Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Year of Vocations Prayer

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.


An Focal Scóir - April 2008

April sees us turn our backs to the wet month that was March and with there being no Easter season this year in this month, the focus now turns pastorally to the sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confirmation...

...and gay marriage begins this months recollection of postings, Cardinal Brady believes that confession has now become the forgotten sacrament, insight into the life of a RC ordained female priest, German Jews sever ties with Il Papa, old wine in new skins with deployment of closed church relics into new ones...

...Divine Mercy Congress opens in Rome, Qatar 1st RC church opens, Papal Intentions for April, 3rd Anniversary of death of JPII, RC India facing shortage of nuns, Vatican considers role of grandparents, thieves burgle Irish RC churches and presbyteries, Sotto Voce takes leave of absence...

...German RC church used Nazi labour, death of AB Little of Melbourne, Papal message for vocations day, Brazilian rainforest condoms, Coptic Pope searched at London Airport, Welsh Church rejects women bishops, RC bishop denies Holocaust...

...Papal visit to Mexico in 2009 (?), gay RC to protest papal US visit, erotic Jesus art in Austria sparks controversy, Il Papa NO to Aussie WYD vestments, Polish bishops want JP II's heart in Poland, women enter RC priesthood in defiance of Rome...

...Aussie RC bishop says Il Papa wrong on condoms, RC Diocese of Montreal needs funds, papal itinerary for USA, Il Papa and European Unity, launch of Irish RC vocations year...

...Papal US visit begins, Anglican clergy being bullied by congregations, ex-Bishop new president in Paraguay, Irish priest asks parishoners to ignore professional beggars, Irish RC Church still owes €50 million to settle abuse debt, missing Brazilian priest...

...WYD costs millions, SSPX no to Vatican reconciliation, secret life of Ireland's clerics, Newman for beatification, Aussie RC bishop says RC church a dictatorship not a democracy, ordination of Aussie female bishop, singing Irish priests sign deal for £1 million, hoax weeping statue hoaxer in court, Holy Land is safe to visit...

...St George a human rights campaigner, Papal no to Euro Parliament invite, Padre Pio encased in glass for public display, Slovak bishop celebrated Mass for fascist leader, Pell for the Vatican (?), RC priests warned about taking homilies off the net, Orthodox Easter celebrated, Il Papa ordains 29 new priests for service...

...RC and contraception, reforming the Vatican, Il Papa health is fine says Vatican, France trip happening for Il Papa, Church of England NO to female bishops for 4 years, AB Tutu calls for Olympics boycott, RC Italy lacks religious knowledge, mixed papal signals, US Papal visit to cost millions, Moscow contract on JPII, new Irish nuncio...

...and there ends month of April CW postings...certainly not as busy as previous months due to Sotto Voce being unavailable and hopefully he back within next 2 weeks...

Church in Dublin must regain goodwill of all, says archbishop

The Catholic Church in Dublin had been "damaged by scandals and by a reaction of what appears as near arrogance in not realising the damage that had been done to the weakest," the Archbishop of Dublin Most Rev Diarmuid Martin has said. It was something "we cannot overlook".

"The Church in Dublin must regain the goodwill of all. The Church in Dublin must be a place where all the necessary measures for the safeguarding of children and vulnerable persons are in place. Measures for the safeguarding of children must be seen as a priority and not as a burden," he continued.

"Similarly as a Church community we should be attentive to anyone who feels that they have been wounded or hurt or abandoned by the Church in any way. We only learn to heal when we first repent and change from our insensitivities and arrogance."

Dr Martin was speaking to about 1,200 people at the first major assembly of parish pastoral council members in the Dublin archdiocese at the Church of St Laurence O'Toole in Kilmacud on Sunday.

The councils were set up by him over three years ago, in each of the archdiocese's 200 parishes.

"Four years ago yesterday I became Archbishop of Dublin. I cannot think of a better anniversary gift than this assembly. This assembly tells me and tells you and tells all who have ears to hear that the Church in the archdiocese of Dublin is strong and vibrant . . . the Church in the Archdiocese of Dublin is renewing itself and is being renewed through the Spirit," he said.

The mission of parish pastoral councils was "above all that of animation and encouraging others to be more active in their life of faith". He acknowledged that "without doubt the numbers of those who regularly participate in the Eucharist in our diocese is dropping, at times dramatically. This is not as unusual as some might imagine. The Church is a sign of the unity of all humankind. The sign is not about numbers but about the quality of commitment and witness." Evangelisation of the family must be a priority for activities in parishes and throughout the diocese, he said.

"Where families totally delegate their responsibility for the formation of their children in faith to schools, they are losing sight of their responsibility but also of the special grace of the sacrament of marriage," he said.

"We have to form communities of believing Christians with an understanding of their faith which will enable them to speak to and be understood in the situations where the future of our society is being forged." he said.

He also announced he was setting up a diocesan pastoral council to assist him with the process of renewal and mission across the archdiocese.


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

New nuncio presents his credentials

THE diplomat appointed by Pope Benedict to represent the interests of the Holy See in Ireland presented his credentials yesterday to President Mary McAleese at Aras an Uachtarain.

Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza ( 65), from Sicily, will take up his duties as Apostolic Nuncio after being formally welcomed to Ireland by the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, at a special Mass in Dublin's Pro-Cathedral on Saturday, May 10.

At this Mass, known as "a Liturgical Reception", Archbishop Leanza will deliver his first homily in Ireland.

This speech will be read carefully by both the Church and the Episcopal Conference for clues about Pope Benedict's possible visit here, as well as the Pope's attitude to the referendum on the EU Lisbon Reform Treaty.

Under protocol rules, Archbishop Leanza automatically becomes the doyen or senior member of the resident diplomatic corps accredited to Ireland.

He succeeds Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, who was appointed to Australia by Pope Benedict XVI to prepare for his visit to World Youth Day in Sydney in July.

In addition to reporting directly to Pope Benedict and the Roman Curia on church and political developments in the Republic, Archbishop Leanza will monitor the peace process in the North.


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

Japanese bishops seek Vatican intervention on Neo-Cats

Four Japanese bishops have travelled to Rome for a meeting with Pope Benedict to seek Holy See intervention to resolve what they describe as a "serious problem" with the methods of the Neo-Catechumenal Way movement and its seminary in a Japanese diocese.

UCA News reports it was the third time Japanese bishops visited and brought up the matter in five months.

"We hate to come so often but we had to give the serious nature of the problem that needs to be resolved", Archbishop Okada of Tokyo, president of the bishops' conference, told UCA News in Rome.

During their ad limina visits in December, they raised their concerns not only with the pope but also with officials at the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples. Indian Cardinal Ivan Dias heads the congregation.

A delegation of Japanese bishops returned in early April 2008 and discussed the matter a second time with congregation officials, who they sensed were somewhat supportive of the Neocatechumenal movement, Archbishop Okada recalled.

"Another matter would be The Neocatechumenal Way (the Way) and the International Takamatsu Diocesan Seminary known as Redemptoris Mater. We have here a serious problem.

"In the small Catholic Church of Japan, the powerful sect-like activity of Way members is divisive and confrontational. It has caused sharp painful division and strife within the Church. We are struggling with all our strength to overcome the problem but feel that if a solution is to be found, the consideration of Your Holiness for the Church in Japan will be of the utmost importance and direly needed."

The Neocatechumenal Way, founded in Spain in 1964, today claims around 20,000 communities with 1 million members in 105 countries.

The Takamatsu seminary is one of the movement's 73 missionary seminaries worldwide, all called Redemptoris Mater and each under a diocesan bishop. The six in Asia are in Hong Kong, India, Japan, Pakistan, the Philippines and Taiwan.

Bishop Francis Xavier Osamu Mizobe of Takamatsu has confirmed he also spoke about the problem in his diocese during his private ad limina audience with Pope Benedict.

The small diocese of Takamatsu, based 520 kilometers southwest of Tokyo, has about 5,000 Catholics.

Bishop Mizobe's predecessor agreed to host the seminary there. But as serious problems emerged and tensions mounted, Bishop Mizobe, a Salesian, decided to close it. The bishops' conference supported him, its president confirmed.

Keen to maintain a base in Japan, the Neocatechumenal movement sought to gain another bishop's backing. At first one agreed to host the seminary, but after discussing the matter with brother bishops he decided against this and informed the evangelisation congregation and the movement accordingly.

On April 25, Archbishop Ikenaga, vice president of the bishops' conference, submitted a detailed brief on the situation to the pope.

According to Archbishop Okada, the bishops talked with Pope Benedict for almost an hour.

"He listened to us very attentively. He is trying to understand us. He is very serious," the prelate told UCA News.


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

“At least one qualified candidate per parish”

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles will begin asking parishes to actively help in the recruitment of new priests in an effort to respond to what appears to be a nationwide surge of interest in priestly vocations.

The Los Angeles archdiocese has “undertaken a change in direction for promoting vocations in 2008,” wrote Fr. James Forsen, director of the archdiocesan Office of Vocations, in the April 18 Tidings, the archdiocesan weekly. Forsen wrote that the archdiocese subscribes to a to the “philosophy” of Holy Cross Brother Paul Bednarczyk that "the church has commissioned the faithful to create a culture of discernment."

Brother Paul is executive director of the Chicago-based National Vocation Conference, whose web site,, in February published the results of an online survey that showed an increased interest in the religious life, especially among those under 30 years old. The survey indicated that 30% of religious communities in the U.S. have more individuals in their formation programs and that 62% of communities that participated in the survey reported an increase in vocation inquiries last year.

Citing the survey, Forsen noted in the Tidings article that “a robust surge in inquiries is bringing a new life and hope to vocation ministry.” As far as priestly vocations go, of the 133 male respondents to the survey, 88 said the vocation to the priesthood interested them most. (Sixty-one of them indicated interest in being a religious priest, while 27 said they would prefer the diocesan priesthood.)

“Why this sudden upswing” in interest in vocations to the priesthood? asked Forsen in the article. He cited a “growing disenchantment with living an unfulfilled and meaningless life away from God.” To tap into this apparent “upswing,” Forsen’s office has come up with a threefold strategy.

The first part of the strategy involves “action at the parish level,” he wrote in the Tidings. Using two of the archdiocese’s pastoral regions as “templates,” Forsen’s office will seek 10 to 15 parishes that would volunteer to promote vocations. The hope is to find “at least one qualified candidate per parish,” Forsen wrote. Parish staff will be trained to identify such candidates.

Since, said Forsen’s piece, “all vocations are relationship driven,” each parish will “adopt” a seminarian at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo in order “to put a ‘face’ on a vocation.” This effort will include diocesan seminarians as well as those interested in men’s and women’s religious communities. Other parish efforts will include passing a chalice and stole to a family, who will keep it for a week while praying for vocations. The chalice and stole will then go to another family.

Another effort, already under way, is the a priestly discernment group called “The Vocational Journey,” which is currently meeting at St. Monica’s parish in Santa Monica with the goal of cultivating “Bold Leaders for Christ.” Group members make a one-year commitment and participate in spiritual direction, retreats, and prayer.

The third part of the strategy involves parish lay ministers, who will pass out “vocation cards and materials that can be simply given to worthy men and woman that one knows,” Forsen wrote. Nearly all diocesan seminarians at St. Johns “are there because at some point in their lives a person said to them, ‘You'd make a good priest.’"

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

(Posting 6,900)

Venezuelans celebrate beatification of Mother Candelaria de San Jose

Fifty thousand people were on hand at the Central University of Venezuelan’s baseball stadium for the beatification of Mother Candelaria de San Jose, the country’s second blessed.

The Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.

After Cardinal Jorge Urosa Sabino read the official document requesting the inscription of Mother Candelaria into the list of the blessed, Cardinal Saraiva proclaimed the formula for beatification, establishing her feast day as February 1.

During his homily, Cardinal Saraiva underscored that the work of Blessed Candelaria bore witness to the theology of consolation, because through her actions she conveyed joy to the sick, and therefore she was an instrument of God’s consolation. “The love of God is intimately united with charity for one’s neighbor. She bears witness that only love can change the lives of human beings. She invites us to be concerned for the infirm, to alleviate the loneliness of the elderly and the poor.”

“This beatification is very important because it is the first one to take place in our country and we hope there will be many more,” Cardinal Urosa said. “What’s important is that we want to reaffirm our Christian living through the way of Jesus Christ, which is the only one to happiness. She personifies the triumph of faith over unbelief, love over hatred, solidarity and mercy over egoism and indifference, peace over violence and war.”

Milagros del Valle Candelaria Bermúdez Meza, the 12 year-old girl whose miracle led to the beatification of the nun was present at the Mass with her mother, Rafaela Meza, as well as nuns from the Carmelite Sisters of the Third Regular Order, founded by Mother Candelaria.

Evelín González, superior of the congregation, said the ceremony represented a moment of renewal for Catholics because of the importance of the Church’s recognition of the virtues of this simple woman.

“We are happy to see her raised to the altar. Another miracle that should be studied with care is needed for canonization. There are experts who should confirm it,” she 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

Malaysian Catholic newspaper continues legal fight to use “Allah”

A Catholic newspaper in Malaysia on Friday continued its fight to use the word “Allah” to signify God in its newspapers.

The newspaper has appealed to the High Court to hear its case.

On Friday before an audience of two hundred, including Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur Murphy Pakiam, High Court Judge Lau Bee Lan decided that the arguments from both sides would be heard on Tuesday to determine if the case should proceed.

In January the Catholic weekly The Herald almost had its publishing license revoked because it used the word “Allah” in its Malay section.

“Allah” is both the Malay and the Arabic word for God.

Authorities warned the paper not to use the word again in the future.

The Malaysian Cabinet last year ruled that the word could be used only by Muslims. The internal security minister also issued a ban on its use in a non-Muslim context.

When the paper’s license was renewed in January, the publishers assumed they could use “Allah.” They are seeking to ensure their right to use the word even after the permit expires in October.

"We are asking the court to say the decision was wrong and quash it and declare that The Herald can use the word 'Allah' in its publication," the paper's lead counsel, Porres Royan, told reporters after an initial hearing at the Kuala Lumpur High Court last Friday.

"If we don't comply with the decision beyond October, the government can refuse to renew our publication permit based on the earlier order," said Annou Xavier, a lawyer for the paper.

Many Malaysians are concerned about what they see as a growing “Islamization” of the country.

The Herald circulates among the country’s 850,000 Catholics, with articles written in English, Chinese, Tamil, and Malay.

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

Pope's visit to France confirmed by bishops

The Bishops’ Conference of France has officially announced that Pope Benedict XVI will travel to France for the 150th anniversary of the Marian apparitions that took place in Lourdes.

The trip, which is scheduled for September 12-15, 2008, will begin with a greeting by French officials after which the Holy Father will head to the College des Bernardins where he will address the “world of culture.”

Then the Pope will pray vespers at the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

Following the prayer service, he will address young people gathered at the Cathedral.

On Saturday, September 13, the Pope will celebrate Mass in Paris and afterwards travel to Lourdes.

“During his visit to Paris, Benedict XVI desires to meet with representatives of other Christian confessions and of the Jewish and Muslim communities,” the French bishops’ said in their statement.

“In Lourdes on Saturday afternoon, the Pope will carry out the first stages of the jubilee way. That night, at the end of the candlelight procession, he will address the pilgrims,” the bishops said.

On Sunday, September 14, the Holy Father will “preside at Mass for the pilgrims. That afternoon, he will meet with the Bishops’ Conference of France and end the day with a Eucharistic procession.”

Finally, on Monday morning, the Pope will take part in the fourth stage of the jubilee way and will bless the infirm during a Eucharistic celebration. He will return to Rome on Monday afternoon.

“The bishops of France express to the Holy Father their gratitude and invite the faithful to mobilize themselves to warmly welcome the Pope and to give thanks to God for his message in Lourdes,” the bishops said in conclusion.

More information on the trip can be found at: and

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

A Moscow Contract on Pope John Paul II

Who signed the “informal” death sentence against John Paul II?

The party document quoted by the author of the book listed nine prominent Soviet CP members: the chief of the Soviet propaganda - Mikhail Suslov, members of the Presidium of the CC CPSU - Andrei Kirilenko, Konstantin Chernenko, secretaries of the CC - Konstantin Rusakov (responsible for the contacts with the PUWP - the Polish Communist party), Vladimir Ponomarev, Ivan Kapitonov, Mikhail Zimyanin, Vladimir Dolgikh and Mikhail Gorbachev.

Gorbachev’s responsibility?

In 1979, Gorbachev was promoted to the Politburo as a candidate member, and received full membership only in 1980. Gorbachev owed his steady rise to power to the patronage of Mikhail Suslov the powerful chief ideologist of the CPSU, and Yuri Andropov head of the KGB (see: Mikhail Gorbachev, career Wikipedia).

Was Mikhail Gorbachev involved in the later KGB plot against John Paul II, which led to the historic attempt at the pope’s life on May 13, 1981?

The document quoted by John O. Koehler listed him only as a co-signatory of the “instruction” to the KGB. There is no direct proof that the future General Secretary of the CC CPSU and the father of perestroyka wanted the Polish pope to be assassinated or that he had enough influence to put his consent to action.

The Soviet leadership, then under Leonid Brezhnev, fully realized that the rise of a Polish cardinal, Karol Wojtyla, to the papacy would cause trouble to the Communist regime in Poland and to the entire Soviet bloc.

The new pope, elected just one year ago (1978) was known as a staunch anti-Communist, though also as a talented negotiator who avoided a head-to-head clash with the regime. In his first year at the papal throne in the Vatican, John Paul II received a strong backing from the West, and from the United States in particular.

His first pilgrimage to Poland, in June 1979, was a huge manifestation of the Polish nation’s support to the Church and his symbolic words at the Warsaw Victory Square, “You are not who they say you are.

Let me remind you who you are,” by restoring to the Polish people their authentic history and culture created a revolution of conscience that, fourteen months later, produced the 10-million strong nonviolent Solidarity resistance movement.

The Polish pope received a strong backing also from the American intelligence, the CIA. As a famous British journalist and the author of “Pontiff”, Gordon Thomas, wrote for Canada Free Press in January 2007 in his article “The pope and the secret world of intelligence”:

“It was the CIA who kept him continuously informed on global events. As well as the CIA Rome station, based in the shadow of the Vatican walls, the agency operated a network of what Casey called “our messengers”. They included Lee lacocca, the car magnate; Spyros Skouras, the shipping millionaire; Robert Abplanalp, the aerosol tycoon; Barron Hilton, the hotelier; William Simon, a former US Treasury Secretary; and Robert Wagner, the former Mayor of New York who became President Carter’s personal envoy to the Holy See. Finally there was Clare Boothe who served on the US government’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, which oversaw the CIA’s covert operations.Throughout his long reign, John Paul knew he was never more than a telephone call from the present CIA director. In turn they had the direct line to the ivory-white telephone on the pontiff’s desk: extension 3101 in the Apostolic Palace.

Casey’s “messengers” unfailingly called the number to let John Paul know “an extra important message” was being hand-carried from Casey, and later his successors.

Those messages remain one of the many secrets stored in the Vatican archives.”

In November 1979, the Soviet leadership had all reasons to worry about the influence of John Paul II unpon Poland and the whole Communist world. John O. Koehler quotes a KGB defector (1980) Victor Sheimov from a book “The Tower of Secrets.”

In his earlier book “Stasi: The Untold Story Of The East German Secret Police” (Basic books, 2000) ) Koehler expressed a similar opinion, now repeated in his just published Polish edition “It’s about the Pope”: Spies in the Vatican” (ZNAK, 2008). Let me quote from the article in “Wprost” weekly:

“Sheimov wrote that the KGB was afraid of the consequences stemming from the election of a Polishman as the Roman Catholic Pope. In April of 1979, the East German secret service, Stasi, prepared a report with a conclusion that ‘the pope, who had a direct contact with Marxism and took an uncompromising stand against it, will firmly defend the interests of the Church’. Victor Sheimov also quotes his conversation with Valeriy Titov, then a security officer of the Soviet Embassy in Warsaw.

Titow openly complained to him about the hostile attitude of the Poles to the Russians and, mentioning the newly elected pope he warned: ‘If [the pope] gave a sign to them, Poles would go to the streets and they would fight against our tanks.” Both Soviet officers agreed that the Soviet Union had only two ways out: to kill the pope, that could be a mistake, or to support [General] Wojciech Jaruzelski, because ‘if we go out of here, [Poles] will hang him.’”

According to “Wprost” (and Koehler), Sheimov also talked to General Nikolai P. Kuritsin, then a KGB liaison officer to the Polish security service [SB]. When Kuritsin learned that the KGB HQ wanted to [physically] eliminate John Paul II, he got mad and exlaimed: “Idiots! This is a political suicide. Not only political. If we liquidate the pope, our days would be numbered. Even if we tried to hold on, we would have to get rid of the Poles – everyone of them will sacrify his life for him.’”

I think we can’t directly blame Mikhail Gorbachev with a decisively hostile attitude towards the Polish pope. In November 1979, the Soviet leadership had to express their disapproval for the new-elected sovereign of the Roman Catholic Church. Later on, when Gorbachev became the supreme Soviet leader (1985) he took a more concilliatory stand versus the Holy See and John Paul II. He met the Polish pope for the first time in 1989, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and on April 5, 2005 he praised him in Moscow by saying that Pope John Paul II’s “devotion to his followers is a remarkable example to all of us.”

The notorious ‘Bulgarian connection’

The authors of the above mentioned article in “Wprost” weekly recall other Koehler’s findings concerning the KGB plot against the late pope. “In the German archives John Koehler found KGB documents with an order to hush up the participation of the Bulgarian secret services in the operation to kill John Paul II.

In September of 1982, general Markus Wolf, the head of DDR’s Main Intelligence Directorate and then the head of Stasi, received a sealed envelope with an inscription [in German]: “Operation Papst” [Operation Pope]. Its sender was the Active Operations Department of the Bulgarian intelligence.

The content of the said envelope was later lost. But soon after that instruction some Western left-wing media supported by the KGB began to publish articles to divert attention from the participation of the KGB and the Bulgarian secret services in the attempt to kill the pope. This could be an indirect confirmation that the Soviet authorities had been seriously engaged in the organization of the attempt [on St. Peter’s Square, on May 13, 1981].”

I remember these propaganda efforts wery well. In 1982 I went to Sofia to interview two Bulgarian intelligence agents who had escaped from Italy soon after the Mehmet Ali Agca’s attempt on the life of John Paul II. One of them, Zhelyu Vassilev granted to me an exclusive and very emotional interview, later printed in a Polish weekly Przeglad Tygodniowy.

Bulgaria’s special services blamed the so-called Bulgarian connection in the assassination attempt on Western services, CIA in particular and the Italian services which visited Turkish gunman Ali Agca in prison shortly after the shooting.

Following their visit, Ali Agca said the plot for the assassination was hatched in July -August 1980 during his stay in Bulgaria. In his words he contacted Todor Ajvazov, a financier from the Bulgarian Embassy in Rome and Zhelyu Vassilev, secretary of the military attache at the Embassy in Rome. According to Agca Sergei Antonov, the only Bulgarian arrested for complicity in the papal attack, was to be in charge of the transportation of Agca and the other gunman Oral Chelik.

Sergei Antonov was held for more than three years in Italian prisons only to be acquitted over lack of evidence. Shattered and physically damaged, he returned to Bulgaria unable to carry on a conversation or concentrate on complex tasks, symptoms his friends say came from the use of psychotropic drugs in his interrogation.

In 2005, I tried to contact Antonov, with the help of Bulgarian journalists. I was told, he was ill and could not control himself. Antonov was found dead at his apartment in Sofia on the 2d of August 2007. Doctors said, his dead body remained there for several days. He was 58, living alone, ruined.

One year later, I tried to contact and interview Mehmet Ali Agca in a Turkish prison. My Turkish friend, a known journalist helping me, was refused a visit to Agca by the Police. She told me they threatened her and blocked her any contact with the assassin, who had been briefly set free and then rearrested and put to jail.

The Bulgarian trail still remains inaccessible.

Spies in the Vatican

The article in “Wprost” weekly concluded that the Communist secret services had placed many spies in the Vatican, since the beginning of the Cold War. The then Polish secret intelligence service scored a big success placing a spy near Pope Paul VI. “That person had access to top secrets.

He reported about conversations of Paul VI with diplomats from France, Britain or Vietnam”, said priest Tadeusz Isakowicz-Zaleski, who was writing a book about the activity of the Communist secret services in the Vatican.”

“But the most outstanding successes in the placing of agents in the Vatican scored the East German Stasi. From 1971 to 1980 Stasi located there at least 17 spies. One of their more valuable agents was a priest, Paul Dissemond, who had been recruited in 1974 as agent “Peter.” Strong proofs of “Peter’s” collaboration with the Stasi have been presented in Koehler’s book…

According to John O. Koehler, every more important department of the Holy See had been infiltrated. Koehler asserts that after the fall of Communism in the USSR the KGB and then the FSB never stopped its infiltration of the Vatican.”

“Moscow constantly denies any [Soviet] participation in the attempt(s) against the [Polish] pope. The present Russian authorities do not want to disclose the archives about that subject. Therefore Polish investigators count on the Hungarian archives and on the archives of the recently opened Czech counterpart of the [Polish] Institute of National Remembrance [IPN]”, concluded Pasztelanski and Sadowski, the authors of the article.

I think we can also count on Italian cooperation in solving of some riddles of the Communist secret services plotting against John Paul II and participating in the attempts on his life. There were more than just one attempt, that of May 13, 2008.

Back in 2007, journalists of “Wprost” weekly interviewed an Italian general Giuseppe Cucchi, who confirmed that the then Polish Military Intelligence (WSI) could have known (from an Arab source) about the assassination attempt, some days before May 13, 1981.

The confirmation of the alleged KGB and other Communist plots has a fundamental historical significance for Poland, the Catholic Church and the world opinion. But in the past the secretive nature of the Soviet regime did not allow to disclose the truth about the Katyn Forest mass murder of Polish officers and civilians on the 5th of March 1940 until Soviet scholars revealed in 1989 that Joseph Stalin had indeed ordered the massacre, and in 1990 Mikhail Gorbachev admitted that the NKVD had executed the Poles and confirmed two other burial sites similar to the site at Katyn: Mednoje and Pyatikhatki.

On 30 October 1989 Gorbachev allowed a delegation of several hundred Poles, organized by a Polish association named Families of Katyn Victims, to visit the Katyn memorial. This group included former U.S. National Security Advisor, Professor Zbig Brzezinski. It took 49 years to the Soviets to finally admit to their crime. But they never admitted Katyn and other Soviet mass murders of Poles were genocide.

How long shall we have to wait for a Russian disclosure of Soviet plots against the late Pope John Paul II?

Another 50 years, or more?


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

Spanish bishops call for media ethics courses

The Spanish bishops’ Committee on Social Communications Media said last week that due to the influence of the media on young people, there needs to be an “ethical and moral reflection on the media” in schools, and therefore ethics in the media should be part of the school curriculum.

In their message for the 42nd World Communications Day to be marked on May 4, the bishops said they hoped a moral and ethical reflection on communications would be included in the curriculum of school religion classes and youth catechesis, as well as in the formation classes for parents and newlyweds.

We are not only “morally obliged” to defend ourselves “from the dangers of misusing the media,” the bishops said, “but also educate ourselves about appropriate ethical and moral criteria, according to the principles of Christian doctrine, that will help us to know how to chose what is true, good and beautiful.”

They also expressed their support for media professionals and business leaders who “day after day struggle to be free of the pressure from consumer and ideological interests.”

A courageous ethical position “prevents the media from becoming a ‘spokesman’ for economic materialism and ethical relativism,” the statement continued. When the media is an instrument of hope it contributes effectively “to literacy teaching and socialization,” to development and dialogue between peoples, the bishops said.

The bishops recognized as well the difficulties faced by “religious reporters in the private media” in a society that is estranged from God, “and where it seems there is only interest in what is scandalous and subjective about the Church, thus distorting her true image.”

However, “in a cultural world that’s so adverse to what is Catholic,” the presence of the Church and that of the Church’s media “is essential for the Church to have a voice in society and so that the traditional media and the new technologies are at the service of evangelization.”

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Sotto Voce

Costs of papal visit to U.S. hard to pin down but total millions

Pope Benedict XVI's recent U.S. visit has been credited with improving his image among Americans, sparking greater interest about him and spurring much-needed evangelization efforts in the country.

But those benefits came with a price tag of at least $12.5 million and perhaps much more.

The many dioceses, governments, transportation agencies and hosting facilities involved in the pope's April 15-20 visits to Washington and New York varied widely in their willingness to provide estimated tallies of their expenditures.

Those that did provide estimates included the Archdiocese of Washington ($3 million), the District of Columbia ($2.2 million), The Catholic University of America in Washington ($800,000), the city of Yonkers, N.Y. ($400,000) and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority ($250,000). Among the archdioceses that estimated their spending were Louisville, Ky., $250,000; Boston, $180,000; Philadelphia, $177,700; and Baltimore, $46,000.

Put together, those expenses totaled an estimated $7.3 million. But that figure excludes what is believed to be a significant chunk of the overall expenditures, from the Archdiocese of New York.

It also leaves out the cost of the army of Secret Service agents assigned to the papal detail and expenses for the Vatican, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium, St. Patrick's Cathedral, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y., the city of New York, Andrews Air Force Base and Port Authority.

Since the combined expenses for the Archdiocese of Washington and the District of Columbia are estimated at roughly $5.2 million, it's logical to expect the costs for the Archdiocese of New York and the city of New York to be the same or higher, said Jesuit Father Thomas J. Reese, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University in Washington.

If that theory is correct, the cost of the U.S. papal visit would be at the very least $12.5 million.

Joseph Zwilling, director of communications for the Archdiocese of New York, said he would not speculate how much it cost the archdiocese to host the papal events at St. Patrick's Cathedral, ground zero, Yankee Stadium or St. Joseph's Church, and hasn't decided if he will make those figures public once they have all been tabulated.

However, Zwilling did say officials at Yankee Stadium waived the rental fee for the April 20 Mass.

The city of New York had not provided CNS with its costs as of April 29, but Newsday reported April 21 that when Pope John Paul II visited New York in 1995 city officials affirmed overtime expenses for police officers to be about $4 million. In a post-Sept. 11, 2001 world with tighter security measures, that figure was likely higher for this trip, the Newsday article said.

The U.S. Secret Service never makes public what it spends on individual security details or how many agents it assigns to any particular mission, said Malcolm Wiley, a public affairs official for the organization.

During the pope's grueling six-day U.S. visit, he publicly celebrated Mass at Nationals Park in Washington and St. Patrick's Cathedral and Yankee Stadium in New York, presided over a vespers service at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, met with victims of priestly sexual abuse, addressed the United Nations, spoke to the U.S. bishops and Catholic educators at Catholic University and prayed at ground zero where thousands of Americans died following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Officials from some of these organizations said most, if not all, the money their groups put out was recouped by ticket sales for transportation to papal events, donations, program advertisements and other fundraising efforts.

"No funds are coming from archdiocesan general funds, parishes or annual appeal collections," said Susan Gibbs, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Washington. "The visit was funded largely through generous contributions of a number of people who really wanted to contribute as a gift to the people of the United States."

Most of the District of Columbia's outlay was for police services.

"We work regularly with our partners in the federal government to reimburse the city during visits from heads of state and we will likely do the same in the case of the papal visit," said Tracy Sandler, a spokeswoman in the office of Washington Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.

The city of Yonkers is also looking for ways to get reimbursed for some of the estimated $400,000 in expenses it incurred when the pope met with youths, seminarians and disabled youngsters at St. Joseph's Seminary April 19, but Mayor Philip A. Amicone believes the positive spotlight the papal visit shone on his city makes the price worthwhile, said Amanda Modugno, a spokeswoman for the mayor's office.

The added bonus for the Catholic mayor was the opportunity to personally meet Pope Benedict backstage at the seminary, Modugno said.

Though the Washington transit authority spent about $250,000 to accommodate increased ridership during the papal visit, spokeswoman Cathy Asato said she believes the agency regained most of that from fares. The organization sold more than 9,000 all-day special passes for $9 each April 17, the day of the Nationals Park Mass. Its subway system enjoyed its third-highest ridership day in its 32-year history on that date.

Of the $800,000 spent by Catholic University, about half was recouped by donations, said university spokesman Victor Nakas.

"Revenues for much of the remainder came from funds that were already in the university budget for scheduled campus improvements," Nakas said. "In some cases we simply accelerated the scheduled improvements."

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Sotto Voce

Vatican says Christians, Buddhists should work jointly on environment

Christians and Buddhists should work together to promote respect for the earth and a safe, clean environment, said the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

In a message for the feast of Vesakh, a commemoration of the major events in the life of Buddha, the Vatican council urged Christians and Buddhists to work together to contribute to the public debate concerning climate change and sustainable development.

The Vatican released the message April 29 as many Buddhist communities were preparing to celebrate Vesakh May 12-18.

The message, signed by the council's president, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, and secretary, Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, said Christian and Buddhist traditions respect creation and "have a common concern to promote care for the environment which we all share."

All people should be concerned with the future of the planet including "matters of grave concern" such as climate change, environmental preservation and sustainable development, it said.

Governments, industries, and grass-roots groups have recognized that there are "ethical implications present in all economic and social development," and they are paying more attention to biodiversity, climate change and protecting the environment, it said.

While religious leaders have been adding their voices to the public debate, it said, Christians and Buddhists can work together to "be harbingers of hope for a clean, safe and harmonious world."

"Christianity and Buddhism have always upheld a great respect for nature and taught that we should be grateful stewards of the earth," said the message.

The only way to ensure efforts to protect the environment will never be sullied by human greed or hindered by special interests is to help people understand the relationship between "the divine Creator, creation and creatures."

The message asked Christians and Buddhists to collaborate more on environmental projects and remind people of their individual responsibility to care for the earth through public education and "our good example" as caring stewards.

The message said initiatives focusing on "recycling, energy conservation, the prevention of indiscriminate destruction of plant and animal life, and the protection of waterways" are some things that would "foster good will and promote cordial relationships among peoples.

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Sotto Voce

New Hampshire diocese opposes plaintiff's bid to re-open sex-abuse lawsuit

The Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, has asked a court to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a man who says he was molested by a Catholic priest, since the plaintiff has already accepted the terms of a settlement in a previous lawsuit.

Daniel Brown had filed suit against the diocese, asking for $130 million in damages, on the charge that he was sexually assaulted and infected with the HIV virus by a priest.

The lawsuit alleges that the diocese was negligent in allowing the priest, Father Wilfred Houle, to continue in ministry after earlier complaints about his sexual misconduct. Father Houle died in 1987.

In its response to the complaint, the Manchester diocese points out that Brown had approved a settlement that the diocese reached with a group of abuse victims in 2003.

It is well-established law that once a legal claim is settled a plaintiff may not reallege the same conduct in a subsequent lawsuit," the diocese argued.

Brown counters that he was coerced to accept the earlier settlement, in which he received $490,000.


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Sotto Voce

Pope Benedict’s Holy War Against Liberation Theology in South America: Pontiff and Conservative Church Face a Rollback (Contribution)

The recent election of former Bishop Fernando Lugo as President of Paraguay poses a sticky dilemma for the Vatican and underscores the hostile political environment facing Pope Benedict XVI when he arrives in South America.

Lugo, who was known to his constituents as the “Bishop of the Poor” for his support of landless peasants and for being an advocate of Liberation Theology, a school of thought which took shape in Latin America in the 1960s.

Recognizing the pressing need for social justice, Liberation Theology was minted by Pope John XXIII to challenge the Church to defend the oppressed and the poor. Since its emergence, Liberation Theology has consistently mixed politics and religion.

Its adherents have often been active in labor unions and left-wing political parties. Followers of Liberation Theology take inspiration from fallen martyrs like Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador and Dorothy Mae Stang, an American-born nun who was murdered by ranching interests in Brazil.

Romero, an outspoken voice for social change, was gunned down in 1980 by a right wing death squad during a Mass in the chapel of San Salvador’s Divine Providence hospital. Stang, an advocate of the poor and the environment, was shot to death in the Brazilian Amazon in February 2005; her assailants were later linked to a powerful local landlord.

Joseph Ratzinger: Doctrinal Czar

During the 1980s and 1990s Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, acted as John Paul II’s doctrinal czar. At the time, John Paul was in the midst of a fierce battle to silence prominent Church liberals. “This conception of Christ as a political figure, a revolutionary, as the subversive of Nazareth,” the Pontiff once said, “does not tally with the church’s catechism.”

In 1983 the Pope wagged his finger at Sandinista government minister and Nicaraguan priest, Ernesto Cardenal on a trip to Managua, warning the latter to “straighten out the situation in your church.” Cardenal was one of the most prominent Liberation Theologians of the Sandinista era.

Originally a liberal reformer, Ratzinger changed his tune once he became an integrant in the Vatican hierarchy. As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog agency, Cardinal Ratzinger warned against the temptation to view Christianity in an exclusively political light. Liberation Theology, he once said, was dangerous as it fused “the Bible’s view of history with Marxist dialectics.”

Calling Liberation Theology a “singular heresy,” Ratzinger went on the offensive. He blasted the new movement as a “fundamental threat” to the church and prohibited some of its leading proponents from speaking publicly. In an effort to clean house, Ratzinger even summoned outspoken priests to Rome and censured them on grounds that they were abandoning the church’s spiritual role for inappropriate socioeconomic activism.

As Pope, Ratzinger has not sought to hide his lack of esteem for Liberation Theology. During a recent trip to Brazil, he was pressed by reporters to comment on Oscar Romero’s tragic murder in El Salvador. The Pope complained that Romero’s cause had been hijacked by supporters of liberation theology. Commenting on a new book about the slain archbishop, the Pope said that Romero should not be seen simply as a political figure. Hoping to avoid any meaningful political discussion on the matter, Benedict said “He was killed during the consecration of the Eucharist. Therefore, his death is testimony of the faith.”

How to Handle Lugo?

Despite his best efforts however, Benedict has not been able to impede the rise of the Bishop of the Poor in Paraguay. Lugo long has had differences with the Vatican, which could now create some political friction between Asunción and the Papal See. When Lugo left the priesthood to pursue politics, the Vatican refused to accept his resignation, arguing that the Bishop already made a “lifetime commitment.” Defying the Pope, Lugo formed the center left Patriotic Alliance, which brought together leftist unions, indigenous people and poor farmers.

When Lugo announced his intention to run in what turned out to be his victorious presidential race, the Vatican sent him a letter declaring that the Holy See had “learned with surprise” that some political parties “have the intention of presenting him as a candidate in the coming Presidential election in Paraguay.” It added: “The acceptance of that offer would be clearly against the serious responsibility of a bishop … Canon Law prohibits priests from participating in political parties or labor unions.” The letter asked Lugo “in the name of Jesus Christ” to “seriously reflect on his behavior”.

Lugo replied tartly, “The Pope can either accept my decision or punish me. But I am in politics already.” Hardly amused, the Vatican suspended Lugo from his duties “a divinis,” meaning that he could no longer say Mass or carry out other priestly functions such as administering the sacraments. This was enough to enable Lugo to stand in the Presidential elections, but his victory now presents the Vatican with a dilemma over whether to “reduce him to lay status.” Vatican officials said it was up to the Pope to decide, and that Benedict would “take time to study the situation”.

Brazilian Challenge

Though Benedict has long opposed Liberation Theology, it’s unclear what he might do at this point to halt its spread. Unlike the 1980s when South America was in the midst of right-wing military rule, the region has now undergone a decided shift to the left which is confounding the Papacy.

In Brazil, the world’s most populous Roman Catholic nation, some 80,000 “base communities,” as the grass-roots building blocks of liberation theology are called, are flourishing. What’s more, nearly one million “Bible circles” meet regularly to read and discuss scripture from the viewpoint of the theology of liberation.

Liberation Theology advocates have strong links to the labor movement which helped propel the current regime into power; this history turned President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva into being a long time ally. The movement has been particularly strong in poorer areas of the country such as the Amazon, the hinterlands of northeast Brazil and the outskirts of large urban centers like São Paulo, an urban center of nearly 20 million people.

In the latter city, the followers of liberation theology prominently display their politics. For example, during last year’s May Day celebration, liberation theologists draped a wooden cross with black banners labeled “imperialism” and “privatization” and applauded when the homily criticized the government’s “neoliberal” economic policies, the kind backed by Washington.

Chávez and Pope Benedict

Try as he might, Benedict has been unable to halt the re-emergence of Liberation Theology, and Paraguay and Brazil are just the tip of the iceberg. For years Venezuela has been a religious battleground, with President Chávez pursuing a combative relationship with the Catholic Church. Unlike some other Latin American countries which had a stronger liberation theology movement, the Venezuelan Church never had a leftist tendency except among diocesan priests.

A clash between the government and the Church was probably inevitable, and shortly after taking office Chávez started to chastise Venezuelan bishops, accusing them of complicity with the corrupt administrations that preceded his rule. The Venezuelan leader accused the Vatican’s former representative in Venezuela, Cardinal Rosalio Castillo Lara, of allying himself with the country’s “rancid oligarchy.” Memorably, Chávez suggested that priests such as Castillo Lara ought to subject themselves to an exorcism because “the devil has snuck into their clerical robes.” Incensed, the cardinal compared Chávez to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

During the April 2002 coup, prominent Catholics such as Cardinal Ignacio Velasco sided with the opposition against the president. Velasco was even accused of offering his residence as a meeting place for the coup plotters. What is more, he signed the “Carmona decree” that swept away Venezuela’s democratic institutions. Senior Catholic bishops themselves attended the inauguration ceremony for Pedro Carmona, Venezuela’s Dictator-For-a-Day.

But when Chávez was able to quickly overturn the coup and return to power, the hard line Church establishment was humiliated. Relishing his triumph Chávez launched a rhetorical broadside on the Vatican, calling on the Pope to apologize, on behalf of the Catholic Church, for the “holocaust” of the indigenous peoples of Latin America during the colonial era, and for the imposition of Christianity. The Pope, who is close to Castillo Lara, is reportedly anti-Chávez but has met with the Venezuelan leader at the Vatican.

Hoping to neutralize the power of the Catholic Church, Chávez frequently quotes from the Bible. Puckishly, he also tells his supporters in his public addresses that Christ was an anti-imperialist. Even as Chávez spars with the Church, Protestants have provided a key pillar of the president’s political support. Over the last few years, Chávez has done his utmost to cultivate their support, with Protestants making up 29% of the population. He even declared that he was no longer a Catholic, but a member of the Christian Evangelical Council.

In The Andes, Pope Faces Hostile Political Environment

In the Andes, the situation is not much more promising for Pope Benedict.

Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa is a Catholic Socialist and has called for a “new Catholicism” in the 21st century which would challenge globalized capitalism. The President has said that his real education came from working as a lay Salesian missionary in the mid-1980s in the largely indigenous province of Cotopaxi. During his speeches, Correa invokes the words of Leonidas Proaño, probably Ecuador’s most famous liberation theologian.

Bolivia’s Evo Morales has never been a fan of ecclesiastical authority and has said that Catholic bishops “historically damaged the country” by functioning as “an instrument of the oligarchs.” What’s more, Morales tapped Rafael Puente Calvo, an ex-Jesuit and a staunch liberation theologian, to be his Deputy Minister of the Interior.

In Paraguay, Brazil, Venezuela, and up and down the Andes Pope Benedict faces a very changed political climate from the 1980s. A new generation of leaders, allied to the Pope’s ideological foes, has to be making life difficult for the conservative church hierarchy. If he wants the Vatican to maintain its influence in the region, Pope Benedict is going to have to be creative, diplomatic and extremely cautious in his regional initiatives.

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Sotto Voce

More action urged against former North Richland Hills priest

Saying that the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth has done little to stop abusive priests, victim advocates went to diocese offices Monday to ask Bishop Kevin Vann to visit parishes where an HIV-positive priest served and to urge victims to seek help.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his recent visit to the United States, urged bishops, priests and parishioners to heal wounds caused by clergy sex abuse, said David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

The diocese is "not doing everything possible" about the Rev. Philip Magaldi, a former associate pastor in North Richland Hills, he said.

The Rev. Michael Olson, Fort Worth vicar general, said Monday that he has already visited the churches where Magaldi served. In addition, diocese officials in February notified the media about the priest, Olson told Clohessy and three other SNAP members.

Vann was out of town Monday.

The diocese also issued an alert in English and Spanish in the weekly diocese newspaper and on its Web site, Olson said.

SNAP asked that diocese officials move Magaldi, who has been accused of abusing minors, into a secure treatment facility. SNAP officials also want to buy an ad in the diocese newspaper asking victims or witnesses of abuse by Magaldi to contact them. Olson did not commit to accepting the ad Monday.

Vann has asked the Vatican to formally reject Magaldi's rights and status as a priest, diocese officials said. Magaldi is in poor health in an undisclosed nursing home, and the diocese does not have the authority or constitutional right to move him, Olson said.

The diocese said it has contacted the North Richland Hills Police Department about allegations of abuse against Magaldi.

"We're supporting the police and any legal action against him," Olson said. "I think what the pope said validates what we are doing."

Magaldi was associate pastor at St. John the Apostle Catholic Church in North Richland Hills from 1993-99. In the early 1990s, he served at St. Mary Catholic Church in Henrietta, St. William Catholic Church in Montague, St. Joseph Catholic Church in Nocona and St. Jerome Catholic Church in Bowie.

He was removed from active priesthood in 1999 by Bishop Joseph Delaney after allegations of sexual misconduct were made against him in Fort Worth and in Rhode Island, where he previously served and was convicted of embezzlement.


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Sotto Voce

Victims' group warns of accused ex-priest

A clergy sexual abuse victims group scheduled a news conference downtown Monday to warn Jacksonville residents about an accused offender and former priest living in the community.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests went ahead with the event despite learning moments beforehand that the former minister, Jose Mena, no longer resides at the downtown address they reported, and that he may be living in Europe instead.

The idea, group spokesman Daniel Frondorf said at the Duval County Courthouse, was to encourage potential victims to seek help.

"Where he is is important, but what also matters is where this guy has been," Frondorf said.

Mena had been at Immaculate Conception parish downtown, where he occasionally helped celebrate Masses from 1999 to 2004 as a retired priest, said Kathleen Bagg-Morgan, a spokeswoman for the Jacksonville-based Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine.

At the time, Mena was living at the Cathedral Residences Towers senior community downtown, Bagg-Morgan said. The facility is not owned or operated by the diocese.

The Catholic church revoked Mena's priestly credentials after a 2005 civil suit against the dioceses of St. Augustine and Orlando.

The plaintiff in that suit, which was settled, accused Mena of sexual abuse at a parish in Sarasota in the late 1960s. The Jacksonville diocese was a co-defendant because it covered that part of the state at the time, Bagg-Morgan said.

Mena is now the target of a lawsuit that a 46-year-old Orlando man filed in February against the Catholic Diocese of Orlando. That suit claims the diocese allowed Mena to function as a priest despite knowledge of credible accusations he was molesting altar boys during the 1970s.

The plaintiff said he was abused by the former priest, now 79, at a parish in Winter Garden during the early and mid-1970s.

Bagg-Morgan said Mena left Jacksonville for his native Spain shortly after the 2005 lawsuit was settled.

Shirley Haynes, the service coordinator at Cathedral Residences Towers, said Mena had not lived at the facility in her three years there and could not confirm he had ever lived there.

Mena cannot serve in active ministry in any Catholic diocese, Bagg-Morgan said, because he has lost his credentials and cannot obtain the requisite "letter of suitability" to change jurisdictions.

The diocese has received no accusations of abuse against Mena from any of its current parishes, Bagg-Morgan said.


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Sotto Voce

The pope's mixed signals (Contribution)

A minor feature of Pope Benedict XVI's trip to the United States on 15-20 April 2008 was to highlight the awkwardness of George W Bush.

The embattled president had already defied protocol by meeting the pontiff at the airport on his arrival, and then compounded embarrassment by hosting a party to celebrate Benedict's 81st birthday, only to find that the pope was otherwise engaged (though several Vatican functionaries turned up to represent him, thus to some degree saving Bush's face).

Yet the "warmth of feeling for the pope was tangible, and so was the good chemistry between the pope and President George Bush," remarked Michael Novak, the neo-conservative Catholic commentator in an interview for the rightwing Catholic news service Zenit.

Indeed, the pope's reception in the US, on the streets as well as on the White House lawn, was warm and generous. Novak, as is his wont, contrasted the US response to what might be expected of Europeans whom he sees as cooler towards the papacy, and irredeemably more secular.

The real target

Here, however, is where the small details of the pope's six-day trip do start to matter. For rather oddly, Benedict had come to praise the secular. In a largely unremarked passage which must have had the 19th-century pontiffs turning in their sarcophagi, he lauded the secular political order, and its separation of church and state. This may be a reality taken for granted in the US and in much - though regrettably not in all - of Europe as well as elsewhere.

It has also been Catholic doctrine since the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s (though as late as the eve of the council there were cardinals in the Roman curia fighting a rearguard action). But even today, some Catholics in the US regard their constitution as an Enlightenment project, and not something to which the devout should sign up. Benedict's praise of the US constitution was, therefore, a significant moment: yet another problem for those apologists for Catholicism who insist that their church's teaching never changes.

On matters of religion and politics, and in a country where bishops have refused the sacrament to politicians who appeared not to be toeing the (Catholic) party line, the pope was reticent. The pope and the president presumably see eye-to-eye on many moral issues, though the former appears to lay rather less emphasis on bioethics than did his predecessor: much less is heard these days of Pope John Paul II's "culture of death." Benedict, however, shares John Paul's firm opposition to the war in Iraq, and is even more in favor of the United Nations.

Indeed, the real reason for the papal trip across the Atlantic may have been his speech to the UN general assembly, delivered on 18 April, rather than a visit the United States as such - though clearly the first could not be done without the other. Since Pope Paul VI first did so, making an address to the general assembly has become a regular feature of a pontificate; more widely, at least since the pontificate of John XXIII in the early 1960s the Vatican has backed the UN as an expression of the solidarity of peoples.

The quiet message

There are other, revealing differences with Benedict's predecessor. Most media interest centered upon the apology which the pope made for the many instances of sexual abuse by American clergy, something that Pope John Paul II avoided. Benedict repeated it on at least three occasions, including to the press corps accompanying him as he flew to Washington.

The diocese most affected by this scandal was Boston, which it seems had been on the original itinerary, but was later dropped; the cardinal of Boston was, however, present when a select few of those who had been abused were invited to meet the pope in Washington's papal nunciature (the Vatican embassy). The cardinal is a new appointment; his predecessor has been exiled to Rome and was not included in the papal entourage.

When he was first elected in 2005, the former Cardinal Ratzinger declared it the mission of his pontificate to make better known the teaching of John Paul II, whom he had served as a member of the Vatican staff for nearly a quarter of a century. Yet he has not greatly imitated his predecessor. The style is certainly more restrained. Although he seemed genuinely pleased to be in the US, and welcomed the plaudits of the crowds, there was little of the populism which marked John Paul's many peregrinations - no kissing of the tarmac, for instance, even if, at his considerable age, he felt capable of it.

The substance is different, too. There have been only two encyclicals in the last three years, Deus Caritas Est ("God is love"), which won great praise both for its content and the clarity of its style; and Spe Salvi ("Saving hope"), which seems to have sunk leaving very little trace, possibly because it was much more academic in tone. If there is a papal program, then after "charity" and "hope" the next encyclical should be on "faith" - though in fact the promise is one on Catholic social doctrine.

The diplomacy of faith

Faith, and the spreading of the faith, is what Christians are supposed to be about: Benedict called his transatlantic trip a missionary journey.

In the modern world, however, Christian mission is highly complex. Benedict has reached out to Muslim scholars, to Jews, and to non-Roman Catholic Christians; at the same time he has ostentatiously baptized a convert from Islam, reintroduced into the Catholic liturgy a prayer for the conversion of the Jews, and declared - or at least, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith over which he used to preside declared in July 2007 - that only the Roman Catholic faith can properly be called a true church (the Orthodox was a church but suffered from the "wound" of not recognizing the primacy of the pope, where the other churches lacked apostolic succession and "cannot be called ‘churches' in the proper sense"). It is hard to see consistency here.

As Cardinal Ratzinger (and possibly as a good German) he expressed opposition to the entry of Turkey into Europe. That is unlikely to happen on his watch in any case, but as pope he has in any case been more circumspect. He wants debate with Islam, but he also wants reciprocity. If there are mosques in Christian lands, why should there not be churches in Muslim territory? This policy appears to be bearing fruit. A church was established in Qatar in March 2008, albeit unobtrusive and with no outward sign of Christianity, leaving only Saudi Arabia without a Christian place of worship - and there are even hopes of there.

Here again, there are mixed signals. One of Benedict's first acts as pope was to remove Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, an Arabist, from his position in the Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and send him in February 2006 as nuncio (ambassador) to Egypt, and emissary to the Arab League. This move took many in the Vatican by surprise, and was widely seen as presaging a tougher attitude to Islam than that fostered by John Paul.

At the time, Fitzgerald's apparent demotion was also thought be an early move in a thoroughgoing reform of the curia (the Vatican administration) by a consummate Vatican insider. It has not happened. Ratzinger may have been dubbed the Vatican "rottweiler" for his pursuit of doctrinal deviance, but as his own replacement he chose an old friend, Archbishop (now Cardinal) William Levada of San Francisco, a moderate man who had upset traditionalists by refusing permission for celebration of mass in the old "tridentine" rite in his diocese.

The "tridentine" rite has become something of a symbol for conservative among Catholics. Pope Benedict has sanctioned it for more common use, perhaps in an effort to win back some of those who left the church in the wake of the liturgical reform - particularly members of the Society of St Pius X (though the society's founder, Archbishop Lefebvre, had complaints in many other areas). In any case, the reintroduction of the "tridentine" rite has not been well received by bishops and clergy at large, though for reasons of loyalty few voice their protests in public.

Smile, you're the pope

That liturgical issue aside, Pope Benedict in his first three years as pope has not made great changes. Even his choice of cardinals who may eventually elect his successor has been unsurprising - the usual curial officials, the usual bishops of important dioceses. Perhaps the 81-year-old Benedict does not believe he will govern the church long enough to cause any major shift of policy. His contribution may in time be seen as more intellectual than practical.

In this respect, his papacy does represent one significant change.

The favoured theologian of pontiffs at least since Leo XIII at the end of the 19th century has been St Thomas Aquinas; but Benedict's is St Augustine of Hippo.

Augustine had a much more pessimistic view of humankind and its potentiality than did Thomas.

Yet Benedict himself, from the evidence of his United States trip, nonetheless appears cheerful enough. The pope perhaps has heeded the remark of an early 16th-century predecessor: "God has given us the papacy, let us enjoy it."


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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

Controversial Episcopal bishop scheduled for Catholic book trade conference

A group of Episcopalians has invited controversial Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson to speak during a major Catholic trade show for booksellers.

Though Robinson’s appearance is not directly sponsored by the trade show, he is listed in the show’s schedule of events.

Robinson is the Bishop of New Hampshire, and was ordained a bishop despite his leaving his wife to live in a homosexual relationship.

His elevation to the Episcopal Church’s leadership has inflamed controversy throughout the Anglican Communion, and furthered speculation that the unity of the communion could be ruptured by schism.

The Religious Booksellers Trade Exhibit (RBTE) is a major trade show for Catholic bookstores that has been held for 17 years. It meets in St. Charles, Illinois and is open to other religious denominations, including the Episcopalians who invited Bishop Robinson.

Bob Byrns, the RBTE show’s organizer, said in a letter that the trade show was organized “simply for the purpose of bringing liturgical book and gift sellers and their vendors together under one roof to educate ourselves about our industry, and to offer a venue in which products would be displayed and purchased, while at the same time offering additional opportunities for networking, entertainment, and worship.”

Byrns said the show’s speakers and musical artists were recommended by the publishers and retailers.

“We attempt to balance the program to meet the needs of both our Catholic and Episcopal attendees, as well as folks from other denominations,” Byrns said.

Church Publishing Incorporated, the publishing arm of the Episcopal Church, had suggested that Bishop Robinson be invited to speak at an RBTE lunch.

“We told them that would not be possible,” Byrns said. When the organization asked if Bishop Robinson could speak at the Episcopal Booksellers Association (EBA) dinner on Wednesday evening, Byrns said, “We told them that we would need to seek the approval of the EBA membership.”

According to Byrns, the EBA membership “overwhelmingly wished to extend an invitation to the Bishop, and so it happened.”

Bishop Robinson’s talk, titled “Charting the Course of the Anglican Communion,” is announced on the trade show’s web site in the RBTE schedule, which says that the talk is sponsored by Church Publishing Incorporated. The bishop’s talk is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 28.

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