Saturday, December 28, 2013

'Healing Message' from Pope Francis Provokes Conservative Outrage

By Sara Kugler


NOTE: This commentary was first published December 24, 2013 by MSNBC.


Pope Francis sent Christmas gifts last week to two thousand immigrants living in a shelter near the Vatican. The packages, containing pre-paid international calling cards, stamps, and a metro pass, were a thoughtful gift for immigrants who may be estranged from their families and lacking the means to connect with them.

Fordham University Professor of Theology Michael Peppard told Sunday’s Melissa Harris-Perry panel that the gifts exemplify the Pope’s focus on a “culture of encounter” by giving a gift that “enabled people to encounter their loved ones and have some sense of family stability.”

The new pope’s first apostolic exhortation, released in late November, is critical of what he describes as “unbridled consumerism” and its impact on how we value human life. “Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless… Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded,” the Pope wrote.

Pope Francis has also made changes in the Vatican that indicate a desire to move the tone of the church, included removing conservative Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, who has advocated for pro-choice Catholics to be denied Communion. Reverend Paul Raushenbush, Senior Religion Editor at the Huffington Post, described that decision as a move towards creating more inclusivity and a “healing message” in the church.

The exhortation from the pope sparked outrage among some conservatives in the United States. Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh decried it as “pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of People.” Anthea Butler, professor of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, suggested on MHP that such criticism is ignorant of traditional Catholic doctrine that focuses on poverty.

“What we’ve heard from the conference of Catholic bishops is nothing but Protestant Evangelical doctrines about what not to do with your body, and we haven’t talked about what we’re going to do with people’s souls and their everyday lives,” Butler said. “That’s what makes Pope Francis different.”

Butler pointed out that there is a history of Marxism in the Latin-American church, stemming from Father General Pedro Arrupe, who wrote about a preferential option for the poor, and Gustavo Gutierrez who emphasized the concept in his development of Liberation Theology. “This option for the poor has always been there in the Catholic Church,” Butler said.

She argued that commentators like Limbaugh and others have worked to create a “prosperity Jesus” with the message that if you’re not rich, you don’t have the blessings of God, which Butler cited as at odds with the traditional teachings of Jesus.

Raushenbush explained that some might be reacting strongly to the Pope merely because he is relentlessly articulating a message supporting equity that they are not used to hearing. “You don’t have to be a Marxist to critique capitalism,” he said on Saturday. “Pope Francis is saying we have to do better, because the poorest among us are suffering. Thirty thousand people will die today of starvation, extreme poverty; that’s a failure. Pope Francis is naming it.”

Peppard said the Pope’s message does include the core Marxist critique that excessive concentrations of capital lead to exploitation and dehumanization. He described the Pope as advancing a Catholic worldview in line with that message, that “people are more than the sum total of their economic indicators… more than the sum total of market forces.” The Pope is “trying to lead to humanization,” he explained.

The Pope has also emphasized environmental awareness as part of his critique of the capitalism, writing:

In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which becomes the only rule.

Pope Francis has met with anti-fracking advocates, and included in his first inaugural homily a repetition of the phrase, “Care for the poor, care for creation.” Peppard pointed out that a focus on the environment is in line with his focus on the poverty, since environmental degradation disproportionately impacts the poor.

Despite loud criticisms from those with a media platform, the Pope is viewed favorably among Catholics in the United States across political persuasion. Ninety-four percent of liberal Catholics report favorable views of the Pope, as do 91% of conservative Catholics.

Sara Kugler is the program coordinator at the Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South at Tulane University, which is headed by Melissa Harris-Perry. Find them on Facebook, and on follow them on Twitter at @AJCProject. Watch the discussion in full at the end of the original post.


Related Off-site Links:
Pope Francis’ Off-script Christmas Nod to Atheists is Part of a Pattern – Cathy Lynn Grossman (Religion News Service via The Washington Post, December 26, 2013).
The Year Pope Francis Allowed Britain's Catholics to Break Cover – Sam Jones (The Guardian, December 26, 2013).
Pope Francis Named Time Magazine's 'Person of the Year' – Josh Levs and Michael Pearson (CNN, December 11, 2013).

See also the previous PCV posts:
Pope Francis is Going to Be Heard
The 'Francis Effect': Five Ways the Pope is Resuscitating the Catholic Church
Conservative Catholics Question Pope Francis' Approach
Local Catholics Respond to Pope's Interview
The Pope's Radical Whisper
Pope's Reform Path: Francis Shakes Up Church Establishment
A Humble Pope in An August Office
Waiting for Francis to Reform the Curia? He Already Has
Reflections on a New Face


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Bill O’Reilly’s War on Jesus

By Robert Scheer


NOTE: This commentary was first published December 24, 2013 by TruthDig.com.


Maybe it is time to put Christ back in Christmas. Bill O’Reilly annually demands we acknowledge that the man, or myth, that has been moved to the center of this once pagan ritual be properly identified with a religion, or philosophy as he puts it, that carries a moral message. True, the nation’s early Puritan settlers considered the holiday somewhat blasphemous, but we obviously are in need of moral guidance from any quarter that is plausible.

So, what would Jesus do about the profound inequality of opportunity that both the pope and our president have identified as the most pressing moral crisis of our time? O’Reilly didn’t cotton to the statements of either man and took particular umbrage over the comments that the spiritual leader of his own Catholic faith made in late November: “... Pope Francis said that income inequality is immoral. ... I don’t know if Jesus is going to be down with that.”

It is a timely question to ponder when many of us honor the purported moment of Christ’s birth with a last minute burst of shopping so desperate as to suggest the gluttony of the Roman Empire that led the early Christians to revolt in disgust. It is an indulgence much in evidence today, as the pope warns: “The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalance and, above all, their lack of concern for human beings. ...”

Score one for the pope. Although there is much to argue about in Christ’s enduring legacy, divinely inspired or not, there can be no doubt that equality of opportunity is explicit in the core Christian doctrine that every infant has a soul as significant as that of any other, and that we all will be judged by how well we respect the sanctity of the lives of those born into the most forlorn of circumstance.

That is also the crisis of the moment. As President Obama stated recently in pledging, once again, that he would treat the growing inequality of opportunity as “the defining challenge of our time,” he noted “the premise that we’re all created equal is the opening line in the American story.” That precept drew heavily upon the predominant Christian faith of the settlers even as they betrayed it in their treatment of this land’s original natives and its imported slaves.

Clearly the nation’s founders skipped Christ’s tale of the Good Samaritan in Luke where a compassionate response to a disheveled wretch is offered as the necessary requirement for eternal salvation. But it is the sentiment that informed Pope Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation condemning the growing worldwide gulf between the super-rich and the vast majority of more humble folk:

“The thirst for power and possessions knows no limit. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the rule. ... Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God.”

Quite a challenge for our nation that largely continues to request at every public occasion that God bless America. We are a country, as our president tells us, where “the problem is that alongside increased inequality, we’ve seen diminished levels of upward mobility in recent years. A child born in the top 20 percent has about a 2-in-3 chance of staying at or near the top. A child born into the bottom 20 percent has a less than 1-in-20 shot at making it to the top. ... The combined trends of increased inequality and decreasing mobility pose a fundamental threat to the American Dream, our way of life, and what we stand for around the globe.”

What we stand for is a launching pad for multinational corporations that wantonly exploit the resources and peoples of this planet with abandon. All the while, these modern plunderers are protected by the massive military power of a U.S. government that those same corporations refuse to support with the profits they have buried abroad. In return, they stuff the shopping malls, real and virtual, with an intoxicating display of imperial spoils that most of our citizens can barely afford.

Sorry, Bill, Jesus is not going to be down with that; trust the pope on this one.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Birth of Jesus

As told by Mary


Editor’s Note: As noted with the Annunciation fragment, the following was found in a clay jar inscribed “Letters from Cousin Mary”. My source says they are in poor shape, hard to restore and hard to read. This is the second story he/she has been able to read and translate.


I told you that my folks were freaked out by my pregnancy, but what was worse was a visit to our town by one of those itinerant preachers, this one promising to establish a “New Morality”. So, of course, all those busybodies who don’t have a life or a clue about anything really got into this and started working overtime to cleanse our town of its sluts and loose women (note that, somehow, evil was to found only among the females of the population).

My family panicked. “Mary, as soon as you start to show, they will stone you to death. Already, they are snooping about, seeking out the monthly blood. We need to get you out of here right away.”
“But my baby is not a child of sin; he is God’s baby,” I said.

“They won’t understand that,” they said. “They will just see that you are pregnant and not married. You must save yourself and your child. We have relatives in Judea; you must find them and seek shelter with them.”

The old “extended visit to the relatives” tale is usually trotted out to spare the family of the shame of a pregnant, out of wedlock daughter, but in my case it was to spare my life. I couldn’t keep my promise to God if I died and my baby with me, so I left for Judea with a party of traders. Judea was familiar because we have been to the Temple several times, but I could not find the cousins I was told to ask about. I was left to my own devices after the traders took off for Egypt or the East.

Fortunately, there are a lot of fine people in Judea, and ironically,the most generous are not those who have the most, but those with the least. It was among them that I found shelter. I did what I could to help out, from fieldwork to housework, but still they had to share their meager stores of food and their cramped little houses; they insisted it was no sacrifice. Most of all, they opened themselves up to me and treated me as one of their own family. They saw that I was getting really lonesome, especially for my mother. I really wanted her to be with me when the baby was born.

The actual birth of Joshua was without much warning. All of us, men, women, and children were out working in the pastures because it was lambing time. Right out there my water broke and I went into quick contractions. The women did not think they could get me back to the village in time, so we took shelter in a little stable cut into the hillside. They shooed the animals out and spread fresh straw around. I wanted to lie down because of the pain, but they insisted that I stand, or rather squat while they held me up. Supposedly, the labor was faster and less painful that way. Yeah, right. “O God,” I cried out. “I’m doing this for you. Can’t you help out a little bit?” “Hush”, they said. “He doesn’t understand.”

Despite the pain, I can’t tell you what joy I felt when I saw my little baby boy for the first time. I tried to tell the shepherd women “This is God’s child.” They only said, “Yes, all children are God’s children.” They’re right, of course, but in my own heart I felt God was responding to my promise by giving me a healthy baby. “I haven’t forgotten my promise, God”, I said. “This firstborn I am dedicating to you in a very special way.”

Then the women let the men and the children in to see the baby. All of the people broke into songs of gratitude and praise for the new life among us. You would have thought it was choirs of angels singing. They sing very beautifully; that’s how they pass their time watching over the sheep in the pastures.

A band of ragged fortune tellers from the East happened by. They made predictions about how strong this child would grow up to be and how proud I would be of him, and then they, too, shared their humble possessions, giving me a small jar of ointment, some incense, and a couple of shekels. They said they were on their way to tell fortunes for the rich and powerful of Israel. You know who I mean, the ones who not only sold out to the Romans but were also picking up the vile Roman practices of soothsaying and astrology.

The women of Bethlehem have a unique ritual for the Purification. There is a little hot spring close to the stable, and there they have carved a small tub out of stone. New mothers sit in the hot water while the women sing songs from some ancient people – no one knows what the words mean anymore, just that they were told by their mothers that the spring and the songs were here long before Moses led us to the promised land. They let me sit in there a long time each day. It was great!

I took Joshua up to the Temple to present him as a firstborn, as the law requires, but also because he was to be specially dedicated to God. The priest asked, “Where’s your husband?” I said “I have no husband.” He said “you ought to have been stoned”, and turned away. There were two holy people there, Anna and Simeon, who saw this and told me they knew my baby was to be the redeemer of Israel. They gave him their blessings. For once, what Luke reports to be their prayers is right. He copied them exactly as I told him, even the part about my own soul to be pierced.

I’m out of papyrus, so that’s all for now. Take care.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Annunciation

As told by Mary


Editor’s Note: My source claims to have found this, and other stories, in a clay jar inscribed “Letters from Cousin Mary”. No independent confirmation has yet been made; the finder says he needs to re-assemble fragments and translate them before they fall into the hands of people who will try to suppress them. Therefore the reader is warned that their validity must be judged from the context.


The story of the annunciation found in Luke is all wrong. I know; I was there.

First of all, none of this was started by God. I started it, because God wasn’t doing anything. It’s like he had forgotten us, his chosen people.

I told him, “Just what the hell are you doing up there? You made a covenant with us not to forget us, your chosen people. Sure, we made some promises, too, not all of which have been kept, but on the whole, we have been faithful, no more golden calf and that kind of stuff. But you, where are you? Not long after we got back from Babylonia, we got conquered by the Greeks, the Hittites, the Romans, and who knows what other kinds of heathens. You call that keeping a covenant? Is it too much for us to have our own little country, where we can worship you in peace, without getting taxed into poverty, without getting drafted into some yahoo’s army of conquest?

“Well, God, I’m damn sick and tired of it and I’m not gonna take it anymore, Here’s what I’m gonna do: I’m getting pregnant, and this child I’m dedicating to you. I’m offering my firstborn. This kid I’m going to raise to know he’s special – that he is loved by you and that he is going to love you back. I’m going to tell him his whole life is dedicated to you. I’m going to tell him his job is to do your job – to get us our own country, to free us from these heathen, superficial, polytheistic barbarians, to restore the throne of David and Solomon, so we can act like we are a chosen people.”

That’s what I told God.

And then I got pregnant, and it wasn’t with this “overshadowing” BS, either. Luke makes it sound like some kind of Divine Rape. It was with a guy I love, a perfect mensch with good genes, so the firstborn offering would be perfect, without blemish, and with the guts to do what needed to be done.

Well, of course, you know what kind of hooha that raised. My folks were freaking out their minds. “We raised you to be a good girl, and here you are yelling at God, and now you get yourself pregnant. What will the neighbors think?” Well, you know what the neighbors thought.

(Here is where this fragment ends. It is to be hoped that additional pieces will become available soon.)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

New Disclosure Practices? Healing?

By the Editorial Team


The Archbishop is falling over himself to establish “new disclosure practices,” but the one essential disclosure practice is still missing: Call the police.

Not once in his message to the Catholic people of the Archdiocese—in the Catholic Spirit, December 5, and read from pulpits on Sunday, December 8—does the Archbishop indicate that he has learned the lesson of that necessary disclosure practice.

At the end of his four column statement about websites and future plans, the Archbishop says: “As has been our policy and practice for many years, we encourage anyone who suspects abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult within Church ministry—or any setting including the home or school—to first contact law enforcement.” Has it been his own practice “for many years” to first contact law enforcement when he learns of suspected abuse?

Call the police. It is that simple. Should the Archbishop consider himself a mandated reporter if he gets a report of sex abuse of a minor by one of the men or women he supervises? What if he picked up the phone and called the police? Calling the police is the initial, necessary disclosure, but it is also against the grain of Catholic culture, particularly clerical Catholic culture, to expose the church’s image.

Revealing “dirty family laundry” in public is taboo, but it can also be rationalized. The rationalization goes like this: The institution does so much good and it is relied upon by so many people that we do not want to weaken it by showing its shadow side. Good people who need the church will lose faith in it if priests and religious are seen to be sinful.

Cover-up keeps people in the dark short term, but cover-up creates the long term damage the secrecy is meant to avoid. The list of names of abusers reported in the paper all have multiple parish assignments following their names. Did anyone call the police? Catholic people have been formed to first go to the supervising bishop. That phenomenon deserves some analysis too. But obviously, the bishops did not call the police. They moved the offender from parish to parish. Had they called the police at once, and, as pastors, stayed with the victims throughout their ordeals with law enforcement and courts, we may not have had the multiple victims, billion dollar, shameful debacle we have had. It may be that Jeffrey Anderson, St. Paul attorney, and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) have provided the pastoral care that the bishops did not provide.

Is the Archbishop more clear about how healing happens? The Archbishop tries to frame his court-ordered disclosure of past clerical abusers as a “path toward healing.” There can be no healing until there is honesty.

To be honest, we suggest that the Archbishop might have to say, “We bishops and archdiocesan administrators have failed in covering up these cases of abuse. We abandoned the victims from fear of public exposure. I have failed in valuing the image of the institutional church over the well-being of children. I have been a bishop here for seven years, I had reports of suspected crimes committed by men under my supervision, and I did not call the police. My culture kept me in ignorance of the necessity to disclose, but the broader civil culture has been well aware of that necessity for some years. My failure to respect the civil culture contributed to my vincible ignorance and I will accept the consequences.”

If John Nienstedt remains in the position of Archbishop and he really wants healing, we suggest that he has to go on to say, “I am determined to attain some self-knowledge. I will look into the motivations behind the policies and practices I support. I know that putting the institution before the well-being of people was a tragedy when sexual abuse was involved. I am beginning to realize that my putting the institution before people has injured gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered people, their families, friends, and fellow citizens. Putting the institution before people has separated me from the people I am supposed to lead with the compassion of Jesus. My blindness has divided this Archdiocese I was sent here to unify and it has driven people from the church.”

Now if the Archbishop were to say all that, we could forgive each other and start being the local church we were meant to be.

If you think we need enlightenment in our response to the Archbishop's statement, please give us your opinions.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Safe Schools Call to Action

The following announcement is from the board of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR).


Dear Friends of CCCR:

Are you . . .
• A parent whose child is being bullied?

• An educator who wants tools and resources for bullying prevention and intervention so that all students can learn and thrive at school?

• A student who wants support to stand up for other students or for yourself?

• A community member invested in the well-being of every child who wants students to thrive in school and develop the skills they need to be successful adults?


Then join us on Sunday, December 8, for the Safe Schools Call to Action at South High School, 3131 19th Avenue South, Minneapolis.

Registration opens at 1:30 p.m. and the program runs from 2:00-3:30 p.m. Following the program, you can join us for a Q&A with our partners in the Safe Schools Coalition until 4 p.m.

You will learn more about the Safe & Supportive Minnesota Schools Act, a comprehensive anti-bullying bill, based on the best research to date on solutions to bullying.

CCCR is asking this question: So why is the Minnesota Catholic Conference of Bishops one of the biggest opponents to this bill when the bill already exempts private schools?

They say that if the bill becomes law Catholics in the public schools might be accused of bullying when expressing their beliefs about homosexuality. But bullying is defined as negative, aggressive, repeated behavior--not the same as sharing one's beliefs.

Do you think the reason given for opposing the bill outweighs the suffering and violence of bullying to kids beginning to discover their sexual identity? And what about those students being bullied because of race, ethnicity, economic status, disabilities, and other characteristics enumerated in the bill? Passing this bill will protect all students.

We do not think any kind of bullying is Church-sanctioned behavior, and we do think that the Catholic Church should support the State of Minnesota's effort to protect students from bullying and harassment. Join us in trying to get this bill passed.

For more information, please go to OutFront.org.

We look forward to seeing you on December 8.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Pope Francis is Going to Be Heard

By brooklynbadboy


Note: This commentary was first published November 29, 2013 by Daily Kos.


Pope Francis is the only head of state in the world
talking about inequality & poverty, writes
brooklynbadboy.


The global economic establishment has a dissenter in the ranks, and his stature can only grow.

No election chicanery can remove him from office. He can't be pushed out with ad money or astroturfing. A head of state with no term limits that any mortal can impose.

The global heads of state, ranked by numbers of twitter followers:

• President Obama: 40,267,391

• Abdullah Gul (Turkish President): 3,971,690

• Pope Francis: 3,305,355

Nobody else is even over a million.

President Obama will leave power in just over three years. So will President Abdullah. But, God willing, Pope Francis will still be here. And he's gaining every day. He's got over three times the followers Hillary Clinton has.

While possessing little in the military power, financial might, or industrial capability relative to other nation-states, the Bishop of Rome has one thing that few heads of state today can't match: a life appointment coupled with a global organization. That's enough to begin to plant the seeds for a realignment of power in poor people all over the world.

Somewhere out there among the future leaders of the world, there are people being moved by Francis' words. The Holy Father is casting a wide net to find as many as he can.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Actions to Take to Be the Church We Want to See

By Paula Ruddy and Mary Jane Mitchell


The 250 people drawn to Pax Christi in Eden Prairie Thursday, November 21, spoke up loud and clear about the official church leadership’s handling of sex abuse perpetrated by clergy. They want a change in leadership and a change in Church policies and practices, i.e., structural change.

Voice of the Faithful Twin Cities (VOTF-TC) sponsored the event. National VOTF was established years ago in Boston in response to the sex abuse handling by the bishops. It has three goals: 1) support of victims of sex abuse in the church; 2) support of good priests; and 3)church reform. The Twin Cities affiliate has concentrated on goals 1 and 2, supporting victims of abuse and priests of integrity, because, as local chair Suzanne Severson, said, there are other groups in this archdiocese, like Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR) and Call to Action-MN (CTA-MN), already focusing on goal 3, church reform. Shari Steffen and Tim Power are VOTF-TC organizers with Suzanne.

CCCR members present November 21 at Pax Christi felt challenged because we heard the people’s overwhelmingly thoughtful, determined, and passionate interest in church reform. VOTF-TC’s direct support of victims of abuse is much appreciated, and their support should be backed up with church leadership and structures that ensure a stop to victimizing in the first place. People said church leadership should stop re-victimizing abused men and women who seek help and should proactively reach out to support their healing.

There was a show of hands about whether the current Archbishop can provide this leadership, and it looked like a unanimous NO.

Besides the alleged sex abuse cover-up, people brought up other reasons for distrust of this Archbishop. There is the issue of John Nienstedt’s ideological stance in matters of policy and practice. What does it mean to be Catholic? Who may speak? Where may people meet? What may be discussed? How should Catholic citizens approach law-making for all citizens in a pluralistic society?


We Can Do Something About It!

The CCCR board of directors is a 17 member group of stout-hearted volunteers who have resource teams of like-hearted people. But we need help. If you have ideas, time and energy to spend, please call us at (612) 379-1043.

We have two campaigns underway that you can help with — one internal to the church and one external.


Our Internal Campaign

We do not want to go from the frying pan into the fire in archdiocesan leadership. Who will we get as Archbishop if John Nienstedt steps down or gets moved in the near future? Even if John Nienstedt stays on, we have to move now for the future. We want to have a people’s voice in who the next Archbishop will be. CCCR's Bishop Selection Task Force is designing a campaign to address this concern.

As a first and immediate step in having a voice, we ask you to write to the Papal Nuncio, telling him that we need leadership, preferably a local priest, who has the ability to pull our archdiocese together to do the work of the Gospel. If you have a person in mind who can do that, or if you have an opinion about the kind of person you want for a leader, write to:

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó
3339 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington DC 20008


The Nuncio is a direct path to appointments of bishops. The ultimate decision-maker for appointment of bishops under current Canon Law is the Pope. Candidates are presented to him by the Papal Nuncio, the Vatican ambassador to the U.S., through a committee in the Vatican. Though bishops can also send their nominations directly to the Vatican, the Papal Nuncio’s list of three candidates is the main way priests get named to the role of bishop.

Form letters are not effective, we are told. Write from your heart, and let us know you have written by e-mailing us at info@cccrmn.org.


Our External Campaign

We believe the church we want to see organizes for justice in the world and that organizing Catholics for external issues helps them to organize for internal issues. We are working with OutFront Minnesota and others on the Safe and Supportive Schools legislation to prevent bullying in schools. The Archbishop is the chief opponent of this legislation, even though private schools are exempt. We want the legislators to know that all Catholic voters are not in line with the Minnesota Catholic Conference agenda to defeat the anti-bullying bill. Bullying, being bullied, and watching bullying all teach children the way to get along in this world. To help school personnel counter a violent culture we need the legislation proposed. Check it out here.

Save this Date: Sunday, December 8, 2013. Kick-off Rally for this Campaign. Join CCCR members at South High in Minneapolis, 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. We will post details on the PCV and through email in the week of November 25.

Thanks!


CCCR Bishop Selection Task Force members Paula Ruddy and Mary Jane Mitchell attended the November 21 meeting at Pax Christi, Eden Prairie.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Lay Groups Launch Surveys to Answer Vatican Questionnaire

By Brian Roewe


Note: This article was first published November 16 by the National Catholic Reporter.


While U.S. bishops consider how best and how broad to collect information ahead of a 2014 global bishops' meeting on family issues, several lay Catholic groups took the task into their own hands.

In mid-November, a coalition of 15 church reform groups – primarily members of Catholic Organizations for Renewal – created an online survey for U.S. Catholics to offer their thoughts on the preparatory document to the 2014 Synod of Bishops, which will focus on the theme of "pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization."

Before the coalition announced the survey, Marianne Duddy-Burke told NCR that the idea emerged from a concern that the U.S. episcopacy would not consult with lay Catholics as they compiled their responses.

"This is a chance for people to have their voice heard," said Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, one of the sponsoring organizations.

Other sponsors include the American Catholic Council, Call to Action, FutureChurch, Voice of the Faithful, the Women's Ordination Conference and Fortunate Families.

The survey, hosted online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/SynodOnFamilyUS, will remain open for response through Dec. 15. At that point, the coalition will compile and send the responses to four prelates: Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops; Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, papal nuncio to the U.S.; Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the American representative on Pope Francis' Council of Cardinals; and Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., the newly elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The U.S. bishops' conference has set Dec. 31 as a deadline for response from its members, in order to meet the Vatican's request for a summary by the end of January.

Others have launched similar surveys, including the bishops of England and Wales and of Belgium.

Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good on Nov. 1 launched its version (papalsurvey.com) in English and Spanish, sending it to its 30,000 members and posting it online. As of Nov. 12, more than 3,000 people had completed the survey, with more than half of the respondents coming from outside the nonprofit's network.

"We're really trying to make this an articulation of the American Catholic church," Christopher Hale, a senior fellow with Catholics in Alliance, told NCR. He said the survey will remain open as long as a steady flow of people continue to respond.

So far, results have shown respondents giving the church adequate marks on teaching about marriage and the family, although with a too narrow, sex-focused scope. Others noted plentiful resources for engaged couples, but fewer for those already married and struggling. The survey also showed mixed responses in outreach to gay persons, same-sex couples, and the divorced and separated, and a consistent call for a church of mercy.

The survey efforts followed news reports Oct. 31 that the Vatican had sought broad feedback before the 2014 synod. The themes outlined by Baldisseri in the preparatory document touched on "many new situations requiring the Church's attention and pastoral care": mixed or interreligious marriages; single-parent families; views of marriage as temporary; reformulations of the family concept; and media and current cultural influences on the understanding of marriage and family life.

The attached questionnaire expanded these areas into other corners of modern-day family life: the acceptance of natural law concerning marriage and church teaching on family planning; marriage preparation efforts; the reality of cohabitation, separated and divorced-and-remarried couples; and pastoral attention to same-sex couples, marriages and families.

Both the Catholics in Alliance and coalition surveys tweak the original language in their respective surveys to make it more accessible to ordinary Catholics, decisions that have drawn some criticism. Duddy-Burke responded that the coalition survey was less about the data and more about the feedback the open-ended questions elicited.

"What is really going to be heard here is sort of the cries of the people, in some ways when they are talking about their pastoral needs and where they are seeing them being met, and where they're not being met through the church structure," she said.

While the Vatican document was theological in nature, the Catholics in Alliance survey is pastoral, Hale said, as well as comprehensible to a large number of people.

"This is not a poll on doctrinal issues. This is a survey on pastoral experiences," he said, adding that it hopes to highlight the experiences of Catholics in the pews.

The Catholics in Alliance survey condensed the Vatican questionnaire's nine areas and 39 questions into eight questions organized into four areas: the church and family life; outreach to divorced and separated persons; outreach to same-sex couples and gay persons; and being a church of mercy and of welcome.

While the volume of responses has not surprised Hale, some of the answers they've contained have.

"People are really thinking deeply about these issues and want to contribute," he said.

That includes Kristen, 34, of Norman, Okla., who prepared for marriage with her husband at their local parish. After a few years, though, they experienced a "sophomore slump" and found their parish offered little assistance in coping.

"We were prepared well for the wedding, but not for the ups and downs of married life," she said in her response. "We went to an evangelical church nearby to get some help and found it. It would have been great to instead find that kind of help in our own Catholic parish."

Kristen's response showed Hale that when Catholic parishes and priests fail in fulfilling their people's spiritual needs, they'll turn to other sources. Still, a broad theme throughout has shown that the respondents desire to find a space for themselves and others in the church.

"The biggest message I've got from this was American Catholics want to work together with their leadership in moving the church forward," he said.

As part of that, organizers at Catholics in Alliance hope their survey provides a model for bishops to use in their dioceses. A handful of bishops already have begun conversations with Catholics in Alliance, and some dioceses have promoted the survey through their social media channels.

Whether the surveys and ensuing synod result in demonstrable changes in the church remains to be seen, but so far, the discussion surrounding them has brought an unexpected energy around a typically mundane meeting.

"The fact that these questions are being raised, and there seems to be an opportunity to talk about pastoral needs of people in real situations is very exciting for Catholics," Duddy-Burke said.

Some have taken the call for input as a call to return to the church, responses have shown. In that way, Hale said the surveys have become vehicles of the new evangelization.

"Pope Francis has made it clear that the voice of every Catholic matters in the church, no matter how often they practice the faith, there's a home for them here, and we want to re-invite them," he said.

Brian Roewe is an NCR staff writer. His email address is broewe@ncronline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianRoewe.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Letter to Archbishop Nienstedt from the "People in the Pews"

Editor's Note: "The People in the Pews" is a lay-led effort within the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis initiated in response to the ongoing clergy sex abuse and cover-up scandals emanating from the leadership of the local institutional church.

The People in the Pews initiative invites Catholics to express the need for change, their deep desire for healing and forgiveness, and their hope for a better future by signing the following letter to Archbishop John C. Nienstedt.


Dear Archbishop Nienstedt,

We are the people in the pews. We are the sea of faces you see at confirmations. We serve lunch in the gym after funerals for people we don’t know and we serve communion alongside our priests. We teach religion classes and we work the school carnival. We help with clothing and food drives. We are the ushers, committee members and envelope stuffers. We are the set-up team and the clean-up team. When the plate is passed or the rectory needs a new roof or the archdiocese makes an appeal, we give.

We have been taught well by our Church. We know right from wrong. We also know that every moment of every day we must do everything we can to protect our children. But somehow our leadership has taken a different course. For decades, you and your predecessors have tried to balance the protection of our children with the protection of your priestly reputations. Now, it is obvious you have done neither. So we are left to explain to our children, neighbors and friends how we can believe in a Church that acts in ways so contrary to what it professes. So, we have lost faith in our local church’s leadership, but not in our Church or our Lord.

We believe that now is the time for healing, which begins with your resignation. Quite simply, the trust and confidence you once enjoyed are gone and will not return. You can no longer lead because we can no longer follow. We believe our energies and financial resources can no longer be spent defending the indefensible.

In the end, we are the people who will do the healing. We will be the ones to pay the lawsuits, comfort and support the abused, invite our neighbors and friends back into the Church they once loved and strive to forgive all those responsible.

Archbishop, we encourage you to act swiftly so that we may swiftly bring healing to our community.

Yours in Christ,

The People in the Pews


To join the growing number of Catholics
signing this letter, click here.


See also the previous PCV posts:
In the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, "Regime Change is Not Enough"
The Best Path for Archbishop Nienstedt is to Step Aside
Healing Can't Start Until the Knife is Removed from the Wound
A Call for the Resignation of Archbishop Nienstedt
Priest Demands Nienstedt Explain Handling of Clergy Sexual Abuse
Archbishop Nienstedt Does "Boilerplate PR"
To Regain Trust, Twin Cities Archdiocese Will Have to Come Clean
Catholic Coalition for Church Reform Votes No Confidence in the Leadership of Archbishop John C. Nienstedt
Can the Archdiocese Continue Under the Leadership of John C. Nienstedt?


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The 'Francis Effect': Five Ways the Pope is Resuscitating the Catholic Church

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Pope Francis is drawing admirers in & out of the church,
but he's making a quantifiable difference, too.


By Peter Weber


Note: This article was first published November 12, 2013 by The Week.


Pope Francis has won converts — at least metaphorically — around the globe. His conspicuous humility, kindness, willingness to engage with critics and admirers alike, apparent lack of verbal inhibitions, and relaxed doctrinal orthodoxy make for a big stylistic change from his two predecessors and their combined 25 years as pope. Not everyone is a fan of Francis, but the response has been largely, even enthusiastically, positive.

With an organization as old and structurally conservative as the Catholic Church, it can be hard to measure concrete change. But Pope Francis is making such an impression that observers have come up with a name for the impact he's having on the church: The "Francis effect." Here are five ways the pope is shaking up the Catholic Church:


1. The pope is filling back up the pews

Pope Francis is charming non-Catholics, and even a few atheists, but on Monday Italy's Center for the Study of New Religions (CENSUR) showed that he's quite popular with Catholics, too. CENSUR sociologist Massimo Introvigne found that after Francis was elected pope in March, more than half of the 250 priests in Italy he interviewed reported a significant boost in attendance numbers as disenchanted Catholics started to return to mass.

"If we project those results nationally, and if only half the parishes and communities in Italy have been touched by the Francis effect, then we're talking about hundreds of thousands of people who are returning," Introvigne tells The Guardian. He adds that he noticed a rise in attendance right after Francis was elected, and assumed it might be fleeting, "but after six months I got more or less the same result."

Introvigne tells The Guardian that the "Francis effect" is being felt in Britain, too, where an impressive 65 percent of 22 cathedrals are reporting fuller pews in the age of Pope Francis.

There isn't any data available for the U.S. yet. But John Gehring at CNN says in a country where nearly 1 in 10 Americans is a lapsed Catholic, you can "almost hear the ice cracking around a generation of disillusioned Christians who have a hard time finding Jesus frozen under ostentatious ecclesial trappings and hypocritical moralizing." Pope Francis can't refill America's pews by himself, but "against stiff winds he is steering in the right direction," Gerhring adds.

If the Catholic Church hopes to inspire lapsed Catholics and others to embrace the faith with renewed vigor, it will require a radical return to the essence of Christianity. Gospel means "good news." A smiling, good-humored pope stands in stark contrast to those dour-faced religious leaders who act as gloomy scolds and spy threats around every corner. [CNN]


2. Francis is taking pruning shears to the Vatican bureaucracy

The Roman Curia, or papal court at the Vatican, is a bureaucrat's bureaucracy, its ossification and entrenched power legendary. Pope Francis — the first non-European pope in centuries — is taking steps to reduce its reach and clean house. First, he ramped up transparency at the Vatican's super-secretive bank, the Institute for Religious Works. He's also talking about decentralizing power to national bishops' conferences. "The court is the leprosy of the papacy," the pope told Italian newspaper La Repubblica in September.

With Francis in the Vatican "there is something in the Roman air," says Karl Stuebe at Britain's Catholic Herald. Catholic conservatives need not fear that he'll upend longstanding doctrine. No, "the real effect is that the Vatican, that hauntingly complex curial closet of secrets, becoming like a model diocese, abbey, or parish."


3. Even the name Francis is staging a comeback

Since March, Francesco has become the most popular baby name in Italy, according to Enzo Caffarelli at Rome's Tor Vergata University. (Sorry, former No. 1, Lorenzo.) Is that really the pope's doing? Yes, says Caffarelli. "The name 'Francesco' is the most popular name for newborns in Italy so far in 2013, and it is evident that the impact of the former Jose Mario Bergoglio is the main contributing factor to the name's new popularity."

There's also been an sizable uptick in the number of public places named for Pope Francis' namesake, St. Francis of Assisi. Some 300 parks, piazzas, and other public places have been named after San Francesco, bringing the total number in Italy to more than 2,000.


4. Pope Francis is changing America's Catholic hierarchy

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is meeting in Balitmore this week to pick a new leader for the next three years. And "the more than 200 prelates will also be looking over their heads — and maybe their shoulders — to the Vatican to gauge what Pope Francis' dramatic new approach means for their future," says David Gibson at Religion News Service.

Francis won't change the U.S. episcopacy overnight, adds Gibson, but he's already having an impact on the USCCB.

The so-called "Francis Effect" is showing up in various ways, as some culture-warrior bishops have moderated their language on gays or shifted their emphasis to issues such as immigration. On the other side, bishops who have struggled for years to highlight the church's social justice teachings are getting a new hearing. [RNS]

On Tuesday, the bishops elected Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., as their next president, replacing New York's Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Kurtz "comes from a background in social work and provision of social services," says Joshua J. McElwee at the National Catholic Reporter. Dolan's tenure, by contrast, was marked by fighting the implementation of ObamaCare, "which the cardinal repeatedly said did not leave enough room for Catholic employers from providing contraceptive services," says McElwee.


5. He writes letters and phones people personally

Pope Francis is famous for unexpectedly calling people up to offer his support, or condolences, or even set up an interview. Here's how Eugenio Scalfari, former editor of Italy's La Repubblica (and an atheist), recalls his first interaction with the pope, over the telephone:

I answered, and he simply said: 'Good morning, it's Pope Francis. You wrote me a letter in which you said you would have liked to meet me and get to know me, so here I am. Let's book an appointment. Is Tuesday OK with you? The time is a bit of a pain, 3 p.m. . . . is that OK?'... In 60 years of career as a journalist, I interviewed many important people, and I became friends with some of them. But I never thought I could feel I would become a friend of a pope. [Scalfari, to NBC News]

But while his proclivity for ringing up random strangers has earned Francis the nickname "the Cold Call Pope," he also is a pretty proficient pen pal, says Bob Shine at the National Catholic Reporter. In fact, one letter from a Florence-based gay rights group, Kairos, "prompted the pope's recent warm remarks on gay people," Shine adds. If the pope is listening, and responding, "everyone should be writing letters to Rome."

If reaching out to the pope is effective, perhaps it is time for Catholics to reach out to their local church leaders, namely priests and bishops. Sharing personal stories to replace philosophical constructs with human faces and relationships might lead to further conversions.... Francis' pen-and-paper revolution is truly radical, and transforms hierarchy into personal relationships. It offers each of us a moment to speak to the pope and bishops as if they are our own parish priests. [NCR]

Monday, November 11, 2013

Quote of the Day

The bishops realize that they themselves are going to have to change their tone if they are to become more inclusive and complement the new tone coming from Pope Francis and the Vatican. There is definitely something going on here: The American hierarchy is going to have to change its style or be left behind.

Mathew Schmalz
(Religious Studies Professor, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Mass.)
Quoted in Rachel Zoll's article,
"Pope's Rep: US Bishops Shouldn't Preach Ideology"
Associated Press
November 11, 2013


UPDATES:
Bishops Select Two Leaders Who Reflect New Tone Set by Pope – Laurie Goodstein (New York Times, November 12, 2013).
U.S. Catholic Bishops' New Leaders Concerned with Poor – Mary Wisniewski (Reuters, November 12, 2013).


See also the previous PCV post:
U.S. Bishops to Select Leaders as Pope Urges New Focus

Related Off-site Links:
Apostolic Nuncio to USCCB: Be Pastoral, Not Ideological – Grant Gallicho (Commonweal, November 11, 2013).
Who Really Benefits from the Constant Use of Gays as a USCCB/GOP Wedge Issue? – Colleen Kochivar-Baker (Enlightened Catholicism, November 8, 2013).
As Catholic Bishops Meet, Culture Wars Trump Poverty – John Gehring (Time, November 7, 2013).
Pastoral Priorities from Pope Francis for the US Bishops – Thomas Reese (National Catholic Reporter, November 7, 2013).
Imbalance Between Francis, U.S. Bishops Undermines Religious Liberty Campaign – David DeCosse (National Catholic Reporter, October 23, 2013).


Sunday, November 10, 2013

In the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, "Regime Change is Not Enough"

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By Bob Beutel

Note: On November 9, 2013 approximately 200 Catholics gathered outside the chancery of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis to call on Archbishop John C. Nienstedt to resign. One of the speakers at this event was Bob Beutel (right), co-chair of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR). Following is the transcript of Bob's speech.


We are here today to express the faithful’s loss of confidence in the administration of Archbishop John Nienstedt and to ask for his resignation.

We won’t recite the litany of our issues with him, but they can be summarized as followed:

He sows division among Catholics and among the public at large by excluding members of the GLBT community, women, abuse victims,and critics.

He intimidates his priests, his staffers, his critics, and the victims and survivors of clergy sex abuse.

He wastes our money on partisan political campaigns and holds himself unaccountable despite a pledge to be transparent.

He has embarrassed and shamed our holy Church.

Why should we not just pray for healing and be nice to everyone? Wounds do not heal until the knife has been pulled out.

But regime change is not enough. John Nienstedt is not the root of the evils in our church. He is the product of a culture of clericalism that holds priests and bishops to be special, to be immune from temptation and hence free from committing evil. It's a culture that holds that the church is inerrant and incorruptible.

We know now beyond any doubt that priests and bishops are as human as the rest of us. They are capable of outstanding good and of despicable evil. They are subject to the same weaknesses such as fear, cowardice, and fear of exposure.

We further know that ordination does not confer a supernatural ability to manage, govern, or serve. These must be learned and one who is lacking must “borrow” the talents, wisdom, and experience from those who do have them: lay people, women, and critics.

No diocese, no parish can flourish unless it truly incorporates the faithful in its governance and decision making.

So where are we now? We are beyond bishop bashing, although they surely deserve it. We are beyond hand-wringing, beyond saying that “there is nothing we can do”, or “I am so afraid.” We are not going to dump it all on Pope Frances to accomplish all the changes necessary. We are well into asserting our rights and duties as adult Christians. We did it when we defeated the 'Marriage Amendment' and passed the Equal Marriage bill. We did it when we opened the statute of limitations on abuse claims. And we will do it again when we pass the Anti-Bullying bill and when we force the Archdiocese to open its books and budgeting. We'll know we've done it again when the Archdiocese reestablishes the Pastoral Council, a body that is truly representative, truly free from clerical interference, and truly respected and listened to.

And in so many ways that say 'We don’t re-victimize our abused children' and 'We treat everyone with compassion and respect,' we hold our clerical leaders, the bishops and the pastors, to the highest standards and expectations. We say 'the Church' and we mean not just the hierarchy but all of us. We are the Church.

Here's what each of us must do today:

1. Contact the Papal Nuncio [Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó at 3339 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington DC, 20008] to cast your vote of no confidence, and to tell him what kind of person should be our Archbishop and what your expectations are.

2. Divert your contributions, not just withhold them, and tell your pastor and the bishop why you are not giving and where your money is now going. It could be to organizations like CCCR, SNAP or Call to Action-MN.

3. Talk to your legislators and let them know that the bishops’ opposition to the Anti-Bullying bill does not reflect what the faithful believe is Christ-like behavior.

4. Talk to your friends and relatives about what you hear and read and what they can do to make our church the People of God described by the Second Vatican Council.


_________________________________________


Following are images by Progressive Catholic Voice editor Michael Bayly of November 9's event at the chancery calling for the resignation of Archbishop Nienstedt.



The November 9 gathering at the chancery opened with the following prayer written by Susan Creel and Michael Bayly.

Lord of Love, we gather today united in the love and sacrifice of your Son, Jesus Christ. We come together in our need for healing, justice, and authentic leadership in our local church. We gather to pray in a spirit of common purpose and humanity.

• For the victims and survivors of abuse in our Archdiocese, those who are known and those known only to you, may they know the compassion and tender mercy of all members of the church and may they experience empowerment and healing in their lives. We pray . . . Lord, hear our prayer.

• For the children in our Archdiocese, that we may work and pray on their behalf to build a church where all are treasured for who they are and protected from all forms of discrimination, bullying, and abuse. We pray . . . Lord, hear our prayer.

• For those in positions of leadership within our local church, that they may learn to always place the needs and concerns of people before institutional prestige and reputation. We pray . . . Lord, hear our prayer.

Loving God, we pray for the courage, fortitude and vision to walk together, bonded by our common Baptism and by our Humanity. Laity, ordained, and vowed together in the common goals of justice and healing. We pray for the strength to cry out with one voice united so that justice will be done. We pray in the name of the Love that creates, the Love that liberates, and the Love that makes whole. Amen.











Eric Fought, a master of divinity candidate at Saint John's School of Theology and Seminary in Collegeville, and a former seminarian and member of a Roman Catholic religious order, was another speaker at the November 9 event at the chancery. In the picture above he is shown being interviewed by Rachel Slavik of WCCO 4 News.

“It’s up to us as the laity to step forward and say ‘enough is enough,’” Fought told Slavik. “It’s time for some profound action, and the action that the archbishop needs to take is to step aside.”



During his speech, Eric Fought noted that:

While I am a member of a parish of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, I in no way serve as an adviser to John Nienstedt, its archbishop. However, if I did, I would advise him to take swift action for the benefit of the organization that he has been called to lead.

That swift action would include his resignation, and his own willingness to cooperate fully with both civil and ecclesial authorities.

If we are to be fully honest with ourselves, we would acknowledge that if John Nienstedt served in a leadership capacity with any organization other than the Roman Catholic Church, such action would have been taken by now. However, the archbishop does serve the church, an organization with a long, painful and unfortunate history of covering up and enabling the criminal behavior of a segment of its clergy — a history that must come to an end.

And, let’s be clear: These matters are not “old news” that are simply being brought to the public for reconsideration by the media or others. In recent weeks, new allegations of abuse and the cover-up of abuse have been brought forward by independent journalists and authorities — cover-up directly orchestrated with Neinstedt’s knowledge and often through his own actions.

In recent years, Archbishop Nienstedt has been focused almost solely on an unsuccessful personal crusade to prevent Minnesotans in loving and committed same-sex relationships from having the freedom to marry. He has divided not only the church but also our entire state. He has squandered resources entrusted to his care — resources offered for the betterment of Minnesotans, not hate-filled politics. He turned the chancery into a campaign war room, the pulpit into a beacon of division and distrust.

If Nienstedt had spent a fraction of the time and energy he has spent in his tireless campaign against the freedom to marry in Minnesota on addressing the crisis at his feet involving the health and safety of Minnesota’s children, he might find himself at a different place in history. Unfortunately, that is not the case. His place in history will forever be marked with disgrace and shame.


To read Eric's November 6 MinnPost article, "The Best Path for Archbishop Nienstedt is to Step Aside," click here.


Left: Virginia Meuers was also a speaker at the November 9 event calling for the resignation of Archbishop Nienstedt.

Meuers, whose husband was abused by a priest, told those gathered that: "We have to have closure to this and I think it means that Archbishop Nienstedt has to leave and we have to have some new fresh air in order to bring any kind of healing."




Above: Bob Beutel, co-chair of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR), the primary organizing group of the November 9 event calling for the resignation of Archbishop Nienstedt.



Above: Bob Schwiderski (right) and Shawn Plocher of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

Plocher, who was sexually abused by a priest in 1986, said: “Who can you trust when you were abused by a person of God in the House of God? Something needs to change.”

Abused at the age of 13, Plocher says he’s spent his life fighting for justice that never came. “It’s been a cover up . . . and this has been going on for a very long time,” he said.

Speaking to the crowd gathered in front of the chancery, Bob Schwiderski, the director of the Minnesota chapter of SNAP, said:

The safety of children, civil justice, and healing for survivors of sexual abuse is paramount to the members and supporters of SNAP. Our child safety and victim justice message is proven day after day, month after month and year after year. Yet, the Catholic dioceses are in need of deceit-ending credibility and bold good faith actions.

We spent $zero over 15 years – publicly sharing painful truths to help establish the Minnesota Child Victims Act. Over Nienstedt's twelve years in Minnesota, he has supported and spent over $1,255,415 in opposition to what many are calling the nation's leading child protection civil law.

As we witnessed this week, the Minnesota Supreme Court determined "Religion is No Defense for Criminal Sexual Conduct." Archbishop Nienstedt's actions and inactions are a perfect storm of recklessness, callousness, deceit, and child endangerment.

• It's reckless to let proven serial child predator and sexually exploitive priests live unreported and unsupervised among unsuspecting children and families.

• It's callous to give proven serial predator priests bonus pay.

• And it's deceitful to do all this secretly, without telling victims, parishioners, parents, the public.

Resignation? Yes! And SNAP also calls for grand jury investigations, subpoenas, and search warrants looking at possible child endangerment activities of the Archdiocese of St Paul-Minneapolis.

You can clean a chalice every day. But if 'false spiritual healers' are those wiping them dry, survivors and their loving families, Catholics, and Minnesotans will keep getting hurt or betrayed.



Above: Kathleen Olsen leads a rousing rendition of of the hymn "We Who Believe in Justice Cannot Rest" at the closing of CCCR's November 9 event at the chancery.


Related Off-site Links:
Catholic Group Asks Archbishop Nienstedt to Step Down – Renee Tessman (KARE 11 News, November 9, 2013).
Catholics in St. Paul Ask Archbishop Nienstedt to Resign – Will Ashenmacher (Pioneer Press, November 9, 2013).
Some Rich Minnesota Donors Turn from Archbishop Nienstedt – Baird Helgeson (Star Tribune, November 7, 2013).
Archdiocese Led Lobby to Stop Abuse Law Change – Tony Kennedy (Star Tribune, November 5, 2013).

See also the previous PCV posts:
Catholics to Gather on Saturday to Urge Archbishop John C. Nienstedt to Step Down
The Best Path for Archbishop Nienstedt is to Step Aside
Healing Can't Start Until the Knife is Removed from the Wound
A Call for the Resignation of Archbishop Nienstedt
Priest Demands Nienstedt Explain Handling of Clergy Sexual Abuse
Archbishop Nienstedt Does "Boilerplate PR"
To Regain Trust, Twin Cities Archdiocese Will Have to Come Clean
Catholic Coalition for Church Reform Votes No Confidence in the Leadership of Archbishop John C. Nienstedt
Can the Archdiocese Continue Under the Leadership of John C. Nienstedt?

Images: Michael J. Bayly.


U.S. Bishops to Select Leaders as Pope Urges New Focus

By Mary Wisniewski


Note: The following article was first published November 10 by the Reuters News Agency.


U.S. Catholic bishops will choose new leaders at an assembly in Baltimore this week and possibly signal a new direction for the American church under the influence of Pope Francis.

The conference begins Monday and all eyes will be on whether the new leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops continue vigorous opposition to gay marriage and to Obamacare's contraceptive mandate, or increase their push to help the poor and immigrants given Pope Francis' emphasis on social justice issues.

The new leaders also will be preparing for an "extraordinary synod" of bishops in Rome to discuss teachings related to the family. The Vatican has asked bishops and parish priests around the world about the local views on gay marriage, divorce and birth control ahead of the October 2014 meeting.

"Bishops have been stuck in a bunker fighting the culture war," said John Gehring, who was once in the conference's communications office and is now Catholic program director for Faith in Public Life, a liberal advocacy group. "Pope Francis has said we can't just be known by what we oppose."

In an interview with a Jesuit journal published in September, Pope Francis said the church cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and must become more merciful or risk falling "like a house of cards."

Russell Shaw, a writer on Catholic issues and a former spokesman for the conference, said he doesn't think the bishops will back off on social issues like gay marriage and abortion, just as Francis has reiterated church teachings on these subjects. But they may shift their approach.

"They may make a greater effort to couple what they say about issues like that with messages of having a more pastoral tone, putting what they say about the questions of same sex marriage in a context of authentic and pastoral concern for same sex couples," Shaw said.

The bishops' conference has taken stands for immigration reform and anti-poverty programs under the leadership of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan the past three years.

But it has been extremely vocal on "religious liberty" - protesting the Obama administration's mandate that required Catholic schools and hospitals to carry insurance that provides birth control, forbidden by church doctrine, for free. The push concerned some Catholics, who felt the church's leaders had become too aligned with the political right.

"What's been in the foreground has been their campaigns on gay marriage, abortion and their concerns on the contraceptive mandate," said Father Thomas Reese, a writer who is, like Francis, a Jesuit.


The election

The conference broke with tradition in 2010, electing the outspoken conservative Dolan to a three-year term as president of the U.S. bishops group over then-vice president Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, who was seen by some as more moderate.

Conference observers believe bishops will follow tradition this time and choose the current vice president, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky. Kurtz is viewed as a reliable conservative who is well liked and effective.

The vice presidency is a more open field, though Reese believes Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, a Mexican-born cleric may have an edge in part because he can speak Spanish, enabling him to speak to Francis without a translator.

Reese said Gomez also would prioritize immigration reform, which should please moderates, and is conservative enough for conservatives.

Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, chair of the group that has fought the healthcare mandate, and Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, who is known to ride a motorcycle and is considered strong on poverty and immigration issues, also are on the list.


UPDATE: U.S. Catholic Bishops' New Leaders Concerned with Poor – Mary Wisniewski (Reuters, November 12, 2013).

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Catholics to Gather on Saturday to Urge Archbishop John C. Nienstedt to Step Down

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Note: The following is a media statement released November 7, 2013 by the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR).


Catholics are gathering in front of the chancery office of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis on Saturday, November 9, from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., urging Archbishop John C. Nienstedt to resign his leadership role in the St. Paul/Minneapolis Archdiocese.

“We need healing, but healing cannot begin with the knife still in the wound,” said Bob Beutel, St. Paul, co-chair of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR). “The archbishop himself is fomenting divisiveness, not showing leadership for a healthy Christian church.”

The action is spurred by revelations in local media of an on-going cover-up of sexual abuse by priests and possible danger to minors in parishes where they have been appointed to minister.

Since 2002 the Catholic Church has said it has and is following protocols for protecting children. Nienstedt took over the leadership of the Archdiocese in 2008, succeeding former Archbishop Harry Flynn. In his October 24 statement in The Catholic Spirit, Nienstedt admits that “There is reason to question whether or not the policies and procedures were uniformly followed. There is also a question as to the prudence of the judgments that have been made.”

Bob Denardo, Eagan, says “With the loss of the faith and trust of a large section of the community, Archbishop Neinstedt has also lost the credibility to assure us that all allegations will be given to the appropriate civil authorities for their review and determinations.”

“The reoccurring stories about this Archbishop's failure to truly provide protection for our children put an end to my faith and trust in his leadership,” said Doug Rodel, Eagan.

The editors of the blog The Progressive Catholic Voice say that Nienstedt has caused alienation among Catholics from the beginning of his tenure as Archbishop. They enumerate instances of what they consider to be the Archbishop’s divisiveness:

• his vociferous and expensive campaigning against civil marriage for gay and lesbian citizens;

• his refusal to let people of differing points of view meet in their own parish buildings and his censoring of speakers in parishes;

• his intimidation of parish workers who “stay under the radar” for fear of losing their jobs;

• his refusal to be open and transparent about finances.

“He needs to be in dialogue with the laity because laity is church. If John, our brother and bishop, finds he cannot be in dialogue, the laity needs to find a leader who will be,” says Judith Pryor, St. Paul.


Related Off-site Links:
Some Rich Minnesota Donors Turn from Archbishop Nienstedt – Baird Helgeson (Star Tribune, November 7, 2013).
Archdiocese Led Lobby to Stop Abuse Law Change – Tony Kennedy (Star Tribune, November 5, 2013).

See also the previous PCV posts:
The Best Path for Archbishop Nienstedt is to Step Aside
Healing Can't Start Until the Knife is Removed from the Wound
a Call for the Resignation of Archbishop Nienstedt
Priest Demands Nienstedt Explain Handling of Clergy Sexual Abuse
Archbishop Nienstedt Does "Boilerplate PR"
To Regain Trust, Twin Cities Archdiocese Will Have to Come Clean
Catholic Coalition for Church Reform Votes No Confidence in the Leadership of Archbishop John C. Nienstedt
Can the Archdiocese Continue Under the Leadership of John C. Nienstedt?