Monday, June 17, 2024

Historic abuse victim gives memoir to head of Ireland's Catholic Church in bid for action

Childhood abuse campaigner unveils ...

A campaigner from Belfast has given the head of Ireland’s Catholic Church a copy of her memoir, hoping it will encourage him to influence religious organisations that have not yet contributed to compensation for victims of historical sexual abuse.

Margaret McGuckin, author of 'I Did This For You', presented her book to Archbishop Eamon Martin. She dedicated it to all children in care systems, particularly her late brother Kevin, who suffered severe abuse.

She told the Belfast Telegraph“I gave Archbishop Martin my book so he can understand our struggle — not just with the religious orders but also with dealing with The Executive Office."

McGuckin called out two Catholic orders for not contributing to the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Redress Board. 

Despite admissions of abuse by the Sisters of Nazareth and De La Salle Brothers in 2014, no donations have been made to the victims' fund.

McGuckin, leader of Savia (Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse), expressed frustration over the ongoing battle for justice. She told the outlet: “There's no end to it. Victims constantly have to fend for themselves.”

Highlighting the inadequacy of apologies from these orders, the author expressed deep mistrust towards them due to their actions in southern Ireland, saying: “They’ve not even donated to the redress fund... It feels like they’re escaping with minimal repercussions."

Paula Bradshaw, chair of The Executive Office Committee, emphasised the need for decisive action, telling the outlet: “It’s crucial that religious orders promptly contribute to redress for their role in harming countless innocent children.”

Pope's "faggotry" remarks: Criticism at "Gay Pride" in Rome

gay pride parade ...

The Gay Pride parade took place in Rome on Saturday and Pope Francis was also present at the event - not in person, however, but as a motif on posters or banners. 

Several participants in the parade used their messages to criticise the head of the church's statement that there is too much "faggotry" in Italian seminaries, reported the magazine "National Catholic Reporter" on Sunday. 

For example, posters with the face of the Pope and other seminarians in front of a rainbow and the sentence "I bless this faggotry" could be seen. 

The following sentence could be read on another sign: "Today the whole of Rome is full of faggotry, not just the seminaries". 

In addition, some people dressed up as the Pope in a white cassock and draped a flag of the queer community around their shoulders. 

Many participants in the parade criticised Francis for his words, which could be interpreted as insulting. 

Some invited the Pope to their parishes, pointing out that Francis was the guest there and that homosexual believers were naturally part of the parish.

In May, Pope Francis warned against accepting "active" homosexuals into the seminaries at a non-public meeting with around 200 Italian bishops. 

The reason given by the head of the Church was that there was already "too much homosexuality" there. 

This statement was passed on to the press and published at the end of May. 

Francis is said to have used the Italian word "frociaggine", which has a strongly derogatory meaning but is often used in everyday colloquial language in Rome. 

Following the media reports, the Pope distanced himself from the statement and stated that he had not intended to offend anyone. 

Last week, however, there were further reports of similar statements made by Francis to priests in his diocese of Rome. 

The Pope's words had led to great outrage in the Church and society in Italy and internationally.

How Pope Francis triggered a personnel chaos in his home church

In the beginning, there were only winners. When Pope Francis appointed his close confidant Victor Fernandez as the supreme guardian of the faith in the Vatican on 1 July 2023, there was great joy. 

Not only in Rome, but also in the Argentinian archdiocese of La Plata, which Fernandez had headed since 2018. However, the reasons were different. 

Francis was delighted that he had managed to win over his compatriot and long-time ghostwriter for the important position at the head of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. Fernandez himself was delighted with his promotion from archbishop to curia cardinal. 

In La Plata, however, the joy of the opportunity for a new beginning prevailed. It is no secret that both the laity and priests of the conservative metropolis were unfamiliar with their reform-minded archbishop. Many hoped that a successor with a bit more stable odour would be a better fit than someone who writes risqué books about kissing and orgasms.

In fact, the Pope found an initially convincing solution: he appointed a certain Gabriel Mestre to Argentina's third most important episcopal see in the capital of the province of Buenos Aires. 

The 55-year-old took up his post there in mid-September. Although he - like Francis and Fernandez - is regarded as a church policy reformer, the new archbishop knew how to deal with the Catholics in La Plata straight away. 

Co-operation with the clergy also worked smoothly from the outset. The problems began elsewhere: in the smaller diocese of Mar del Plata, which Mestre had successfully led for six years. 

There, too, a suitable successor had to be found. 

It is certain that the outgoing bishop would have loved to see his vicar general Luis Alboniga as the new bishop. But nothing came of it. 

Francis' choice fell on Jose Maria Balina, until then auxiliary bishop in the archdiocese of Buenos Aires.

Sudden withdrawal

From then on, things got strange. The newly appointed bishop of Mar del Plata did not take up his post, but backed out in December. 

When he received an "avalanche of congratulations" after his appointment, he realised that he was not up to the task, the clergyman surprisingly announced. He suffers from a detached retina and has had to undergo several operations. 

He also had personal and family problems. He said in a personal statement that he was sorry to have to disappoint the expectations of so many people. 

According to local media reports, the vacant diocese wanted to use the opportunity to help the popular vicar general Alboniga to become bishop after all. An influential lobby group centred around the former local bishop Mestre portrayed the interim leader as a charismatic fisher of men and an excellent preacher who would fill the pews. 

But Francis once again appointed another candidate: this time Gustavo Larrazabal, until then auxiliary bishop in San Juan de Cuyo. 

The Alboniga advocates felt offended once again.

This led to an open power struggle in the media, which became increasingly ugly. Concerns about Larrazábal's suitability were deliberately spread via the daily newspaper "La Capital". 

In one article, he was accused of harassment and abuse of office in previous years. The Vatican came to the defence of the accused, but it didn't help. 

Larrazabal's reputation was so tarnished that he also resigned before taking office "after a very conscientious process of discernment and prayer".

Francis reacted angrily and went on the counter-attack. 

In January, he installed his own confidant as interim head in Mar del Plata and sent Alboniga into the desert - to the diocese of Jujuy, around 2,000 kilometres away. He also ordered an investigation to be opened into the role played by the vicar general in recent months. 

Is the intrigue against Larrazabal possibly directly attributable to him? 

The conflict then spiralled completely out of control. In the middle of church services in Mar del Plata, there were sensational protests in favour of Alboniga's return - a first in the history of the diocese. 

The dispute reached its temporary climax at the end of May. Gabriel Mestre, the popular new Archbishop of La Plata, was summoned to Rome to give an account of the situation in his former diocese.

Staff chaos causes outrage

During the interview, he felt the Pope's full displeasure. 

According to reports, Francis accused him of having acted as a string-puller in the background. 

A few days later, Mestre let his followers know in writing: "After confronting some different views on what has happened in the diocese of Mar del Plata since November 2023 until today, Pope Francis has asked me to resign from the office of Archbishop of La Plata." 

Out of obedience to the Holy Father, he signed his resignation immediately. 

"It pains me to leave," said Mestre. He had been "very happy" in his few months in La Plata. In emotional words of farewell, he added: "Thank you for making me feel at home with you!"

The resulting personnel chaos is causing incomprehension and outrage in Argentina. More and more prominent voices are speaking out in favour of Mestre. 

Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel sent a special letter to the Pope in which he wrote: "In times of uncertainty, in the midst of light and shadow, Gabriel is a light that we need to reach the minds and hearts of our Church and the people." 

Hector Aguer, Archbishop of La Plata, even took a verbal swipe at Francis and Cardinal Fernandez in the newspaper "La Prensa". He indirectly described the latter as incompetent and the Pope's decisions as "strange". 

In just over eight months in office, Mestre had shown that he was capable of doing what Fernandez had been unable to do. The 81-year-old Aguer emphasised: "I know what I'm talking about: I was Archbishop of La Plata for two decades."

In the end, only losers emerge from the convoluted scenario. 

After three surprising resignations of bishops and a lot of bad blood, the Pope has to put up with criticism of his personnel policy. 

Fernandez, who is already under fire for a controversial document on the blessing of homosexuals, has to watch as his competence is publicly called into question. 

And with Mestre, of all people, an archbishop who knew how to rally conservatives and reformers alike behind him was dismissed. 

A skill that is needed more than ever in the Catholic Church these days.

Diocese of San Diego to file for bankruptcy for the second time


With the Diocese of San Diego facing about 450 lawsuits over alleged sexual abuse of minors by priests, religious, and laity, Cardinal Robert McElroy has informed the clergy and faithful that today the diocese will file for bankruptcy for the second time.

The announcement comes about 16 months after McElroy said the diocese was considering the move.

“For the past year, the Diocese has held substantive and helpful negotiations with attorneys representing the victims of abuse, and I, in collaboration with the leadership of the Diocese, have come to the conclusion that this is the moment to enter formally into bankruptcy and continue negotiations as part of the bankruptcy process,” McElroy said in a June 13 letter.

McElroy explained that bankruptcy offers the best pathway for the diocese to both justly compensate victims of sexual abuse, and to “continue the church’s mission of education, pastoral service and outreach to the poor and the marginalized.”

McElroy added that filing for bankruptcy provides a framework to achieve equity among the differing claims of victims, and also establishes a fund to compensate past victims of sexual abuse who come forward in the future. Further, McElroy said the move “will achieve a definite conclusion to its legal liability for past claims of sexual abuse” through the eventual bankruptcy settlement.

Despite the challenges ahead for the diocese, McElroy made clear that only the church is to blame.

“As we move through this difficult process during the coming year, it is essential that we all keep in mind that it was the moral failure of those who directly abused children and teenagers, and the equally great moral failure of those who reassigned them or were not vigilant, that led to the psychological and spiritual wounds that still crush the hearts and souls of so many men and women in our midst,” McElroy said.

“The tremendous strides we have made in the past twenty years to protect minors in the Church and beyond cannot begin to mitigate the enormous moral responsibility that I, as your bishop, and the entire Catholic community continue to bear,” he added.

Lawyers for the survivors, meanwhile, have said the diocese’s bankruptcy filing is an attempt to avoid “paying fair compensation to child sex abuse victims.”

“After nearly a year of mediation, we were hoping that child sexual abuse survivors, the Diocese and its insurer would have been able to reach a settlement and an agreed to plan for compensating victims through the inevitable bankruptcy announced by the Diocese about a year ago,” said Irwin Zalkin, an attorney for the Zalkin Law Firm who is counsel for the claimants. “Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened.”

“It has become very clear that these Catholic Dioceses and their insurers have adopted a national strategy to use Chapter 11 bankruptcies to resolve child sexual abuse cases in a way that reduces the compensation paid to survivors and deprives survivors of their right to trial,” Zalkin continued.

Zalkin added that the efforts are a “misuse of the bankruptcy system.”

The approximate 450 lawsuits against the Diocese of San Diego stem from California legislation AB 218, a 2019 law that eliminated the statute of limitations for any claims of sexual abuse of a minor for three years, from Jan. 1, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2022.

Following a bankruptcy filing in 2007, the diocese paid $198 million to settle 144 claims of abuse, which McElroy has previously said “depleted” most of the diocese’s assets. Those claims were also prompted by a lifting of California’s statute of limitations. If the numbers with the present lawsuits are similar to those of 2007, the diocese’s payout to survivors could be in the neighborhood of $500-$600 million.

In the June 13 letter, McElroy said that while only the diocese will be filing for bankruptcy both diocesan parishes and high schools will have to “contribute substantially to the ultimate settlement in order to bring finality to the liability they face.”

The Diocese of San Diego is the sixth California diocese to file for bankruptcy.

The most recent was the Diocese of Fresno, which filed for bankruptcy last month as it faces 154 child sex abuse lawsuits. The other four California dioceses that have filed for bankruptcy are the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and Dioceses of Sacramento and Oakland.

Vatican Bank reports net profit of €30.6 million in 2023

Cleaning Up the Vatican Bank - The Globalist

The Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR, or Vatican Bank) has reported a net profit of €30.5 million ($32.8 million) in 2023.

“Cost control continued to be core to management efforts, though investments aimed at improving customer services and digitalization were made,” according to the bank.

“Given the soundness of the 2023 financial statements, and taking into account IOR’s capital requirements,” the commission of cardinals that oversees the bank donated €13.6 million ($14.6 million) to religious and charitable works.

Vatican library to award NFTs to donors in ‘experimental project’

The Vatican library announced Monday that it will expand its use of Web3 technologies by awarding nontransferable NFTs (nonfungible tokens) to supporters of the manuscript collections.

For the time being, the project, considered “experimental,” only applies to Italian donors to the Vatican Apostolic Library. A trial was first launched in Japan in February 2023.

According to the library, which preserves roughly 180,000 manuscripts and more than 1.5 million printed books, Italians who share about the NFT project on their social media accounts through July 16 will receive a “Silver NFT” through which they can access a special collection of high-resolution images of 15 manuscripts of the library. 

Financial supporters of the project, instead, will receive a “Gold NFT” giving them access to high-resolution images of all 21 manuscripts in the special collection.

The Vatican has partnered with the Japanese multinational company NTT DATA to expand “the Vatican Library’s online community by connecting the cultural institution with its supporters through Web3 technology,” according to a June 17 press release from the Vatican Library.

The future of the project, the Vatican said, may include the ability to visit the library through immersive extended reality (XR) experiences, like augmented or virtual reality.

“I believe that our heritage requires special attention and dedication geared toward preservation and promotion,” Salesian Father Mauro Mantovani, prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library, said this week.

“NTT DATA,” he continued, “has played an important role in supporting the Vatican Library’s mission to make its unique collections accessible to the public, regardless of origin, culture, religion, politics, or ideology, while nurturing scientific research and development.”

The papal library, in its current form, dates to the 14th century, though there is evidence the Catholic Church has had a library and archive from as early as the 300s.

The Web3 project continues the papal library’s efforts to make ancient documents more accessible to the public.

The Vatican launched a new website for the library in 2020 with improved search functions and easier access to digital reproductions of digitized manuscripts, inventories, archival materials, coins, medals, and incunabula, which are books printed in Europe before the 16th century.

According to its website, the Vatican Library “preserves over 180,000 manuscripts (including archival units), 1,600,000 printed books, about 9,000 incunabula, over 300,000 coins and medals, more than 150,000 prints, thousands of drawings and engravings, and over 200,000 photographs.”

The Apostolic Library is located in Vatican City in a building dating to the late 16th century.

Pope accused of illegally wiretapping phones

illegally wiretapping phones ...

The Pope faces UN investigation over his personal authorisation of allegedly unlawful wiretaps during a Vatican investigation into the “corrupt” sale of a £300 million central London property.

Lawyers for Raffaele Mincione, a British financier accused of defrauding the Vatican, have filed a complaint to the UN about alleged abuses committed during the trial by Pope Francis, the spiritual leader of 1.4 billion Catholics worldwide.

Rodney Dixon KC, a leading human rights barrister, has accused the Pope of personally authorising unlawful wiretaps of Mr Mincione’s phone during the investigation into alleged wrongdoing at the Vatican.

During the trial, it emerged that Pope Francis himself handed powers to investigators allowing them to tap phones, intercept emails and arrest anyone they wanted to without approval from a judge. The powers were based on “rescritti” – ancient laws that the Pope could use as divine monarch of the Vatican.

In the complaint to Prof Margaret Satterthwaite, the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Mr Dixon listed the Pope as a “perpetrator” of human rights abuses.

“This unreasoned authorisation to prosecutors by an absolute monarch greenlit the undertaking of surveillance without the articulation of definite reasons, ongoing judicial or other independent and impartial supervision, or a mechanism by which to challenge the implementation of the surveillance before an independent and impartial tribunal,” said Mr Dixon.

The Vatican claims Mr Mincione defrauded it by inflating the price when it invested £124 million in a former Harrods warehouse in Chelsea via a fund managed by Mr Mincione. Prosecutors charged Mr Mincione and 10 others including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the former right-hand man to Pope Francis, with offences including fraud, embezzlement, and abuse of office.

Mr Mincione maintains he did not do anything wrong, and that the property was appropriately valued by independent experts. Mr Mincione claims that the Vatican has never disclosed evidence to show it lost money nor of his alleged wrongdoing.

Last December, the financier was convicted of breaching canonical – or spiritual - law and handed a five-and-a-half-year jail sentence by Vatican judges. He and his legal team claim that he has been the victim of a “witch-hunt” where he believes the legal goalposts were moved to secure his conviction.

In his complaint to the UN Special Rapporteur, Dixon also complained that Mr Mincione was convicted of breaching breach of canon – or spiritual – law.

“It is not appropriate for religious tenets to be imposed on the regulation of a secular transaction without the consent of those involved in the transaction,” Dixon said in his complaint filed ahead of a session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva which starts on Monday.

Mr Dixon also criticised claims that Mr Mincione’s lawyers were placed under surveillance in Rome during the trial before a panel of three Catholic judges. In his UN complaint, Dixon said they appeared to be “victims of interference if not intimidation” at the “instigation” of the Vatican.

Mrs Satterthwaite’s office is based in Geneva and she reports to the UN Rights Council and the UN General Assembly. She is responsible for upholding the independence of the judiciary and monitoring abuses of human rights laws.

As the UN Special Rapporteur, she can communicate directly with states regarding alleged wrongdoing and previous investigations have built enough pressure to force rogue states to release journalists, opposition politicians, human rights campaigners and asylum seekers from incarceration.

‘Basic rights trampled on’

Mr Mincione told The Telegraph: “My basic rights have been trampled on and been ignored. How can it be correct that I have been handed criminal penalties for breaches of spiritual law which only applies to members of the Church, which don’t seem to apply to anyone else that handles the Vatican’s investments, and which I didn’t know anything about?

“This has been a devastating experience for me and my family and I truly hope that the United Nations will pursue justice in this matter.”

Mr Mincione is appealing his conviction on the basis that he was actually cleared of the criminal offences from the original indictment and only convicted of new offences introduced at the 11th hour and based on the Vatican’s canonical – religious, not criminal – law.

The Vatican has maintained it has acted appropriately and within the law. A spokesman for the Vatican said: “The legitimacy of the investigations and the correspondence of the Vatican judiciary system to the principles of fair trial has been recognised by various foreign courts.”

They have been approached for further comment.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Patrick Buckley, RIP (3)


In writing this piece, I am now conscious of the fact that it is a month since the death of Patrick Buckley, as announced here on 17th May, 2024.

I then followed that up with an opinion piece which also contained, verified and established many facts which we had in relation to Patrick Buckley, and on foot of which, we received many, many emails (just over 2,000 at last count today (16th June 2024) from literally all over the world.

In the main (1,979) the emails were on the subject of how badly treated the contributors were by Patrick Buckley - many attributed to his now-defunct and unpublished 'blogspot' - and the remaining 27 emails were from those who were - in effect - trying to discredit that posting of May 21st inst., as well as CW.

Since his passing, those with whom we have engaged, whether by telephone, email or in person, have all expressed their initial regret at his passing - solely due to him evading any earthly justice and law for his despotic and slanderuous postings.

This soon turned into a sense of relief that he was / is dead, and again solely down to the fact that his 'blogspot' was no longer in existence, and those affected by it and his behaviour, lies etc would now be able to sleep better at night.

No longer the fear of wondering whether they were going to be the (untrue) story that was going to end up as the main story (yet again), and also the subject of the scurrilous and slanderuous 'anonymous' comments posted under the story (don't worry KI - IP addresses are a great source of information in an investigation), which will become a story in its own right.

We then had to deal with the 'loved-up' story (and that is exactly what they are) of the allegedly celibate 'partner/husband' of Patrick Buckley, namely Eduardo Yanga, and this was then followed up with the story of denial of what we had claimed here in relation to Patrick Buckley and his prolific sex life which resulted in 55 HIV-infected men approaching us over the last almost 2 years - the most recent since the death of Patrick Buckley being 2 men in the USA.

And now we find ourselves with further developments such as this one in relation to Patrick Buckley giving shelter to a convicted paedophile and (quote) later parading the sex offender at a fundraising event. (unquote).

On top of that, we have had to open 3 seperate files in relation to further alleged potential sexual misbehaviour by Patrick Buckley - 1 in the midlands, and 2 in the North of Ireland.

We will be meeting with these alleged victims over the next few weeks.

Let me be very clear here - when we use the term 'alleged victims' we do so purely for legal reasons, and as such, it is not to be interpreted as being disrespectful to anyone in this regard.

We will continue to engage with all who approach us, we will continue to provide legal and support services to those who wish to avail of such, and we will continue to follow through on our seperate - yet singular - investigations into Patrick Buckley.

As Editor, I want to assure all who get in touch with us that we will do all that we can to be of help to you.

I would also like to offer an invitation to Mr Yanga - get in touch with us.

We would be more than happy to meet with you in our solicitors offices - North or South - and let you come face-to-face with us, and indeed the many, many victims of Patrick Buckley.

This invite extends to Paul Creanor, Vicar General of The Oratory Society.

We look forward to hearing from you, and perhaps you may then find out the truth behind the real Patrick Buckley.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

AODHÁN DE FAOITE

Eagarthóir / Editor

CWI : Operation Midensis (1)

Today, Sunday 16th June 2024, an article appeared in an Irish newspaper, whereby Bishop Tom Deenihan of the RC Diocese of Meath apologises for online postings of a priest of same said diocese - namely Fr Fergal Cummins.

The name of this priest is not new to us here in CW, and indeed he has been on our radar and under investigation for some time, and his questionable postings in relation to the Irish Local and European Elections were certainly eyebrow raising.


However, what seems to have gone unmentioned are his postings (now removed) in relation to female masturbation - and this then leads to the further questions which his local ordinary (bishop) needs to address.....

.....why was Fr Cummins removed from his chaplaincy position at the Sacred Heart Catholic Secondary School, Tullamore, Co Offaly, and replaced by Fr Joseph Campbell?

Was it down to something he said in a classroom?

Was an investigation carried out?

Who ordered his removal and replacement?

From the information gathered by us here in CW to date, it certainly was questionable and we invite anyone who wishes to get in touch with us - on condition of anonymity - with any further details, to do so.

If Bishop Deenihan will not address this matter, we most certainly will.

We put this question now to Bishop Deenihan - as you have apologised for  (quote) ‘hurt’ caused by far-right memes and conspiracy theories posted to Facebook by priest (unquote), will you now apologise to the female population for his postings in relation to female masturbation?

We look forward to hearing from you.

Bishops ‘deeply disturbed’ by latest US immigration restrictions

President Joe Biden announced a new policy to restrict the number of asylum applications from undocumented migrants coming across the US southern border. 

Advocates for migrants, including the US Catholic bishops, voiced concerns about the new policy, which will likely face challenges in the courts.

Under the new policy, whenever the number of encounters with non-citizens exceeds a seven-day average of 7,500, further asylum applications will be temporarily suspended. 

New claims can only begin again once the average drops to 1,500, where it stood in 2020.

“We are deeply disturbed by this disregard for fundamental humanitarian protections and US asylum law,” said Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, chair of the bishop’s committee on migration.

“There is a crisis of conscience at the US-Mexico border. When vulnerable families seeking safety and the means for a dignified life are labelled ‘invaders’ or ‘illegals’, terms that mask their humanity, we have strayed from the path of righteousness, succumbed to our fear of the ‘other’, and forsaken the values upon which our nation was founded.”

The new policy runs counter to provisions of the Refugee Act of 1980, which brought the US into compliance with international legal obligations, specifically enacting the principle of non-refoulementnot returning migrants to their home countries if they face danger of persecution or torture.

The Biden administration, relying on legal authority before the enactment of the 1980 law, said the new policy was necessary because Congress had failed to enact bipartisan immigration reforms. 

Former president Donald Trump urged Republicans to reject those measures when Congress was close to reaching an historic compromise early this year.

“As defenders of human life and dignity, which we hold sacred and inviolable from the moment of conception, we cannot accept unjust conditions on the right to migrate for those fleeing life-threatening situations,” Seitz added.

“We especially worry for those compelled by these policies to traverse more treacherous terrain, further endangering their lives and the lives of Border Patrol agents.”

Vatican’s ‘Bishop of Rome’ Document Has an ‘Ivory Tower’ Feel (Opinion)

Christopher White on X: "The Vatican's Dicastery for Promoting Christian  Unity has released a new study document, “The Bishop of Rome,” summarizing  the ecumenical debate on the service of primacy in the

“The Bishop of Rome,” a study document of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Christian Unity (DPCU) on papal primacy and ecumenism combines detailed reporting on recent theological developments with proposals that ignore the major ecclesial developments of the last few years.

In his 1995 encyclical, Ut Unum Sint (That They May Be One), Pope St. John Paul II invited other Christian churches and ecclesial communities to re-think how the Petrine ministry may be exercised in service of greater Christian unity. It was a bold invitation, but did not generate a significant response from other Christian leaders.

In 2020, for the 25th anniversary of the encyclical, the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity began a multi-year consultation process that produced the current 43,000-word document. Failing to get actual responses from other Christian pastors, the dicastery decided to commission its own responses from the theological guild.

The dicastery describes it as “the fruit of almost three years of truly ecumenical and synodal work”:

“It summarizes some 30 responses to Ut Unum Sint and 50 ecumenical dialogue documents on the subject. It involved not only the Officials, but also the 46 Members and Consultors of the Dicastery who discussed it at two Plenary Meetings. The best Catholic experts on the subject were consulted, as well as numerous Orthodox and Protestant experts, in collaboration with the Institute for Ecumenical Studies of the Angelicum.”

A survey of the most recent study and scholarship is certainly useful for those working in the field. Seeking to understand why John Paul’s invitation has largely gone unheeded is necessary. But the proposals — and they are only proposals — from the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity have a certain “ivory tower” feel, quite distant from the actual reality of Christian unity today.

Synodality is Not a Solution

The full title of the document suggests assumptions of how things might be rather than how they actually are: “The Bishop of Rome: Primacy and Synodality in Ecumenical Dialogues and in the Responses to the Encyclical Ut Unum Sint.”

Synodality is fashionable in Rome now, but was never mentioned in Ut Unum Sint. Moreover, synodality today produces not unity but division. Synodal structures have been around for a long time, and so it is not the case that synodality always produces division, but it is the case now.

For the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity to propose that greater synodality will lead to Christian unity ignores major developments in the Christian world, unfolding even as the dicastery was assembling its research materials:

  • The Orthodox Churches — which are governed by synods — are no longer in communion with each other. Moscow, the largest Orthodox Church, has excommunicated Constantinople and Kyiv.

  • Similarly ignored is that the fact that in 2023, many Anglican primates — which constitute 80% of the global Anglican Communion — declared that they no longer recognized the Archbishop of Canterbury as an “instrument of communion.” The Vatican has chosen to pretend that this simply didn’t happen, earlier this year hosting Archbishop Justin Welby and the primates’ meeting as if nothing has changed. But the Anglican Communion — also governed by synods — no longer exists.

  • The Coptic Orthodox Church — another synodal Church — broke off ecumenical relations with Rome just months ago over the Vatican’s supposed approval for blessing same-sex couples.

  • The “Synodal Way” process in Germany has produced grave divisions between the Holy Father and the bishops of Germany. Synodality is currently eroding Catholic unity ad intra. Why then would the DPCU propose to expand it ad extra?

  • In a few weeks, the second largest of the Catholic eastern rites, the Syro-Malabar Church, may well face the excommunications of many priests over a long-running liturgical dispute. If there are mass excommunications, a schism is possible. The Syro-Malabar Church is governed by a synod.

Synodality is likely going through the greatest crisis in its history. The urgent task for Christian pastors is to contain the damage, not expand its impact.

The study document speaks of synodality and primacy in abstract terms. The 21st-century reality is division, not unity. It is theoretically possible that a more synodal exercise of papal primacy may lead to ecumenical progress, but that is simply not the case today, nor for the foreseeable future. Thus the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity’s document remains an interesting intellectual exercise, but has no pastoral application today.

It should also be remembered that the synodal assembly of October 2023 found that there was no agreement on what synodality means. Indeed, a Vatican working group was struck earlier this year to attempt to find a meaning for synodality. If the Vatican does not understand what synodality means, it cannot be helpful in rethinking papal primacy.

Vatican I and Vatican II

While the First Vatican Council (1869-1870) is best known for its definition of papal infallibility, its teaching on “universal jurisdiction” was more important in the daily life of the Church.

Vatican I clarified that the pope has authority over the entire Church — full, immediate and ordinary power. It is, to be sure, a maximalist interpretation of the Petrine office. The Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity considers that this might pose a problem and proposes instead:

“a Catholic ‘re-reception’, ‘re-interpretation’, ‘official interpretation’, ‘updated commentary’ or even ‘rewording’ of the teachings of Vatican I. Indeed, some dialogues observe that these teachings were deeply conditioned by their historical context, and suggest that the Catholic Church should look for new expressions and vocabulary faithful to the original intention but integrated into a communio ecclesiology and adapted to the current cultural and ecumenical context.”

To “re-word” the teaching of an ecumenical council is a major task, something another ecumenical council may wish to take up. Fortunately for the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, Vatican II did exactly that, complementing the teaching of Vatican I on the papal office with the collegiality of bishops, who together live the communio of the Church. In 1995, John Paul precisely thought that the communio ecclesiology of Vatican II offered the path forward. That would seem a more fruitful path than re-formulating the teaching of Vatican I.

Backwardism?

Another instance of the study document ignoring present realities is that Pope Francis has made two key steps backward in regard to the communio approach of Vatican II.

First, his summary removal of bishops. To be sure, the discipline and removal of bishops is often quite popular; many voices think that the Holy Father should do more of it. Yet the removal of a bishop, especially if the process is murky or arbitrary, is animated more by the spirit of Vatican I than Vatican II. The Christians now separated from Rome would likely not be keen on a papal primacy that can fire bishops like local subordinates.

Second, in his reform of the Roman Curia, Pope Francis decided that governance can be exercised by laypeople, meaning that authority did not come from the office of bishop, but rather by delegation of the Holy Father himself. That is a highly contested view, and not officially settled among Catholic canon law experts.

Nevertheless, the idea that authority comes from papal mandate rather than a share in the apostolic succession is a step back from Vatican II toward Vatican I. It is unlikely that such a backwardist approach would be appealing to other Christians in the exercise of the papal office.

The “study document” is a useful academic contribution. But is the kind of theological work that Pope Francis often disparages as “desk theology,” distant from the actual life of the Christian people.

Moral theologian criticises Church's treatment of homosexuals

Moral theologian Daniel Bogner is calling for a change in the Catholic Church's attitude towards homosexuals. 

It should no longer be the case that people are simply excluded on the basis of certain personality traits, Bogner told the portal kath.ch (Saturday). 

For theological reasons, too, the Church must become a champion of diversity and recognise queer people as an enrichment because they make visible "the sense of the greatness of God's work of creation".

The English word queer refers to people who are not heterosexual or whose gender identity does not conform to social role models. Among them, people with same-sex orientation are probably the largest group. 

The Professor of Moral Theology and Ethics at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) emphasised that it is crucial for the church to address the issue more closely. Not least sexology is questioning "a schematic approach to bisexuality", as the church continues to represent it.

"Dramatic theological error"

Bogner criticised the maxim held by many bishops that one must "love the sinner, but not the sin" as problematic and a "dramatic theological error". 

Such a view divides people and differentiates between the "person as such" and their sexuality as an essential dimension in which being human is expressed. "For queer people, this can only sound cynical," added Bogner. 

As long as such judgements persist in official Catholic teaching, the church will find it difficult to reach non-heterosexuals in a credible way: "But it should want to."

The theologian added that many in the church experience that they have to "bend and be wrongly ashamed of something": "This fundamentally contradicts the message of the Gospel." The biblical message of a God who "created people in their diversity out of love" is "more powerful than anything the religious institutions have made of it". 

Bogner conceded that the church is "still at the very beginning when it comes to queer reality". 

This was shown, for example, by the massive negative reactions from many countries to the papal declaration "Fiducia supplicans" and its cautious opening with regard to a possible blessing for homosexual relationships.

Diocese of Steubenville administrator replaced by Pope as merger discussion continues

A few months after Bishop Paul Bradley publicized that he hadn’t yet found reason to believe the Diocese of Steubenville needed to merge with another diocese to survive, his tenure as its apostolic administrator has been brought to an abrupt end.

In a letter Bradley sent to the clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Steubenville, published by the diocese on June 14, Bradley wrote that Pope Francis has informed him that his service in the role of apostolic administrator has been completed.

“As the discernment process continues to move forward in regard to the future of the Diocese of Steubenville, the Holy Father has informed me that my service as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese has been completed, and thanked me for my leadership over these last nine months,” Bradley said.

Bishop Edward Lohse of Kalamazoo will take over as the new apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Steubenville, effective June 14, according to an announcement from the diocese.

“I thank Bishop Bradley for his wonderful pastoral outreach to the people of the Diocese of Steubenville, and I look forward to meeting the clergy, religious, and faithful of the diocese,” Lohse said in a statement.

Bradley, 78, who is bishop emeritus of Kalamazoo, took over as apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Steubenville last September. He replaced Bishop Jeffrey Monforton, who after questionable handling of his interest and exploration in merging the Diocese of Steubenville with the Diocese of Columbus was reassigned to the Archdiocese of Detroit to serve as an auxiliary bishop.

Merger talks were more or less tabled after swift backlash from local priests and laity led the U.S. Bishops’ Conference to table a vote on the merger at their November 2022 general assembly. Merger talks didn’t reemerge until December 2023, when Bradley, then the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Steubenville, and Bishop Earl Fernandes of Columbus, issued a joint statement that the merger talks had resumed at the request of the Cardinal Christophe Pierre, the papal envoy to the United States.

In the ensuing months, Bradley and Fernandes were transparent about the meetings that were taking place and the topics being discussed. Then, on January 31, Bradley told Crux that “while there are some who think that the Diocese of Steubenville is not able to survive, that is not what I’ve found so far.”

Bradley went on to say that he’s found a diocese that is “vibrant, and active, and alive.”

Bradley learned of Pope Francis’s decision to remove him from the Diocese of Steubenville this week, and as he alluded to in his statement, it wasn’t his decision. Neither Bradley or Pierre could not be reached by Crux for comment.

In his letter to the clergy and the faithful, Bradley said the last nine months leading the Diocese of Steubenville “have been a great blessing.”

“I am so very grateful to the Holy Father for giving me the privilege of serving as the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Steubenville for these many months, and for getting to know the wonderful priests, deacons, Religious women and men, and Lay Faithful of this very special diocese.”

The latest news on the merger talks was March 20, when Bradley and Fernandes announced that they, with their diocesan leadership teams, submitted a summary of findings on how both dioceses could be affected by a potential merger to Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati, and Pierre.

U.S. bishops ‘cannot become complacent’ about child abuse, Review Board says

While highlighting substantial progress the American Church has made to address the abuse of minors, the chair of the board created to monitor the implementation of the Dallas Charter in 2002 has called for even greater buy-in from bishops and warned against complacency.

“We must keep the child of today, the child of tomorrow, and especially that child of yesterday, at the center of all of our decision making.” Suzanne Healy, Chair of the National Review Board, said in an address to the American bishops on June 14.

“I am in awe of the many examples of compassionate, radical accompaniment occurring across the U.S,” Healy said. “Again, we cannot become complacent, and we must remain vigilant in ongoing support of these important ministries and their departments.”

Healy made the comments at the U.S. Bishops’ Conference spring general assembly.

Other than Healy’s address, the gathering’s second public session included a vote to pass a new pastoral framework for Indigenous ministry, the contents of which include an apology to Indigenous Catholics from the American bishops for their past failures.

Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, the U.S. Bishops’ Conference Migration Committee Chair, also presented on the challenges clergy and dioceses face because of significant visa backlogs, and announced the creation of a new parish education program intended to counter “adverse” immigration narratives.

The June 14 public session of the spring general assembly, which ran until about noon, marked the end of this year’s spring general assembly, which was held in Louisville, Kentucky, and began on June 12.

Healy began her address to the bishops by commending the culture of safety they are creating.

“It is no longer responding to a crisis, but rather, it has become and continues to be ingrained in the fabric of our everyday church culture,” Healy said. “We have much to be proud of. As a result of the commitments you and your brother bishops made in 2002, with the adoption of the Dallas Charter, we are creating a culture of safety far beyond what was envisioned nearly 25-years-ago.”

Healy also, however, highlighted areas of needed improvement.

Healy highlighted that this year’s audit into the implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, commonly known as the Dallas Charter, found that there are still a small number of dioceses and eparchies that have yet to participate in a live on-site audit themselves, which the firm that conducts the audit said prevents them from saying the charter has been fully implemented.

Further, Healy also highlighted that only 70 percent of dioceses and eparchies conduct their own parish audits that need to be done or “we are at the risk for possible breakdowns and potential abuse.” Healy also said there are instances of noncompliance both in the composition of diocesan review boards, and in the regularity of diocesan review board meetings.

As the charter is in the process of revision, Healy highlighted the “growing expectation and hope” that a similar document will be created to establish a framework for the pastoral response to adult allegations of abuse, which she said is important to implement at this time.

“It is a fact and public sentiment that abuse hurts at every age. If we don’t respond compassionately to these cases it diminishes the trust we are working so hard to restore in our church,” Healy said. “The institutional response to these allegations appears to be lacking.”

Prior to Healy’s address, the bishops voted on multiple pastoral frameworks. Notably, they passed “Keeping Christ’s Sacred Promise: A Pastoral Framework for Indigenous Ministry” with 181 bishops voting in favor of the framework, two voting against it, and three abstaining.

The framework itself spans 52 pages and contains five parts: A Call for Healing, A Call to Mission, A Call for Reconciliation, A Call to Holiness, A Call of Transformation. An introductory portion of the framework states that through the framework the American bishops “hope to begin a new journey of mutual accompaniment” with Indigenous Catholics.

It also includes an apology, and a commitment to accompaniment.

“We apologize for the failure to nurture, strengthen, honor, recognize, and appreciate those entrusted to our pastoral care. We resolve now to prioritize our pastoral ministry with Indigenous Catholics,” the document states. “We seek to accompany the Indigenous Peoples of this land in their faith through praying, listening, and seeking healing and reconciliation along the way, so that we can journey together toward the house of the heavenly Father.”

Another pastoral framework, “Listen, Teach, Send: A National Pastoral Framework for Ministries with Youth and Young Adults” also got significant support in a vote, with 178 bishops voting in favor of the framework, four voting against it, and four abstaining. However, because a significant number of bishops were not present for the vote, it did not reach the two-thirds majority needed to pass, and will now be sent separately to those who weren’t present for their votes.

Bishop Robert Barron of Winona-Rochester, who leads the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth that developed the framework said June 13 that its a summons to the Church to “renew her engagement with you and young adults in imitation of Jesus Christ on the journey to Emmaus.

“Like the Lord in that familiar story, we’re called deeply to listen to the realities facing young people with pastoral care and compassion to teach in a new way, that shares the light of Christ with young people and brings about a conversion of heart, and finally, to send youth and young adults forth so that they eagerly choose to follow God’s call and their mission to transform the world,” Barron said.

Towards the end of the June 14 public session, Seitz gave an update from the Committee on Migration, in which he highlighted that the present visa backlogs for religious are “unsustainable.” Currently, a priest applying for a Green Card today will be forced to wait an estimated 15 years before a resident visa becomes available to him.

The maximum time allowed in the country for the temporary visa category used by religious workers, known as the R-1, is five years. However, at the end of each of those five years the religious worker must spend a year outside of the country before returning on a new R-1 visa.

Seitz said the committee has been working with federal authorities to get this changed, and in December they got word that pursuant to a forthcoming regulation a religious worker will only have to be outside of the country for a period of 30 days before returning on a new R-1 visa, opposed to a year. Although, he noted that the first step in this new rule isn’t expected until at least October.

In his address Seitz denounced the current civil and political discourse on immigration, especially the attempts by some to villainize church ministries for their efforts to assist those in need. To combat misinformation and create moments of encounter between immigrants and American citizens, Seitz and the committee have developed the parish education program.

“The program seeks to align U.S. Catholics understanding and engagement on this issue with the Church’s teaching on migration, which offers a more balanced and nuanced approach, at the heart of which is our respect for the sanctity of human life, the God given dignity of every person, and the well-being of families, native born and immigrant alike,” Seitz said.

The June 14 public session closed with an update on the National Eucharistic Revival and Congress from Bishop Andrew Cozzens of Crookston, who is chair of congress. He said that at least 50,000 people have participated in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimages so far at their approximate halfway points.

Cozzens announced that congress registrations have now surpassed 40,000 five day passes, and 2,000-plus day passes, with capacity for the congress being 50,000. He also reminded the bishops that the congress itself marks a beginning not an end, and they’re already looking to hold another in 2033 to coincide with and honor the year of redemption.

“With all of the excitement about the Eucharistic Congress, it’s easy to forget that the Eucharistic revival is only two-thirds over,” Cozzens said. “We have a whole year of mission, and always a goal from the beginning of this has been that the Eucharistic Congress would not be the end, but it would actually launch this year of mission.”