008 Benedict pays tribute to Pius XII. Benedict has so far not approved a decree making him a saint, opting instead for what the Vatican has called a period of reflection.

January 2009 Israel criticises Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Vatican's Council for Justice and Peace, after he criticised Israel over its offensive in the Hamas-ruled Gaza strip, calling it a "big concentration camp."

* Elia Enrico Richetti, chief rabbi of Venice, announces a boycott of the Church's annual celebration of Judaism, saying decisions by Benedict are negating years of interfaith progress.

* The pope lifts the excommunication of four traditionalist bishops, thrown out of the Church in 1988 for being ordained without Vatican permission. The four bishops lead the ultra-conservative Society of Saint Pius X, which has rejected modernisation of Roman Catholic worship and doctrine.

* One of the four bishops, British-born Richard Williamson, has made several statements denying the extent of the Holocaust.

* In late January Pope Benedict tried to heal the rift by expressing his "full and unquestionable solidarity" with Jews.

February 2009 German Chancellor Angela Merkel calls on Bavarian-born Pope Benedict to make clear he did not tolerate any denial of the Holocaust in unusually strong words, which draws a sharp response from the Vatican.

* The Vatican orders Williamson to publicly recant his views if he wants to serve as a prelate in the Church.

* World Jewish leaders tell Vatican officials that denying the Holocaust was "not an opinion but a crime" when they meet to discuss Williamson and his views.

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: YRCN)

Military chaplain found guilty of genocide in Rwanda

A former military chaplain who used his position to "influence and promote" the abduction and killing of Tutsi refugees in Rwanda was found guilty of genocide and sentenced to 25 years in prison by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda today.

Emmanuel Rukundo, 50, is one of two members of the clergy accused of orchestrating the killing of ethnic minority Tutsis during the Rwandan massacre in 1994 and was convicted by three judges for "genocide, murder as a crime against humanity and extermination as a crime".

The tribunal, which prosecutes people accused of being involved in the Rwandan genocide, found that on at least four occasions in April and May 1994, Rukundo played an integral role in kidnapping and killing Tutsi refugees who sought shelter in a seminary.

The court found that Rukundo was present as soldiers in the Rwandan armed forces abducted and killed a woman in 1994 and was guilty of sexually assaulting another woman. The court said Rukundo had kept a list of local Tutsis and monitored their movements.

Rukundo, a parish priest before becoming a chaplain in the military in 1993, was described by the court as a well-known priest in the community who had abused his position.

The tribunal said: "The accused was found to have abused his moral authority and influence to promote the abduction and killing of Tutsi refugees."

The 1994 genocide saw about 800,000 Tutsis massacred by the Hutu ethnic majority over 100 days. Besides prosecuting genocide cases and violations of humanitarian law committed in 1994, the remit of the tribunal covers reconciliation and maintaining peace in the region.

Rukundo was arrested in Geneva in 2001 before being transferred to a UN detention facility.

The court said the time he had spent in remand would be included as part of his sentence.

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: GUK)

Catholic survivors attribute ‘miracle on the Hudson’ to God’s mercy

"The odds were against us but God was with us," said Fred Berretta, a survivor of US Airways Flight 1549 that crash landed in the Hudson River Jan. 15.

He was flying home that day from a business trip in New York when the plane struck a flock of birds, causing both engines to fail.

"We had a phenomenal flight crew, but God was our air traffic controller," he said.

Berretta, one of several Charlotte-area Catholics aboard the flight, is a parishioner at St. Matthew Church.

All 155 people aboard the flight survived the emergency landing.

Berretta said he believes it is "a testimony to God’s mercy."

"I believe it was miraculous that all the things came together that allowed us to survive," said Berretta, himself a pilot.

Just hours after the crash, he was asked in an interview with a national television network if he was a religious man. His answer was honest, "I try to be."

"Quite a long time ago I had a conversion type of experience back to the Catholic faith," Berretta said in an interview with The Catholic News & Herald.

He had been away from the Catholic faith since childhood, but began attending Mass again on a weekly basis during his mid-20s.

"When I look back on that part of my life, I can say that I was trying, trying but struggling to live the Catholic faith more fully," he said.

More recently, however, Berretta had experienced a deeper draw to devotional prayer.

In the weeks leading up to the plane crash, he began praying the Rosary on a daily basis.

And the day before the crash he had prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

"That was a prayer that I hadn’t said in a long time," said Berretta, as he recalled reading about a message that Jesus gave to St. Faustina Kowalska, the Polish nun who said she had a vision of Jesus in which he asked for devotions to divine mercy.

"I remember reading in that little booklet that Jesus said to Sister Faustina that the 3 p.m. hour is the hour of mercy, and whatever you ask of the Father in virtue of my passion during this hour will be granted.

"It sort of hit me as we were going into the water that it was in the 3 o’clock hour. So I asked God to be merciful to us and I said a few Hail Marys and I reconciled myself to the fact that I might not live through it," he said.

In the aftermath of the crash, Berretta said he has been "giving a lot of thought to the power of those prayers."

"When you go through an experience like this — if you have faith — you feel a profound sense of gratitude.

"I try to be very thoughtful of how fortunate I am and we all are," Berretta said. "I feel that almost obligates me to do something … to share that."

Fellow survivor Victor Warnement came away from the experience with a similar sentiment.

"You don’t go through an experience like this without thinking, ‘How do I give more?’" he said.

Warnement, a parishioner at St. Gabriel Church in Charlotte, believes he and the other passengers aboard Flight 1549 were part of a miracle.

"If you look at statistics, this doesn’t happen," he said. "It’s as if we were delivered back on the wings of angels."

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: CNA)

Benedict XVI appoints bishop for Brazil’s most prominent diocese

This morning the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Archbishop Orani João Tempesta to head the Church in Rio de Janerio, the most important see in Brazil, which is the most populous Catholic country in the world.

Most Reverend Orani João Tempesta, O. Cist., was born on June 23, 1950 in São José do Rio Pardo, Brazil.

He completed his elementary and high schools studies at São José do Rio Pardo, and in 1967 he joined the Cistercian Monastery of São Bernardo in the same city.

He studied philosophy at the São Bento monastery in Brazil’s capital of São Paulo and then went on to his theological studies at the Salesian’s Pius IX Theological Institute, also in São Paulo.

He pronounced his solemn vows as a Cistercian on February 2, 1969 and was ordained a priest on December 7, 1974.

Since 1984 he has filled multiple roles at the same time. He served as the Prior of his monastery; pastor of the São Roque Parish, the Diocesan Director of Communications, and as a professor at the Diocese São João da Boa Vista’s Heart of Mary Seminary.

In September 1996, the monastery of São Bernardo was transformed into an Abbey, and Prior Tempesta was elected as its first Abbot.

On February 26, 1997 he was appointed Bishop of São José do Rio Preto. He was then elected to head the office of Communications for the Southern Region of the Brazilian Bishops' Conference (CNBB.)

On October 13, 2004, he was appointed Archbishop of Belém do Pará and in 2007 he participated at the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American Bishops in Aparecida, Brazil.

As the Archbishop of Sao Sebastiao do Rio de Janeiro, Tempesta will serve 3.6 million faithful, 605 priests, 63 deacons and 1,392 religious.

He succeeds Cardinal Eusebio Oscar Scheid S.C.I., whose resignation the Holy Father accepted, upon his having reached the age limit.

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: CNA)

Bishop Martino Writes Another Letter to Senator Casey

We have followed the clear, decisive, courageous and unrelenting defense of our first neighbor, the child in the womb, by Scranton Bishop Joseph Martino.

We have also followed his rebuke of the leadership of a Catholic College in his Diocese which sponsored a speaker who espoused positions clearly at odds with the moral teaching of the Church.

I recently wrote a piece intended to extol the Bishop. Within it I issued a somewhat “tongue in cheek” invitation for our readers and viewers to start a “fan club”.

The response was substantial. In fact, one of those who wrote actually did just that! This Bishop is capturing the attention and garnering the prayers and support of Catholics, other Christians, other people of faith and people of good will everywhere.

Now, after the Bishop had already corrected Catholic Senator Bob Casey, of the Scranton Diocese, for his vote against the Mexico City Policy and asked him to rescind it, Senator Casey has publicly questioned the Bishop’s assertion that his vote was improper for a Catholic in elective office.

This Bishop will have none of the sophistry demonstrated by the follow up statements from the Senator’s office indicating that his vote - which in effect allows U.S. Taxpayer funds to be used to promote Abortions overseas - was somehow actually a “pro-life vote”.

He has written once again to the Senator and we present this second letter in it’s entirety to our readers:

Bishop Joseph Martino’s SECOND letter to Senator Robert Casey

Dear Senator Casey,

It is a matter of deep concern that your recent vote against the Mexico City Policy is continually misrepresented by your staff as a pro-life vote intended to promote “contraception and other family planning that avoid unintended pregnancies” (Times-Tribune, February 6, 2009).

The Mexico City Policy is, first and foremost, about abortion, not about family planning. First put in place in 1984, the policy required all non-governmental organizations that receive federal funding to refrain from performing or promoting abortion services abroad. The policy required such organizations to agree as a condition for receiving U.S. foreign aid dollars that they would “neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations.” The policy included exceptions for abortions done in cases of rape, incest or life-threatening conditions.

Furthermore, the Mexico City Policy did not take funds away from family planning; its effect is quite the opposite. Tom McCluskey of the Family Research Council reported the following: “. . .The Mexico City policy halts U.S. family planning funds from going to foreign . . . [NGOs] that perform abortions or ‘actively promote’ abortion as a method of family planning in other countries. . . The effect of President Obama rescinding the Mexico City Policy is that now millions ($461 million in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008) of dollars are taken away from family planning groups that do not promote abortions, and delivered into the hands of organizations that are the most militant in promoting abortion as a population-control method—especially in countries that find abortion objectionable on moral grounds” (my emphasis). Contrary to the claims of your staff, the absence of “Mexico City” regulations insures (1) that money is taken away from family planning, (2) that abortion is promoted as a method of family planning, and (3) that countries that have moral and cultural objections to abortion are encouraged to abandon their policies against it.

Finally, it is never permissible to use immoral means such as artificial contraception to achieve a good end, namely, the reduction of unplanned pregnancies. In fact, the mistaken view that artificial contraception may be used to regulate population growth and the size of families has led to countless evils in America and abroad, including the attitude that having and raising children is a burden to be avoided. This attitude has contributed mightily to the acceptability of abortion as a means of contraception both at home and abroad.

My letter of January 30 urging you to rescind your vote on the Mexico City Policy was in no way mistaken regarding the nature and the effect of President Obama’s order to rescind America’s long-standing policy to avoid using U.S. tax dollars to support organizations that promote abortion abroad. It is imperative that this fact be made known to the public.

It is also imperative that there be utter clarity when it comes to the teaching of the Church on matters that pertain to the taking of innocent life and the special responsibilities that fall to you, Senator, as a lawmaker to oppose abortion and other clear evils.

In closing, I refer you to the words of Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, to President Obama urging him to retain the Mexico City Policy.

The Mexico City Policy “. . . has wrongly been attacked as a restriction on foreign aid for family planning. In fact, it has not reduced such aid at all, but has ensured that family planning funds are not diverted to organizations dedicated to performing and promoting abortions instead of reducing them. Once the clear line between family planning and abortion is erased, the idea of using family planning to reduce abortions becomes meaningless, and abortion tends to replace contraception as the means for reducing family size. A shift toward promoting abortion in developing nations would also increase distrust of the United States in these nations, whose values and culture often reject abortion, at a time when we need their trust and respect.” (January 23, 2009).


Most Reverend Joseph F. Martino, D.D., Hist. E.D., Bishop of Scranton +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: CO)

Live the gift of ‘today’ this Lent

The present is the moment of most importance in our lives, said Bishop Willie Walsh in his Lenten message to the Killaloe diocese.

Urging his flock to reflect on the blessings of each new day, health, friendship and love, marriage and family and Christian values, Bishop Walsh said the present moment is God’s gift to people.

“It is God’s gift to us - the precious moment which could be our last. We shouldn’t let it slip away in an almost unlived way.”

Bishop Walsh said that in the current economic crisis, it might seem that life has become a Lent with “no end in sight.”

While he sympathised with people who had lost jobs, or savings, at the heart of any recovery programme, had to be the common good. Going the extra mile would test the generosity of people, but as Christians, people needed to move away from blame, forward “in a spirit of mutual support and co-operation”.

They might be tempted not to make extra sacrifices for Trócaire and the poor in the Third World, but from a recent trip to Ecuador to visit three diocesan priests living there, he realised that “compared to what we enjoy, the situation of the people in Ecuador and Peru is away down the scale of our expectations.”

There Bishop Walsh saw the poverty of deprivation, “of living in extremely deprived housing (a shack) with no running water or sewerage system and very limited facilities or comforts of the kind we take for granted in our society".

“I am not making light of our current recession when I say that what we have in these times of cutback will always be richness when compared with the poverty of South America,” he writes.

And yet even in the midst of deprivation, he experienced a people who rejoiced in Christ’s message, and lived “for the moment.”

“That continent is all about the present – living the “now”. They have a great capacity to enjoy the moment and live life as fully as possible regardless of worldly goods or possessions.”

By contrast, writes the bishop, we have spent lifetimes “tied to schedules and timetables. We are engrossed in planning and laying down future schemes. We foresee difficulties and try to shore up against them”.

He urged people to appreciate the gift of “today”.


No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: CIN)

Vatican halts bishops' joint church service

THE Vatican has put a stop to a joint Pentecostal service planned by the Newcastle and Maitland Catholic and Anglican bishops.

The confirmation service was scheduled for May 31 at Christ Church Cathedral, and was promoted as a "very exciting and special" event.

Parishes encouraged church members to consider being confirmed on that day.

But Rome intervened, forcing its cancellation, citing the possibility of "confusing messages" being given to churchgoers.

It is unclear how the headquarters of the Catholic Church learned of the service, as no formal notification was given.

It is a blow for the two bishops, as well as Bishop David Walker of the Catholic Diocese of Broken Bay, who together signed an agreement last year called the Tri-Diocesan Covenant to work towards common goals.

It committed the dioceses to improve relations between the Catholic and Anglican communities.

The "request" was made by the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, which is the central governing body of the Catholic Church handling most affairs relating to official public worship.

In a joint statement, the Right Reverend Brian Farran, Anglican Bishop of Newcastle, and the Most Reverend Michael Malone, Catholic Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle, said the congregation had "expressed concern about a simultaneous celebration and the possibility of confusing messages being given to the people".

In the statement, Bishop Malone said he believed that since a similar celebration had been held in England in 1989, a precedent had been established, and he apologised to those who would have been involved.

Bishop Farran said he, too, was disappointed.

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: HEC)

Church accuses rebel priest of betraying trust

THE Catholic hierarchy in Brisbane has accused a rebel priest of betraying their trust and suggested he should resolve his own doubts about the faith before trying to guide others.

The Brisbane Archdiocese is at loggerheads with Father Peter Kennedy, who has refused to abandon his St Mary's parish despite being sacked for unorthodox practices.

In an effort to break the deadlock, the Archbishop of Brisbane, John Bathersby, and Father Kennedy have agreed to mediation with former High Court judge Ian Callinan.

Archbishop Bathersby sacked Father Kennedy 10 days ago for being "out of communion" with the church.

The controversial priest openly defies the Vatican by allowing women to preach, blessing gays, conducting unorthodox sacraments and denying the Virgin birth. He claims the church is dysfunctional and solely concerned with maintaining its own authority.

Some observers have suggested Father Kennedy is a problem of the church's own making, and argue he should have been shut down long ago. The chancellor of the Brisbane Archdiocese, Father Adrian Farrelly, told The Age that Father Kennedy had abused the trust placed in him.

"Bishops don't have closed-circuit television in our house or our churches. They appoint us and trust us to look after our parishes in accordance with accepted Catholic teachings," Father Farrelly said.

"Father Kennedy himself said, 'We kept below the radar'. He was aware that what they were doing was not kosher and deliberately kept it secret."

It was not until some conservative Catholics complained to Rome that Father Kennedy's practices were investigated.

Father Farrelly said he was "ticked off" with Father Kennedy's criticisms of the church hierarchy.

"He's saying I'm a complete nerd, I'm out of touch with the world … I've never had a skerrick of sensitivity to any discrimination (people) may have felt, I wait to call the Pope every time I want to have a thought. Well, bloody hell, do you mind?"

He said St Mary's was not the only parish trying to work out how to convey the Catholic message in a modern world, but emphasised churches still had to follow Catholic teachings and practices. "It's like going into Red Rooster and asking for KFC. They're not going to give it to you," he said.

Father Farrelly said he was baffled as to why Father Kennedy had not left the church, given he had publicly said he was "embarrassed" to be a Catholic.

The church hierarchy was concerned about Father Kennedy's spiritual influence on his flock, he said.

"If (the church) is so bad, aren't there decisions you need to make yourself? And in that position, what effect are you having on people listening to you, following you?" he said.

The church considers Father Kennedy's tampering with the wording of the baptism liturgy his biggest transgression. Father Kennedy eschews the "Father, Son, Holy Spirit" wording, referring instead to the "creator, sustainer and liberator of life".

"If you don't do the baptism in the right way, then the little one hasn't been baptised, then all the other sacraments received later in life aren't valid," Father Farrelly said.

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: WATC)

New Jewish-Catholic dialogue announced

A group of U.S. Jewish and Catholic leaders announced the formation of a new dialogue program between the two communities.

The dialogue, to be headquartered at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C., will differ from other current dialogues in a number of ways, said Dennis McManus, assistant director of the center's Intercultural Forum.

The 28-member group will include not just clergy and professionals, but also laypeople, professors and other "varied representatives" of the two religious groups, he said. In addition, he said, instead of one side hosting the other -- such as the Vatican does in its dialogue with the Israeli Chief Rabbinate or the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations in its talks with Catholic leaders -- the two religions would "build the dialogue together."

The announcement, made at a news conference Thursday afternoon, followed a memorial service for Rabbi Leon Klenicki, who was considered a pioneer in Jewish-Catholic relations.

The announcement also came on the heels of a meeting of top U.S. Jewish and Catholic leaders, including Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman, American Jewish Committee senior interreligious adviser Rabbi James Rudin, Archbishop of Boston Sean Patrick Cardinal O'Malley and Baltimore Archbishop Emeritus William Cardinal Keeler.

The group discussed current issues, in particular the Catholic Church's recent reinstatement from excommunication of Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson.

Foxman said he was still "not satisfied" by the Vatican's condemnation of Holocaust denial. "Some of us feel that every day" a bishop who espouses such ideas "is a sad day for the church and for the dialogue," he said.

But he also said that there was a consensus during the talks that the Williamson reinstatement and other recent actions by the church -- such as the return of a Latin Mass prayer that calls for the conversion of the Jews -- "were not conscious slights to try to hurt" the Jewish community, but that there were other reasons for the moves that had "unintended consequences."

"With that understanding that it was not directed at us, it was much easier to come together to find ways to repair it and look back and learn and find ways not to repeat it," Foxman said.

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: GRCN)

Hands in the Till: When Priests Steal (Contribution)

In a West Palm Beach courtroom this past week, Rev. Francis Guinan was on the witness stand in his own defense. He was accused of stealing $488,000 from St. Vincent Ferrer Church in Delray Beach, Florida during his three-year stint as pastor.

When asked on the stand about his use of parish money to pay for golf fees and trips to Las Vegas he answered that it was a “small compensation” for the service he had delivered to his parish.

And he added that according to canon law he was entitled to spend the church’s money at his own discretion.

A month earlier, the previous pastor of St. Vincent Ferrer, Monsignor John Skehan, was found guilty of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the church in just the five year period covered in the statute of limitations. The thefts of both men were discovered through an anonymous tip from a parishioner.

Within the last decade, the Catholic Church has begun to grapple with a crisis that turns out to be more pervasive than first imagined. Catholics and the press are beginning to connect the dots, just as they did in the case of the sexual abuse crisis, and are seeing a larger pattern.

Other examples of embezzlement by Catholic clergy, all recently come to light:

- Rev. Steven Patte of a Chicago area church was accused in August 2008 of stealing twelve thousand dollars from his parish. A suspicious parishioner who was part of the committee that counted the weekly collection put a marked $100 bill in the collection during the liturgy to find it absent at the time of counting. Apparently, Patte was skimming the collection of its large bills. Meanwhile, no one can explain a $400,000 shortfall in funds at his parish.

- In another Chicago area incident, Rev. John Regan has been accused of creating a separate bank account and funneling parish money into it for his personal use. The thefts occurred between 2006 and 2008. He tended to use the money for gambling related activities. He is charged with money laundering.

- Between 1993 and 2006, Rev. Rodney Rodis was accused of stealing $600,000 from St. Jude's and Immaculate Conception parishes in the Richmond, VA diocese. He was charged with one count of felony embezzlement. When the diocese revealed this crime to church members, its officials also announced new systems for setting up tighter financial scrutiny within parishes.

- Perhaps the most notorious US case was the 2007 conviction of Rev. Michael Jude Fay of Darien, CT who stole $1.3 million dollars from his parish. Fay set up a secret bank account that was used to support a lavish lifestyle and a relationship with a special friend. He traveled throughout the world frequenting Four Season and Ritz Carlton hotels, drove a Jaguar, purchased Cartier jewelry and owned a condominium.

Eyes without a face

I would argue that a scandal like this creates a new round of questions about the current model of the priesthood.

Based on medieval definitions of the role of a bishop, Catholic pastors have both custodial and visionary responsibilities within their assigned parish. As visionaries, they offer ministerial services to the parishioners and preach the Gospel; as custodians of their parishes, they are the business managers who are responsible for finances and people management. Protestants typically separate these responsibilities, with the laity having oversight of the finances; this allows the full devotion of their clergy to ministerial duties.

The shortage of priests has required parishes to hire lay people for parish jobs and to include larger numbers of volunteers within leadership responsibilities. Before the impact of the shortage, Catholic pastors did not have to worry about close oversight of finances. In some parishes, the staff of priests even counted the collection themselves. When it came to financial management, there was no transparency—the only audits involved diocesan officials whose focus was on taxing each parish based on their collection totals in order to fund the diocesan operation. We can only wonder how much embezzlement was occurring in the past when there was little to no oversight.

Individual stories of embezzlement point to a potentially larger and more pervasive problem within the Catholic hierarchy that may reflect a moral collapse that is decades old—although, unlike the pedophilia scandal, there are no individual victims in these situations to come forward and expose decades-old crimes. We may never know the true extent of this problem in the Catholic Church.

The pedophilia crisis rocked the Catholic Church and created intense focus on the dysfunction of the church’s hierarchy. As the scandal broke, it appeared that the problem was isolated to a few serial pedophiles, but as more victims spoke out we learned that there was a systemic problem. And we learned too that in many cases the sexual abusers were being protected by their bishops. As the scandal became more transparent, many of the Catholic faithful were as upset with the cover ups as they were with the crimes.

Faced with a mounting dilemma that damaged trust between the laity and the ordained, the church was forced to take action. In the end, victims received settlements and blame was placed on homosexuality in the priesthood. The result? New presbyterial guidelines from the Vatican and witch hunts inside seminaries.

The private world of priests

The pedophilia scandal invited us to consider the private world of priests—all male, secretive, focused on survival as numbers dwindle. The Catholic system of the priesthood includes mandatory celibacy, adherence to superiors and the call to lead and bond with a parish while remaining set apart from its members.

From the theological perspective it is believed that priests receive a mark on their souls at ordination that separates them from the laity for the purpose of serving the laity. It is this mark on the soul that allows only priests and bishops to speak on behalf of the church, to interpret the Gospels within a sacramental setting and to offer the sacraments to the faithful. While priests lived in the boundaries of their parishes, often on the grounds of the church itself, their unique way of life separates them from the neighbors whom they serve.

Reflecting on the problem of priestly pedophilia in 2006, I explained that priests are asked to be disembodied voyeurs because of mandatory celibacy. “Eyes without a face,” priests are called to suppress the energies of their bodies while witnessing life flourish around them at every turn (baptizing children, marrying couples, providing services that support family life, etc).

Increasingly, we are learning that a male-only system grounded in mandatory celibacy creates an unhealthy environment where abuses of power and cover up of immoralities are too often the norm. It can be argued that the unique lifestyle of the priest creates the needs for compensation, the propensity toward addictive behavior and an expression of immaturity when it comes to sexuality.

The latest discovery of thefts by priests is yet another reason to examine the theology and polity of the Roman Catholic priesthood.

While individual scandals grab the headlines, it is important to connect the dots, examine the patterns and place the clear light of day on the systemic problems within the Roman Catholic priesthood.

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: RD)

Deadlock eases at St Mary's

Lawyers for sacked St Mary's administrator Fr Peter Kennedy have responded positively to Archbishop John Bathersby's offer to enter into mediation, the Brisbane archdiocese has announced.

In a statement released yesterday, the Catholic communications office said lawyers for Fr Kennedy also agreed to former High Court Judge, Ian Callinan, conducting the mediation.

"The Archbishop is hopeful that through this process a dignified and peaceful outcome is achieved," the statement said.

A Catholic Church spokesman said he was unable to specify what issues Fr Kennedy had agreed to have mediated.

Earlier Fr Kennedy told The Courier-Mail his position had not changed, that he would not engage in mediation that was simply about his sacking after 28 years at St Mary's and 44 years as a priest.

He would, however, participate if the allegations made about unorthodox practices at St Mary's and the process the Archbishop had used to investigate the allegations, were included in the mediation.

Meanwhile, The Catholic Leader reports that incoming administrator, Fr Ken Howell, believes St Mary's parishioners "have a strong desire to do what is best for their community."

Last weekend's unprecedented events saw Fr Howell, who was earlier appointed administrator of St Mary's parish, advised by police against celebrating Mass there.

Police said that people attending services could be at risk as feelings among parishioners continued to run high over the cancellation of Fr Kennedy's appointment as administrator after 28 years at St Mary's.

Fr Howell said he had made the decision not to celebrate Mass at St Mary's "reluctantly".

"I acknowledge that there are some people hurting and confused by recent events," he said.

"One of my first tasks as administrator will be to initiate a process of healing and understanding.

"The important thing is that I want to start work as soon as possible.

"I'm keen to build on the good work that has been done by Fr Kennedy and the community of St Mary's.

Fr Howell said he would be assisted by Fr Gerry Hefferan who lives in Grovely parish. Fr Hefferan is a former chaplain to Brisbane archdiocese's Murri Ministry.

Fr Howell said last Tuesday it was uncertain whether he would be celebrating Mass at St Mary's this weekend.

Brisbane canon lawyer and chancellor Fr Adrian Farrelly told The Catholic Leader that St Mary's, under Fr Kennedy's leadership, had grown in many ways, such as concerns for social justice and becoming a welcoming community but many of his beliefs and practices were not those of the Catholic Church.

"What is at issue now and caused the Archbishop to act is that Fr Kennedy, as he is reported saying 'is embarrassed to be a Catholic'.

"He no longer believes in the Virgin birth and questions the existence of heaven and hell," Fr Farrelly said.

"His view of the role of the presider at the Eucharist and how to baptise is at odds with Church teaching.

"He has rejected Church discipline as regards who can be married in the Church. As a result, the Archbishop has lost confidence in Fr Kennedy's ability to shepherd a Catholic parish.

"The Archbishop has met with Fr Kennedy as well as writing to him over the past five years. Fr Kennedy has refused to change his beliefs and practices, leaving the Archbishop with no choice but to terminate his appointment and install Fr Ken Howell as administrator."

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(Source: CTHN)