Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Vatican Spring?

By Hans Küng

Note: This commentary was first published February 27, 2013 by The New York Times.

The Arab Spring has shaken a whole series of autocratic regimes. With the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, might not something like that be possible in the Roman Catholic Church as well — a Vatican Spring?

Of course, the system of the Catholic Church doesn't resemble Tunisia or Egypt so much as an absolute monarchy like Saudi Arabia. In both places there are no genuine reforms, just minor concessions. In both, tradition is invoked to oppose reform. In Saudi Arabia tradition goes back only two centuries; in the case of the papacy, 20 centuries.

Yet is that tradition true? In fact, the church got along for a millennium without a monarchist-absolutist papacy of the kind we're familiar with today.

It was not until the 11th century that a revolution from above, the Gregorian Reform started by Pope Gregory VII, left us with the three enduring features of the Roman system: a centralist-absolutist papacy, compulsory clericalism and the obligation of celibacy for priests and other secular clergy.

The efforts of the reform councils in the 15th century, the reformers in the 16th century, the Enlightenment and the French Revolution in the 17th and 18th centuries and the liberalism of the 19th century met with only partial success. Even the Second Vatican Council, from 1962 to 1965, while addressing many concerns of the reformers and modern critics, was thwarted by the power of the Curia, the church's governing body, and managed to implement only some of the demanded changes.

To this day the Curia, which in its current form is likewise a product of the 11th century, is the chief obstacle to any thorough reform of the Catholic Church, to any honest ecumenical understanding with the other Christian churches and world religions, and to any critical, constructive attitude toward the modern world.

Under the two most recent popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, there has been a fatal return to the church's old monarchical habits.

In 2005, in one of Benedict's few bold actions, he held an amicable four-hour conversation with me at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo in Rome. I had been his colleague at the University of Tübingen and also his harshest critic. For 22 years, thanks to the revocation of my ecclesiastical teaching license for having criticized papal infallibility, we hadn't had the slightest private contact.

Before the meeting, we decided to set aside our differences and discuss topics on which we might find agreement: the positive relationship between Christian faith and science, the dialogue among religions and civilizations, and the ethical consensus across faiths and ideologies.

For me, and indeed for the whole Catholic world, the meeting was a sign of hope. But sadly Benedict's pontificate was marked by breakdowns and bad decisions. He irritated the Protestant churches, Jews, Muslims, the Indians of Latin America, women, reform-minded theologians and all pro-reform Catholics.

The major scandals during his papacy are known: there was Benedict's recognition of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre's arch-conservative Society of St. Pius X, which is bitterly opposed to the Second Vatican Council, as well as of a Holocaust denier, Bishop Richard Williamson.

There was the widespread sexual abuse of children and youths by clergymen, which the pope was largely responsible for covering up when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. And there was the Vatileaks affair, which revealed a horrendous amount of intrigue, power struggles, corruption and sexual lapses in the Curia, and which seems to be a main reason Benedict has decided to resign.

This first papal resignation in nearly 600 years makes clear the fundamental crisis that has long been looming over a coldly ossified church. And now the whole world is asking: might the next pope, despite everything, inaugurate a new spring for the Catholic Church?

There's no way to ignore the church's desperate needs. There is a catastrophic shortage of priests, in Europe and in Latin America and Africa. Huge numbers of people have left the church or gone into internal emigration, especially in the industrialized countries. There has been an unmistakable loss of respect for bishops and priests, alienation, particularly on the part of younger women, and a failure to integrate young people into the church.

One shouldn't be misled by the media hype of grandly staged papal mass events or by the wild applause of conservative Catholic youth groups. Behind the facade, the whole house is crumbling.

In this dramatic situation the church needs a pope who's not living intellectually in the Middle Ages, who doesn't champion any kind of medieval theology, liturgy or church constitution. It needs a pope who is open to the concerns of the Reformation, to modernity. A pope who stands up for the freedom of the church in the world not just by giving sermons but by fighting with words and deeds for freedom and human rights within the church, for theologians, for women, for all Catholics who want to speak the truth openly. A pope who no longer forces the bishops to toe a reactionary party line, who puts into practice an appropriate democracy in the church, one shaped on the model of primitive Christianity. A pope who doesn't let himself be influenced by a Vatican-based shadow pope like Benedict and his loyal followers.

Where the new pope comes from should not play a crucial role. The College of Cardinals must simply elect the best man. Unfortunately, since the time of Pope John Paul II, a questionnaire has been used to make all bishops follow official Roman Catholic doctrine on controversial issues, a process sealed by a vow of unconditional obedience to the pope. That's why there have so far been no public dissenters among the bishops.

Yet the Catholic hierarchy has been warned of the gap between itself and lay people on important reform questions. A recent poll in Germany shows 85 percent of Catholics in favor of letting priests marry, 79 percent in favor of letting divorced persons remarry in church and 75 percent in favor of ordaining women. Similar figures would most likely turn up in many other countries.

Might we get a cardinal or bishop who doesn't simply want to continue in the same old rut? Someone who, first, knows how deep the church's crisis goes and, second, knows paths that lead out of it?

These questions must be openly discussed before and during the conclave, without the cardinals being muzzled, as they were at the last conclave, in 2005, to keep them in line.

As the last active theologian to have participated in the Second Vatican Council (along with Benedict), I wonder whether there might not be, at the beginning of the conclave, as there was at the beginning of the council, a group of brave cardinals who could tackle the Roman Catholic hard-liners head-on and demand a candidate who is ready to venture in new directions. Might this be brought about by a new reforming council or, better yet, a representative assembly of bishops, priests and lay people?

If the next conclave were to elect a pope who goes down the same old road, the church will never experience a new spring, but fall into a new ice age and run the danger of shrinking into an increasingly irrelevant sect.

Hans Küng is a professor emeritus of ecumenical theology at the University of Tübingen and the author of the forthcoming book Can the Church Still Be Saved? This essay was translated by Peter Heinegg from the German.

See also the previous PCV posts:
An Open Letter to Josef Ratzinger
The Best Choice for Pope? A Nun.
Quote of the Day – February 11, 2013
Church Reform Group Applauds Benedict for "Wise Decision to Resign"

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Goodbye, Catholic Moment

By Rod Dreher

Note: This article was first published February 17, 2013, by The American Conservative.

In his column today, Ross Douthat — who, you should know, is an orthodox Catholic — observes the end of what the late Fr. Neuhaus once called “the Catholic Moment,” a time in which Catholics, once marginalized in American society, could make their mark on public life by bringing a distinctly Catholic vision to bear on our affairs. That’s definitely over now, says Douthat. More:

The fact that the Second Vatican Council had left the church internally divided limited Catholic influence in some ways but magnified it in others. Because the church’s divisions often mirrored the country’s, a politician who captured the typical Catholic voter was probably well on his way to victory, and so would-be leaders of both parties had every incentive to frame their positions in Catholic-friendly terms. The church might not always be speaking with one voice, but both left and right tried to borrow its language.

If this era is now passing, and Catholic ideas are becoming more marginal to our politics, it’s partially because institutional Christianity is weaker over all than a generation ago, and partially because Catholicism’s leaders have done their part, and then some, to hasten that de-Christianization. Any church that presides over a huge cover-up of sex abuse can hardly complain when its worldview is regarded with suspicion. The present pope has too often been scapegoated for the sex abuse crisis, but America’s bishops have if anything gotten off too easily, and even now seem insufficiently chastened for their sins.

The recent turn away from Catholic ideas has also been furthered by a political class that never particularly cared for them in the first place. Even in a more unchurched America, a synthesis of social conservatism and more egalitarian-minded economic policies could have a great deal of mass appeal. But our elites seem mostly relieved to stop paying lip service to the Catholic synthesis: professional Republicans are more libertarian than their constituents, professional Democrats are more secular than their party’s rank-and-file, and professional centrists get their encyclicals from Michael Bloomberg rather than the Vatican.

I think Ross is right, up to a point. It is too convenient to blame the execrable behavior of the bishops in the abuse scandal for the end of the Catholic moment (to be clear, Ross is not doing that here, only pointing to that behavior as a contributing factor; I know some readers will not be so discerning). The rotten behavior of the bishops, among others, hastened the decline of Catholic authority in American life, but if we’re honest, we will have to admit that even if the bishops had been luminous saints to the man, the second coming of the Apostles, things wouldn’t be all that different from where they stand today.

The fact of the matter is that Roman Catholic Christianity (also Orthodox Christianity, and some forms of Protestantism) cannot be reconciled with the expressive individualism that is the hallmark of late modern civilization. Spiked editor Brendan O’Neill, a former Catholic turned atheist, lamented Pope Benedict’s resignation as a kind of capitulation to our degraded culture:

What the resignation really points to – or rather what the congratulatory reaction reveals – is how uncomfortable our society is with the idea of vocation. In the back-slapping for Benedict we’re really witnessing the breathing of a mass, global sigh of relief that pretty much the last institution which elevates its own needs over the needs of its occupant, which demands unwavering, total, literally Christ-like commitment, has now allowed the reality of frailty to creep into its hallowed halls. Today’s fashionable allergy to the pope, and to the Catholic Church more broadly, is driven more by a petit-bourgeois disdain for firm commitment to a cause and belief in something bigger than ourselves than it is by a grown-up critique of Catholic theology. Ours is an era in which people are implored to cultivate their self-esteem, or to focus obsessively on preserving their bovine physical wellbeing, rather than to give themselves fully to a cause or a mission or even another individual. We’re so hostile to the idea of vocation, and to its underpinning: commitment, that we have pathologised self-sacrifice, now referring to it as the psychological ailment of ‘co-dependency’: ‘placing a lower priority on one’s own needs while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others.’ In such a narcissistic era, where ‘one’s own needs’ are everything, the idea of a man remaining married to his mission forever is extraordinarily alien, and so we cheer like crazy when even the moral descendant of St Peter elevates his own physical wellbeing over his devotion to something bigger.

I don’t think that’s a fair judgment of Benedict’s act, or an accurate consideration of his motives, but I take O’Neill’s general point, and it’s akin to Ross’s more generous (to Benedict) conclusion in his blog reaction to the papal abdication:

Yet these benefits need to be balanced against the longer term difficulties that this precedent creates for the papacy’s role within the church. There is great symbolic significance in the fact that popes die rather than resign: It’s a reminder that the pontiff is supposed to be a spiritual father more than a chief executive (presidents leave office, but your parents are your parents till they die), a sign of absolute papal surrender to the divine will (after all, if God wants a new pope, He’ll get one), and a illustration of the theological point that the church is still supposed to be the church even when its human leadership isn’t at fighting trim, whether physically or intellectually or (for that matter) morally.

Leaving Benedict’s resignation aside, who will argue with O’Neill that our culture is hostile to the idea of vocation — and, more broadly, with the idea of sacrificing individual desire to higher truths, or causes? Our entire culture is built around the apotheosis of the Self, of the self’s will, the self’s desires, the self’s autonomy. This has required a progressive liberation of the Self from rules, mores, institutions, and customs that bind the Self. We are well within a cultural era in which truth is believed — whether or not people recognize it — to be determined by emotion far more than reason.

I don’t entirely condemn this, because in some cases, it has resulted in a more humane condition, and in any case I am as personally formed by and implicated in this condition as anybody else. The point here is neither to condemn nor to praise, but simply to recognize it for what it is. This is not something temporary or sudden, but rather the culmination of centuries of social development in the West. Philosopher Charles Taylor, in A Secular Age, writes of the rise of “expressive individualism” as central to our collective understanding of the moral order now embedded in our culture. Taylor observes that the emergence of expressive individualism — that is, the emancipation of the Self — has been a gradual process in the West since the Enlightenment, but really took off after World War II, and, with the Sexual Revolution, became general in society. “This is obviously a profound shift,” he writes. He describes the religious manifestation of this shift thus:

The religious life or practice that I become part of must not only be my choice, but it must speak to me, it must make sense in terms of my spiritual development as I understand this. This takes us farther. The choice of denomination was understood to take place within a fixed cadre, say that of the apostles’ creed, the faith of the broader “church”. Within this framework of belief, I choose the church in which I feel most comfortable. But if the focus is going now to be on my spiritual path, thus on what insights come to me in the subtler languages that I find meaningful, then maintaining this or any other framework becomes increasingly difficult.

The end result of this process has been the severing of what was widely considered to be the necessary connection between faith and civilizational order. Taylor says religious conservatives still assume this connection, and much of their (our) political anxiety is a reaction to this cultural revolution.

This is why, on same-sex marriage, both sides talk past each other. We religious conservatives believe that the secular order must be dictated by the sacred order, however attenuated. Many others — most others, I would say — believe that there is no such thing as a sacred order, at least not one knowable to and share-able by all. The desiring Self is the sacred thing — something I say not as a criticism, but as an observation. In this worldview — which I believe is thoroughly mainstream — to deny the legitimacy of the Self’s desires is felt as a denial of personhood, and of rights. The moral order, then, must be built around the ongoing expansion of individual rights, especially when it comes to sex and sexuality, because Truth emerges from the individual’s heart, not from an external source of authority, such as the Catholic Church. We can’t have a meaningful conversation because we cannot agree on the source of moral order.

I’ve gone a bit far afield here, so I’ll close with this conclusion: there never was a possibility for a Catholic moment in America. Not even American Catholics agree on what it means to be Catholic, and what is required of them as Catholics. From the outside, Catholicism looks unitary, but from the inside, Catholicism (in America, at least) is just about as fragmented as Protestantism. This is why you have the spectacle of Garry Wills denying the sacramental priesthood and the Real Presence, but still presenting himself as a Catholic, and being received by many Catholics as Catholic. Catholicism in this country has lost its distinctives, because many, probably most, actual Catholics have no sense that the faith they profess calls them to accept and to live by a set of theological and moral precepts that they may struggle to accept, but must accept because God revealed them authoritatively through His church.

One may say this is a good thing, this Protestantization of Catholicism, or one may decry it as a bad thing. But I don’t see how one can credibly say that it doesn’t exist. Catholicism, understood on its own terms, is radically opposed to American culture, and to the essence of modernity. Catholicism, as understood by most American Catholics, is not. There’s the problem with the Catholic moment, and why it was never going to happen. Of course, the behavior of the bishops in the abuse crisis didn’t help, but ultimately it was beside the point.

Though no longer a Catholic, I would have dearly loved to have seen a Catholic moment. The thing for non-Catholic Christians to understand is that we are past the point of there being a “Christian Moment,” in the Neuhausian sense. Many Christians don’t understand this yet, but they will.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Call for Dialogue in the Catholic Church


A Position Statement
by the Council of the Baptized

February 16, 2013

The Council of the Baptized respectfully calls for Roman Catholic leadership to be open to the Spirit speaking in the people of God. Silencing people or in other ways punishing those who are calling for open discussion of the Church’s positions on the role of women in sacramental ministry, on optional celibacy for the ordained, and on sexual identity and morality is detrimental to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Gospel message. We call upon our local church leaders and the leadership of the universal church, the bishops, to encourage the faithful to speak, as Canon Law provides:

212 §3: According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

We make this appeal to our bishops now, as the College of Cardinals contemplates electing a new pope, because they have the power by their choice to move the church toward the openness promised at Vatican II, and because there are currently many Catholics suffering from the exercise of coercive power:

Locally, there are priests, deacons and parish staff who “stay under the radar,” reluctant to speak prophetically for fear of reprisals. There are Catholics in good standing, individuals and groups, who are prohibited from speaking in this Archdiocese and from meeting on church property.

Nationally, there are congregations of religious sisters who are “investigated” and micromanaged; Roy Bourgeois, Maryknoll priest, who lost his community and priestly ministry because he did not recant his statements of conscience; and theologians whose freedom of inquiry is threatened by public censuring of their work.

Internationally, there are bishops and priests who have lost their ministries for raising questions about matters of governance and ethics. Most recently, there is the case of Tony Flannery, Irish Redemptorist priest for thirty-nine years, who has been suspended from priestly ministry and instructed by the Vatican to be silent. The author of six books and a regular contributor to the Redemptorist magazine, he questioned official church teaching on clerical celibacy, contraception, homosexuality and the ordination of women. He also helped to establish the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), representing more than 850 priests in Ireland. After a year of discernment, Flannery has decided he cannot in conscience accept the restrictions on his speaking and writing decreed by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). Interviewed by Michael Enright of the Canadian Broadcasting System on Sunday, February 3, Flannery said he does not know who made accusations against him and has not been contacted personally by the Vatican or by Irish bishops. The CDF sent the threat of excommunication to him through his Redemptorist superiors in Canada, on documents with no letterhead and no signatures. Flannery expresses his fear for the future of the church in Ireland in a radio interview.

Flannery’s supporters include the Irish Association of Catholic Priests, National Council of Priests of Australia, the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, with four signers from Minnesota, and the Catholic Church renewal group We Are Church Ireland, initiator of this petition to be sent to the Vatican.

The Council of the Baptized supports an open and collegial reasoning together among laity and clergy on all questions that affect the life of the Church.

Our website is and we can be contacted at

Monday, February 18, 2013

An Open Letter to Josef Ratzinger

Professor Josef Ratzinger
Pope Benedict XVI

Dear Josef,

Besides personal communications, I have written you two open letters since we were colleagues on the Catholic Theology Faculty of the University of Tubingen, Germany.

I am writing you once again openly, this time not to pose an objection to an action of yours. Rather, I am writing this time to congratulate you upon the bravest and wisest act of your life: Your decision to resign from the papacy because of failing health for the good of the Church!

As a fellow academic who almost matches you in age, I wish you many good years of quiet reflection, scholarship, and writing after February 28, 2013.

But, before you go into that grey world of quietude, I urge you to take one more brave stand for the good of the Church, and the world at large. As the cardinals, and, indeed, the whole world, gather at your feet at the end of this month, I hope that you will send them into the Consistory to elect your successor with a visionary commission – this time not as Dean of the College of Cardinals as you did eight years ago, but this time as reigning/resigning pope.

In your vision I hope you will portray a Catholic Church which is also catholic with a small as well as a capital “C,” that is, a Catholic Church that not only holds to the best of its Catholic tradition, but also opens itself out to the entire kat’holos, the “whole” world. I and many, many other Catholics believe that vision must be of a Church that welcomes and strives to help the “outsiders” of society, as modeled by our “Outsider” Founder Rabbi Yeshua ha Notzri, Jesus of Nazareth.

Who are these outsiders? First of all, that majority: Women! You have written books about Jesus, and so you doubtless know that Jesus Was a Feminist! I am sure that you have not had time to read my 2007 book of that title, but you know the facts that, if we never had the testimony about Jesus’ life passed on to us by his women followers and promoted by the rest of the women named in the New Testament, we would have no Christianity today! The Catholic Church needs to follow the example of our Founder and bring women fully into the life of our Church.

Jesus also gave us a model of how to care for and protect another great outsider group – children. The Church’s shameful sacrificing of these “little ones” must not only cease, but its new, cleansed reality must lead the way in a world which is full of the oppression of children, which doubtless has been happening since Cain and Able.

Then there are the poor of all sorts in all societies. Here, fortunately, the Catholic Church has a more than century old tradition of preaching and acting in favor of the poor, marginalized. But it must make this tradition much more effective among its members, especially those who have leadership roles in government and business. For example, not all American Catholics put the principles of Catholic social justice into political and business practice!

That means that the Church leadership must cease it obsession with sex! It must stop oppressing homosexuals, recognize that Jesus did allow for divorce and remarriage, cease forcing the priesthood into the straightjacket of celibacy and maleness. Stop denigrating the body, but stress the beauty of all matter as created by God, which at the end of each day of creation was said in Genesis to be tov, good, and even mod tov, very good!

So Josef, this should be the greatest sermon of your life. Give it your best shot!

Vergelts Gott!


Leonard Swidler, Ph.D., S.T.L., LL.D., LL.D.

Leonard Swidler is founder of the Association for Rights of Catholics in the Church (ARCC), one of the coalition members of the Twin Cities-based Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR).

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Best Choice for Pope? A Nun.

By E.J. Dionne Jr.

Note: This op-ed was first published February 15, 2013 by The Washington Post.

In giving up the papacy, Pope Benedict XVI was brave and bold. He did the unexpected for the good of the Catholic Church. And when it selects a new pope next month, the College of Cardinals should be equally brave and bold. It is time to elect a nun as the next pontiff.

Now, I know this hope of mine is the longest of long shots. I have great faith in the Holy Spirit to move papal conclaves, but I would concede that I may be running ahead of the Spirit on this one. Women, after all, are not yet able to become priests, and it is unlikely that traditionalists in the church will suddenly upend the all-male, celibate priesthood, let alone name a woman as the bishop of Rome.

Nonetheless, handing leadership to a woman — and in particular, to a nun — would vastly strengthen Catholicism, help the church solve some of its immediate problems and inspire many who have left the church to look at it with new eyes.

Consider, first, what constitutes the church’s strongest claim on public respect and affection. It is not its earthly power, the imposing beauty of St. Peter’s Basilica or even its determination to preserve its doctrine whole. Rather, the church impresses even its critics, and inspires its most loyal and most dissident members, because so many in its ranks walk the talk of the Gospel. Hundreds of thousands of nuns, priests, brothers and laypeople devote their lives to the poor, the marginalized, refugees, the disabled and the homeless, simply because Christ instructed them — us — to do so. Matthew 25:40 contains what may be the most constructive words ever written: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these my brethren, you did for me.”

More than any other group in the church, the sisters have been at the heart of its work on behalf of compassion and justice. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times made this point as powerfully as anyone in a 2010 column. “In my travels around the world, I encounter two Catholic Churches,” he wrote. “One is the rigid all-male Vatican hierarchy that seems out of touch. . . . Yet there’s another Catholic Church as well, one I admire intensely. This is the grass-roots Catholic Church that does far more good in the world than it ever gets credit for. This is the church that supports extraordinary aid organizations like Catholic Relief Services and Caritas, saving lives every day, and that operates superb schools that provide needy children an escalator out of poverty.”

Kristof went on to say that “there’s a stereotype of nuns as stodgy Victorian traditionalists. I learned otherwise while hanging on for my life in a passenger seat as an American nun with a lead foot drove her jeep over ruts and through a creek in Swaziland to visit AIDS orphans.”

There are certainly bishops and cardinals who have done this sort of godly work and many more who have supported it. But those who have devoted their lives to climbing the church’s career ladder tend not to be like that nun in the jeep in Swaziland. What a message the cardinals would send about the church’s priorities if they made such a woman pope.

A sister as pope could also resolve what might seem a contradiction in Catholic theology. More than Protestants, Catholics are profoundly devoted to the Virgin Mary — and few were as devoted as the late Pope John Paul II, who declared that Mary “sustains the spiritual life of us all, and encourages us, even in suffering, to have faith and hope.” A church for which the Blessed Mother plays such an important role should certainly be comfortable with female leadership.

While support for a stronger role for women in the church tends to be a “liberal” cause, many faithful conservatives also cite the work of nuns as reinforcing their devotion to the church — from the sisters who educated them in parish schools to the work of Mother Teresa’s religious order.

The cardinals who will gather to elect a new pope know that one of the church’s central and most wrenching problems is the sex abuse scandal. An all-male hierarchy adopted policies to cover up the abuse and seemed far too inclined to put protecting the church’s image ahead of protecting children.

Throughout history, it’s not uncommon for women to be brought in to put right what men have put wrong. A female pope would automatically be distanced from this past and could have a degree of credibility that a male member of the hierarchy simply could not.

In the United States and other Western countries, the church is suffering a huge loss of younger female members who cannot understand why it continues to resist the progress women have made in so many other spheres of life.

The church should not find itself in this position. It was, after all, Pope John XXIII who wrote in 1963 (the same year Betty Friedan published “The Feminine Mystique”): “Women are gaining an increasing awareness of their natural dignity. Far from being content with a purely passive role or allowing themselves to be regarded as a kind of instrument, they are demanding both in domestic and in public life the rights and duties which belong to them as human persons.”

Electing a nun as pope would electrify women all over the world. And those who think that Catholics in the developing world would object to a female pope should note that women have been elected to lead governments in, among other places, India, Chile, Brazil, Liberia, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Argentina and Dominica.

And a church that has made opposition to abortion a central part of its public mission should consider that older men are hardly the best messengers for this cause. Perhaps a female pope could transform the discussion about abortion from one that is too often rooted in harsh judgments (and at times, anger with modernity) into a compassionate dialogue aimed at changing hearts and minds rather than changing laws.

Unborn children are vulnerable. So are pregnant women. In my experience, nuns are especially alive to these twin vulnerabilities. Nuns are also the people in the church who work the most with pregnant women, the mothers of newborns, and battered women and children. They know better than anyone that a concern for life cannot stop at the moment a child is born.

Some will object to the idea of a female pope on the grounds that it is legally impossible. Yes, it would require a real openness to change. But the rules for electing a pope are much more flexible than many realize. As the Catholic News Service has noted: “In theory, any baptized male Catholic can be elected pope, but current church law says he must become a bishop before taking office; since the 15th century, the electors always have chosen a fellow cardinal.” Under canon law, CNS reports, if a non-bishop or a layman is selected, he must receive episcopal consecration from the dean of the College of Cardinals before ascending to the papacy.

If the college were inspired to elect a woman, it could arrange for her consecration and leave the broader question of whether women should become priests — a change that I both hope and expect will happen someday — open for debate during her pontificate.

I hardly expect the cardinals to follow my advice on this. But I hope that they at least consider electing the kind of man who has the characteristics of my ideal female pontiff. The church needs a leader who has worked closely with the poor and the outcast, who understands that battling over doctrine is less important for the church’s future than modeling Christian behavior — and who sees that the proper Christian attitude toward the modern world is not fear but hope.

Last summer my 18-year-old daughter, Julia, worked at a Catholic-supported program for the homeless in Silver Spring. Like many women her age, Julia has a long list of problems with the church, but she loved the program and deeply admired everyone who worked there.

She came home one night and said: “Why doesn’t the church talk more about this work and less about the stuff it usually talks about?”

I have a hunch that a nun just might understand what Julia was saying better than most cardinals.

E.J. Dionne Jr. is an op-ed columnist for The Washington Post. He is the author of Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent.

See also the previous PCV posts:
Church Reform Group Applauds Benedict for "Wise Decision to Resign"
Quote of the Day — February 11, 2013

Recommended Off-site Link:
Papal Retirement: A Matter of Conscience — Mary E. Hunt (Religion Dispatches, February 11, 2013).

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Quote of the Day

“What’s the difference between a flute and a stick in the mud?” our priest asked on Sunday. He then went on, “The stick in the mud is full of itself. The flute has been emptied of itself so it can make music.” That’s a good image for Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday.

. . . Our priest did an incredible job reminding us that in a world where many of us are “full of ourselves” we need to be emptied of ourselves – so that our lives can make better music. All the major world religions have an element of self-denial at their core. Jews have Yom Kippur. Muslims have Ramadan. Christians have Lent.

In a world filled with clutter, noise, and hustle, Lent is a good excuse to step back and rethink how we think and live. In a world of instant gratification, it’s a chance to practice delayed gratification – to fast — so that we can truly appreciate the blessings we have. In a world where virtual friends are replacing real ones, it is an invitation to turn off TV and computer screens so we can spend time with real people again. It’s an opportunity to give up something that is sucking the life out of us so that we can be filled with God, with life, with love again.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Why Priests?

A review of Garry Wills' latest book,
Priests? The Real Meaning of the Eucharist

By Kevin Madigan

Note: The following review was first published as "Why Priests Have Power" on February 11, 2012, by the New Republic

The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI has given new life to some very old myths about the papacy: that Saint Peter was the first pope and that Benedict, like all popes, was thus his successor. In fact, various popes forged this particular myth to harness the apostolic power, prestige, and affection associated with Peter. (This claim is easily falsified by examination of the non-biblical texts of the first century.) Later, popes claimed to be successors to Christ to augment their power even more.

In his recent book, Why Priests? The Real Meaning of the Eucharist, Garry Wills turns his critical gaze to the nexus of priests, power and Eucharistic piety. The driving question of Why Priests? is how early Christianity, which operated without priests, evolved into a tradition that made their role central and even indispensable. As the ex-seminarian Garry Wills correctly observes, almost no book of the New Testament even mentions priests; the one that does, Letter to the Hebrews, imagines only Jesus as a priest. Although the Catholic Church has for centuries maintained the opposite position, it is simply false from an historical perspective to assert that Jesus instituted the priesthood. Not only was Jesus not a member of the priestly class; it is simply anachronistic to say that any of Jesus apostles were imagined in priestly terms, either by Jesus or the apostles themselves.

How, then, did priests become dominant and then essential in Catholic Christianity? And why, Wills asks, in this provocative, historically rich, and slightly quixotic book, does the Vatican continue to sustain such falsehoods? Even more provocatively, Wills asks why the Church, at this moment of priestly scandal and diminishing numbers of parish priests, does not return to its ancient origins and simply dispense with priests altogether?

Wills' convincing thesis for the ascendancy of the priest is that it originated in the Eucharistic celebration: the transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus of Nazareth. The Eucharist as a miracle of transformation, Wills shows, is officially a sixteenth-century invention. In the early Christian movement, from about 35 to 200, there were no consecrations of bread and wine, nor did anyone imagine the meal as a sacrifice, the sacrifice of the Mass, as Catholics still call it. Nor did Jesus intend, as the entire Catholic historical tradition since the Middle Ages has ludicrously tried to argue, that Jesus instituted the Catholic Eucharist at the Last Supper.

The power and originality of this book stems from the link that Wills establishes between priestly power and the priests believed ability to transform the bread and wine of the liturgical celebration into the physical body and blood of Jesus Christ. Priests, who have a monopoly on this ability, become, in effect, God-makers. Equally important, Wills dispels the many historical myths about the origin and powers of the priesthood, most of them conceived and sustained, for over a millennium, by the Roman church.

Wills' scrutiny of early Christian sources proves particularly compelling in service of his argument. One of the documents that he examines is an ancient writing called the Didachç. The document, discovered in the nineteenth century, purports to be The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, didachç means teaching in Greek. Scholars speculate that this document was written in Syria in the second half of the second century (though this remains only a strong hypothesis), and it gives a clear window into second-century Christian ritual practices, especially the communal Eucharistic meal. The most striking thing about the document is that it lacks the so-called words of institution found in each of the first three gospels that frame Jesus last supper as a memorial and sacrificial meal and are thus often interpreted as providing one of the foundations for the Eucharist as sacrifice. But Wills' analysis of the Greek Didachç proves that Christians in the second-century eastern Mediterranean did not imagine their thanksgiving meal in the evangelists' terms, even roughly a century after the gospel writers composed their account of Jesus last supper. So the Eucharist has not always been imagined in sacrificial terms.

The status and authority of the priesthood has stood or fallen with the claim that Jesus instituted the Eucharist as a sacrificial meal and that priests, following Jesus ancient command and example, offer Jesus' body and blood as a sacrifice to God on behalf of their parishioners. Given Wills' conclusion that the Christian Eucharistic celebration was not conceived as a sacrifice offered by the priest, the question then becomes, why does Catholic Christianity need priests at all? Neither questions like these, nor the title of the volume, should lead us to believe that Wills is hostile to priests. In addition to spending five years in the seminary himself, he has dedicated three of his books (including this one) to the great priest-scholars and priests-prophets, like Dan Berrigan, of his generation.

Wills intriguingly suggests that, rather than argue for the ordination of women priests, or married priests, or openly gay priests, the most logical and historically honest response would be to imagine Catholicism without priests. A priestless Catholicism, Wills argues, would more truly mirror early Christian practice than modern Catholicism. (As a Catholic, Wills has sympathy for the evolution of religious traditions, but for all branches of Christianity, origins remain normative.) As Wills concludes, much of [the] condemnatory, accusatory, persecuting impulse of popes through the ages came from the jealousy of prerogative [and] the pride in exclusivity of the priesthood. Set apart from all other human beings by their unique power to change bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, the priesthood has thus kept Catholics at a remove from other Christians and from the Jesus of the gospels. Why priests, then?

While quite intriguing to contemplate, Wills' suggestion will never be seriously considered, either by Catholic priests or many parishioners. It is likely to be dismissed, therefore, as unrealistic, impractical and possibly unkind. This is a shame. Whatever one thinks of his proposal, Wills' demolition of the many myths surrounding the origins of priestly status and function is in itself crucially informative and enlightening, especially for practitioners of Catholicism.

Kevin Madigan is Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Harvard and author of the forthcoming Medieval Christianity: A New History (Yale University Press).

Monday, February 11, 2013

Quote of the Day

. . . [T]here’s something in Benedict’s resignation statement that bears noting: “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”

Conscience, Benedict reminds us today, is still primary for Catholics. Examination of conscience: that is just the formula millions of us use to explain why we use birth control, enjoy our sexuality in a variety of ways, and see enormous good in other religious traditions. Conscience is the ultimate arbiter, and the Pope relied on his. Good on him, and good on the rest of us.

There has been a lot of fudging on the matter of conscience in recent decades. The post-Vatican II hierarchy has claimed that conscience is primary if, and only if, it is informed as they see fit. But Pope Benedict XVI is giving conscience a new lease on life. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander — the appeal to conscience cannot be denied now that the Pope himself has had recourse to it.

. . . Rank and file Catholics want a new Church, not just a new pope.

We know that change is in the air because we put it there. Progressive Catholics all over the world are creating new forms of church since the old is so thoroughly discredited. No institution can withstand the onslaught of negative publicity that the Vatican earned over clergy sexual abuse and episcopal cover-ups without major changes. No hierarchy however fortified can hold out forever against spirit-filled steps toward equality and justice. This time, just electing a new pope will not do. Nor will closeting away a group of elite electors responsible to no one but themselves cut it for an election process.

Catholic people have consciences too. We expect to have a say in how we organize and govern ourselves. We cannot in conscience abdicate our authority to 118 mostly elderly men. Those days are over. If a pope can abdicate before he goes out feet first without the sky falling in then new egalitarian models of church can and will emerge too. . . .

– Mary E. Hunt
"Papal Retirement: A Matter of Conscience"
Religion Dispatches
February 11, 2013

Church Reform Group Applauds Benedict for "Wise Decision to Resign"

By Brian Roewe

Note: This article was first published February 11, 2012 by The National Catholic Reporter.

FutureChurch, a church reform group based in Ohio, congratulated Pope Benedict XVI in a statement Monday "for his wise decision to resign," saying "it takes courage to recognize when one no longer has the physical strength and health to fulfill the responsibilities of one of the world's most demanding jobs."

“This precedent-setting decision, at least for the modern era, is pointing the Church away from a monarchical model where a leader rules for life,” said Sr. Christine Schenk, executive director of FutureChurch, in a press release. “Pope Benedict is making it clear that papal leadership is an office, and doesn’t belong to any one person. This is good for the Church, and bodes well for the future.”

A member of the organization's board of trustees, Mary Louise Hartman, pointed to past instances where a papacy's final years was filled with "delayed, poor or politicized decisions," and said that the pope's resignation signals he understands that reality "and is taking steps to avoid problems that come with trying to govern when one is in declining health."

FutureChurch has focused its mission on seeking greater participation for all Catholics in the life and leadership of the church. That includes calling for married and celibate priests, opening the diaconate to women, and providing resources and support to parish communities faced with closing churches and parishes.

Related Off-site Links:
Pope's Sudden Resignation Sends Shockwaves Through Church – Philip Pullella (Reuters via Yahoo! News, February 11, 2013).
A Truly Historic Announcement – Colleen Kochivar-Baker (Enlightened Catholicism, February 11, 2013).
Pope Benedict to Resign at the End of the Month – John L. Allen Jr. (National Catholic Reporter, February 11, 2013).
Pope's Mission to Revive Faith Clouded by Scandal – Nicole Winfield (Associated Press via Yahoo! News, February 11, 2013).
New Ways Ministry on the Resignation of Benedict XVI – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, February 11, 2013).
Gay Catholics Respond to Pope's Impending Resignation – DignityUSA (February 11, 2013).
Let an Inclusive Church Rise! – WATER's Statement on the Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI – Women's Alliance of Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (February 11, 2013).
Voice of the Faithful Prays for Pope & a Renewed Church as Benedict XVI Steps Down – Voice of the Faithful (February 11, 2013).
Call to Action Responds to Pope's Resignation – Call to Action (February 11, 2013).
Catholics United Statement on Pope Benedict XVI’s Announcement of Resignation – Catholics United (February 11, 2013).

A Taboo, a New Pope, and a Trurer Church (Part 2)

By Jerry Slevin

Note: This article was originally published on Jerry Slevin's blog Christian Catholicism. For Part 1, click here.

Are cardinals watching current events?

Some current developments strongly suggest that the seemingly irresolvable priest child abuse problem may contribute to toppling this medieval monarchy soon. Significantly and surprisingly, two prominent Cardinals, Martini and Pell, had recently indicated publicly that the child sexual abuse problem continues, in one case even pointing a finger at the Vatican’s administration. These very knowledgeable Cardinals apparently were unwilling to accept their own Pope’s public relations efforts that try to suggest that the priest child abuse problem has been sufficiently curtailed.

How many other Cardinals will also soon be publicly rejecting this papal media spin, if only to protect themselves better from increasingly relentless international prosecutors and survivors’ civil lawyers on the horizon? Will Catholics find out more about many Cardinals’ actual views before the next papal election, especially since the next Pope can be expected to try to continue indefinitely the Vatican’s control over the criminal legal defense strategy that is apparently imposed now on all of the hierarchy worldwide? Perhaps, some Cardinals will not want to handcuff themselves to the railings on the Vatican’s Titanic?

Having observed for several years, as an experienced lawyer, the misguided and ineffective legal defense strategy of the current Pope, it seems inadvisable for Cardinals and Bishops worldwide to concede their legal defense to a distant Vatican administration often controlled, it appears at times, by octogenarians worried more about protecting themselves first. Philadelphia’s Monsignor Lynn may have found this out the hard way when he reportedly was recently denied sufficient funds for an effective appeal of his recent child endangerment criminal conviction for his actions while serving as a subordinate of Cardinals Bevilacqua and Rigali. Should Cardinals really rely on a Vatican administration that, after months of warnings, let their credit card payment system ‘bounce” in the midst of the busy holiday tourist season, as just occurred?

Will the priestly breaches that, as indicated above, two significant Cardinals had recently implied were still being tolerated, of the deep-seated social taboo against sexually violating children lead soon to ending papal dominance of the Catholic Church? Jesus, of course, reiterated this taboo in his stern prohibitions in the Gospels against harming children. Can celibate and childless Catholic hierarchs, like Cardinal Sodano who reportedly referred to news reports of alleged earlier papal cover-ups of priest sexual abuse, as “petty gossip”, even begin to understand the revulsion felt by countless Catholic parents at these obscene violations of children.

Reportedly, there have been over 100,000 child victims of Catholic priest abuse in the USA alone so far, according to experts at a Vatican conference last February. This is hardly “gossip”, and surely not “petty”. Apparently, celibate and childless Catholic hierarchs do not yet sufficiently appreciate the power of this revulsion! Now they must be compelled by international prosecutors to appreciate this.

Have worldwide Catholics and their democratically chosen political leaders now finally had enough of the endless abuse horror stories and the hierarchy’s inadequate and cynical efforts to curtail them effectively? It appears increasingly clear that Catholics worldwide have had enough. Majorities of Catholics in Australia, Ireland, the Philippines and the USA, for example, have just effectively resisted significant Vatican pressure regarding child protection and/or related contraception policies the Vatican opposed strongly.

In particular, the Pope aimed many “moral arrows” at President Obama in connection with the recent November elections, apparently hoping decisively to topple the leader of the world’s most powerful nation. The Pope missed by a wide margin. Now what? Will President Obama now finally investigate priest abuse of Catholic children in the USA, as many Catholics have recently petitioned him to do? Time will tell, as the pressure builds for President Obama to act, especially as Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, moves forward with an unprecedented royal commission investigation of child sexual abuse in organizational settings, including in the Catholic Church. What is President Obama waiting for to establish a comparable U.S. national investigation commission on child sexual abuse in organizational religious, educational and youth group settings, including in the Catholic Church?

The modern worldwide papal geo-political strategy, that began mainly in the 1930′s with facilitating the fascists Mussolini and Hitler, of influencing Catholic voters in exchange for expected political favors from “papal preferred” successful candidates, appears now to be bankrupt, at least as bankrupt as many U.S. Catholic dioceses now are under the weight of significant priest child abuse financial settlements that seem often to be agreed upon at the last minute by U.S. bishops apparently to keep potentially incriminating hierarchical files secret.

How are these current developments likely to lead to the toppling of this long standing hierarchical structure? What would the potential consequences be for Catholics if this happens?

Pope Benedict XVI at 85 years old still reigns over the Roman Holy Empire to be sure. He has so far continued to rule despite the abuse scandal that he has faced, unsuccessfully mostly, often since his days as Archbishop of Munich three decades ago.

The bizarre episode of key documents leaked recently by the Pope’s bold butler raises substantial doubts, however, about how firm this aging Pope’s grip remains on the levers of papal power. Since the butler still likely knows many more papal secrets and cannot any longer be “burned at the papal stake” for copying and distributing documents, he has been pardoned after a very harsh imprisonment process. Will the butler, whose relationship to the Pope does not appear to have been legally privileged and protected, soon be subpoenaed to testify in civil and criminal proceedings involving alleged Vatican misdeeds? Have we heard the last from the butler yet? Probably not.

A new Pope, as mentioned above, is expected by many soon to succeed Pope Benedict XVI. But will it matter much by then? Especially, when it seems that the next Pope may already have been, in effect, pre-selected by the current Pope and Vatican Cardinals that hold significant power over papal candidates’ selection and election. This Pope and his predecessor, John Paul II, carefully selected all of the current voting Cardinals, evidently seeking “Yes Men” who would obedient ally continue these two Popes’ increasingly hierarchical and retrogressive policies. These two Popes witnessed up close as youths the rigid discipline of the Third Reich and both seem thereafter to have held clerical “obedience” to be a “cardinal virtue”.

But are the Vatican Cardinals going to be the last word here? While no European emperors or monarchs in the last century have had a significant say on selecting popes, the modern rule of law is now being applied by constitutional democracies increasingly to the previously unaccountable Vatican administration. At the same time, the modern papal geo-political strategy continues to produce spectacular failures, thereby weakening in many cases the Vatican’s ability to resist these significant legal incursions. These important legal and political developments will likely and should have considerable impact on the next papal election and its aftermath.

Prosecutors and abuse survivors’ civil lawyers from constitutional democracies worldwide, from Australia in the Pacific to Ireland in the Atlantic and to the USA in between, are relentlessly advancing legally on Rome, armed with the powerful modern weapons of international human rights law. They may soon be joined by the woman prosecutor from the independent International Criminal Court, who is reviewing a criminal complaint filed against the Pope and Cardinals Sodano, Bertone and Levada, alleging crimes against humanity related to the cover-up of the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests worldwide.

The current Pope, and any designated successor, will likely be unable to prevent some of these lawyers from breaching the high Vatican walls and gaining access to secret papal files, initially relating to the child abuse scandal, but who knows what else? What might these lawyers find? Once these files are public, it is impossible to predict all of the potential outcomes, but none of them will likely support continuation of the current Roman Holy Empire.

Meanwhile, papal political power also appears on the wane in many other countries, often as a reaction to the papal failure to curtail effectively the worldwide sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests.
As European monarchs chose not to stop the Italian nationalists from seizing the Papal States in 1870 in part out of dissatisfaction with papal failures to adopt political reforms, it is not likely the Vatican will get much sympathy from current political leaders. The days of Cardinal Sodano complaining, as he did, about aggressive U.S. lawyers for survivors of priest sexual abuse to President George W. Bush’s Secretary of State are over. Now the focus shifts to Australia.

Will Australia's Commission compel Vatican changes?

Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s prominent Cardinal, has been considered by some informed sources as a top prospect to be elected pope in the next papal election expected to be held soon. After spending considerable time in late October in Rome with the Pope and numerous other top Cardinals and Bishops at the lengthy Evangelization Synod that was mainly silent on the priest child sex abuse scandal, Cardinal Pell indicated unexpectedly in a public speech last month that the criminal moral cancer of sexual abuse of children by priests is the most important and powerful barrier to Catholic evangelization at present. As Cardinal Pell now faces an unprecedented Australian national governmental commission to investigate thoroughly organizational child sexual abuse in Australia, including in the Catholic Church, he surprisingly admitted in his recent speech that the Catholic Church has failed to deal effectively with some predatory priests and to help enough abuse victims heal. He further acknowledged that much more needs to be done in the child protection area.

Amazingly, as mentioned above, the Evangelization Synod orchestrated by the Pope in late October barely mentioned the child abuse scandal. What may have caused Cardinal Pell so suddenly to “get religion” on abuse matters? Evidently, Cardinal Pell is very concerned about the unprecedented investigation commission, and he should be from all indications. So should Pope Benedict XVI and so should worldwide Cardinals and Bishops.

Cardinal Pell’s quick “conversion” raises questions of where Pope Benedict VI now stands. The October Synod seemed to indicate that the Pope will continue mainly to avoid the abuse scandal. The continuation of Kansas City’s Bishop Finn after his child endangerment conviction suggests continuing Vatican stonewalling. Moreover, the appointment of Cardinal Law’s former canon lawyer as chief Vatican abuse case prosecutor suggests more of the same.

Pope Benedict XVI is generally publicly elusive, doesn’t give journalists regular access and often clouds his carefully drafted statements, and now “Tweets”, with mystical smokescreens. But he has given some clear indications of his ongoing strategy on predatory priests, especially by some of his consistent actions and failures to act, including the recent Synod, Bishop Finn’s retention and his new chief prosecutor appointment. What might the Pope’s current strategy be?

The Church’s organizational structure is analytically fairly simple. At the top is a pope who is “chief executive officer”, supreme legislator and top judge for life. In practice, papal decisions appear often to be influenced strongly, if not at times controlled by, senior Vatican Cardinals, especially the Secretary of State, currently Cardinal Bertone, who succeeded Cardinal Sodano, who appears still to be influential. Both of these Cardinals have reportedly been linked to several long standing scandals; Bertone to the Vatican Bank and a Milan hospital scandals and Sodano to the Mexican child sex abuser, Fr. Maciel, who eluded Vatican investigators for almost a half century by, among other things, reportedly frequently sprinkling large cash payments to powerful members of the Vatican clique.

The Pope, with his Vatican management team, controls Church canon law and judicial proceedings, and selects and controls worldwide Catholic bishops, who can be removed promptly by the pope. Priests and male and female members of religious orders are controlled directly by local Bishops and/or Vatican managers who direct the orders’ superiors. Any who deviate from currently favored Vatican theological or even political positions are generally disciplined promptly, often harshly and unfairly.

Pope Benedict XVI’s strategy appears targeted at maintaining maximum obedience to current papal theological, ecclesiastical and political positions. Opposing positions are at best given lip service, with the result that millions of Catholics, including priests, have left the Catholic Church in frustration, if not disgust. Some who stay try almost hopelessly and usually unsuccessfully to effect changes by stressing contrary precedents, especially the positions approved at the Second Vatican Council. In theory, clear positions approved by Church Councils could trump a contrary Vatican position. In practice, especially under Popes Benedict XVI and his immediate predecessor, in several crucial areas the Vatican’s interpretations of the Council is what controls Church practice, regardless of the weakness of the arguments supporting them.

The Catholic Church’s key “product identity” appears, as mentioned above, to be to create a “monopoly” on the Eucharist, a central element of Catholic worship at the Mass, and on the all male celibate priesthood currently needed to offer the Eucharist worldwide, subject to the control of Bishops and ultimately the Vatican. A common meal of fellow believers in Jesus’ time, at least occasionally overseen by women, has become the central “unique product” in the Vatican’s “marketing” strategy. The pope and his Vatican management team, through numerous “theological” and liturgical statements, seeks to protect and preserve the Vatican’s monopoly here, but need a sufficient number of obedient priests to offer the “product”.

The Vatican seeks zealously to preserve its worldwide “market position” by protecting its “monopoly” on the Eucharist and on the requisite celibate male priesthood against other Christian religious traditions externally and against alternative viewpoints internally, especially espoused often from women seeking admission to the priesthood.

While millions of Catholics have left the Church in rejection of the Vatican’s positions and approach, the Vatican’s prohibition on contraception has helped generate millions of “replacement Catholics”, born to Catholic couples whether or not the couples wanted or could afford to have additional children. Some of those children who survive, often in miserable circumstances, become future sources of Vatican power and wealth, as well as of new priests to serve to fill numerous priest shortages worldwide.

Against this organizational background, the Vatican has seemed incapable of containing its worldwide crisis of children being sexually assaulted by priests. Priests are needed to offer the main “product”, the Eucharist. It takes years under current procedures to train young men to serve as obedient and low wage “producer priests”. The supply of domestic priests is diminishing in many countries and foreign “imports” have not and realistically in most cases cannot satisfactorily resolve the shortages.

Fearful of permitting priests to marry or to have women as priests, both of which means the Vatican might have to risk being viewed as “fallible” and then have to deal on a equal basis openly with women priests or priests’ wives, and even some mothers, on all issues, including child protection matters, and also pay at least married priests higher wages, the Vatican has to date thereby retracted the potential supply of new priests.

Consequently, Bishops are increasingly forced at times to ordain questionable seminarians and still even to retain predatory priests. Given the artificial constriction, by prohibiting married and female priests, of the already diminishing candidate pool, the prospects are increasingly bleak for solving the predatory priest problem, no matter what the Vatican and its apologists may say otherwise!

Moreover, the Vatican’s financial policy seems impervious to the multi-billion dollar continuing cash drain from child abuse claims. A continuing revenue stream from governmental subsidies, docile Catholics’ and protected plutocrats’ contributions, and Vatican investments and tax free properties, and a willingness to close parishes and schools almost indiscriminately, makes paying lawyers to protect Bishops an acceptable cost of business, like some Wall Street financial firms that often treat fraud claims as an acceptable cost of doing business.

Survivors’ lawyers, as alluded to above, seeking usually the most cash for their clients, sooner rather than later, can apparently be depended on to settle claims and keep the bishops’ potentially incriminating files sealed if the settlement amounts are high enough. Apparently, bishops will often pay whatever it takes to protect them. While this expensive litigation process has benefited a small percentage of abuse survivors, it has not benefited many other survivors nor stimulated the Bishops yet to adopt real accountability measures like thorough independent audits.

What can cardinals and Catholics do?

Are there steps Cardinals can take to reduce, or at least mitigate, the adverse effects of the likely implosion of the Holy Roman Empire? Yes, simply put, Cardinals should only vote for a papal candidate who will publicly commit, as a pre-condition of his election, to do the following:

1. Serve as Pope for five years only, and

2. Call an ecumenical council, to be held within 12 months outside Europe, with voting lay participants holding the same number of total votes as clerical participants, including an equal number of women that will review and update:

(a) Policies on contraception, divorce, mixed religious marriages and same sex marriages;

(b) Policies on married and female priests;

(c) Procedures for electing bishops and requiring equal lay participation in the elections; and

(d) Procedures for papal elections by worldwide bishops and for papal term limits no greater than ten years.

Are there steps that lay Catholics can take? Yes, simply put, just suspend all funding of Catholic causes if the Cardinals fail to take all the above steps at the next papal election, and do not resume contributions until all of these steps are taken.

In view of the unlikelihood, as indicated above, that the current Vatican administration will effectively curtail any time soon predatory priests on its own initiative, Catholics need to press their political leaders to compel the Vatican to take promptly all feasible corrective action to protect defenseless children from predatory priests.

Additional information

Several of the themes discussed here are considered in more detail in my statement “Vatican: A New Child Protection Policy Now?”. Please read it at your convenience.

Please also circulate this full statement or relevant portions thereof widely, as you may consider helpful to reforming the Catholic Church, to protecting defenseless children, to comforting suffering abuse survivors and to giving many discouraged Catholics some new hope.

Matters described above can be readily supplemented by relevant material on the Internet by entering the relevant key words in Google for links to the underlying news and other reports.

Finally, several excellent and readable books available in bookstores or online amplify much of the foregoing. Helpful summaries and/or reviews of most of them are presently freely available at

These selective books are:

The Theology of Fear by Fr. Emmett Coyne.

Can the Catholic Church Be Saved? by Fr. Hans Kung (forthcoming soon in an English version).

What Happened at Vatican II by Fr. John O’Malley, S.J.

Trent: What Happened at the Council by Fr. John O’Malley, S.J.

Electing Our Bishops: How the Catholic Church Should Elect Its Leaders by Joseph O’Callaghan.

Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church by Jason Berry.

Perversion of Power: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church by Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea.

The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability For Human Rights Abuse by Geoffrey Robertson.

The Politics of Sex and Religion by Robert Blair Kaiser, available for FREE as an E-Book here.

Jerry Slevin is a retired Wall Street lawyer. He blogs at Christian Catholicism.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Many Voices, One Church

Note: Continuing with our series that recognizes and celebrates the contribution of lay preachers within the local church of St. Paul-Minneapolis, the editorial team of the PCV is honored to share the following homily for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, which falls this year on Evolution Sunday.

For an introduction to this series, click here. Also, please note that to avoid possible negative consequences, names of preachers and/or parishes are not always disclosed in this series.


Readings: Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11..

In our Scripture readings for today, we hear how God calls to Isaiah and how Jesus calls to Peter. We also hear some very reluctant responses. In the first reading, Isaiah beholds a breathtaking vision of God. He sees God’s full glory. At this amazing spectacle, he moans, “Woe is me, I am lost.” He worries that he has unclean lips.

Then in our Gospel story from Luke, Jesus tells Peter and the others to lower their fishing nets and give it another try. They catch so many fish their boats almost sink. At this, Peter exclaims, “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.”

I point out these somewhat cowardly responses because I suspect that many of us share these sentiments. I admit that I do. Often when I perceive God calling me forward to take a new step or move in a new direction, my first response is to resist. “I can’t do what you’re asking, God. I don’t know how; I don’t have the time. And I’m sure not holy enough.” I wish God would go find someone else for the job.

Resistance like this, however, is simply false humility. No matter what our shortcomings, whatever our weaknesses or strengths, we are the one through whom God works.

As you listen further to the Scriptures, note that neither Isaiah nor Peter stay stuck in their resistance. They move past it. Peter drops everything and goes to follow Jesus. At the end of the Isaiah reading, when God asks, “Whom shall I send?” Isaiah finds courage and responds, “Here I am God, send me.”

Can we respond like that? “Here we are God. Send us.” How is God calling us? What is God sending us to do?

One particular way that God calls came to my attention recently. This Sunday is Evolution Sunday. This is a time to look at how science and religion work together. I would like to explore where we might find God’s call in that.

For the last century and a half, science has been uncovering the reality of evolution. As Christians we have been coming to terms with a new understanding of our ancient creation story. Instead of God forming the entire universe in a mere six days, we now know that God’s creation has been ongoing since the beginning of time. It is still ongoing today. Nevertheless, the truth of Genesis still stands; God sees that creation is good.

On this Evolution Sunday, let us remember that science brings us facts, data, and an understanding of the laws of nature. And this is good. Religion, on the other hand, helps us to find meaning in it all, to experience the sacred in creation. And this is also good.

What does this mean for us? Where is God’s call at the intersection of science and religion? I would like to raise up two possibilities.

First, God has created a self-creating universe which is an interdependent web of life. All life, in fact all matter, have evolved from the same source. We are all star dust. We’re born from elements bursting from dying stars somewhere out in the cosmos eons ago. That star dust formed our solar system and our earth. Every creature on earth lives, dies, and goes back to the elements. Those elements then rise back up evolving into new creations.

This is all part of God’s ongoing creative process. In this process, we humans are not removed from the rest of creation. Nor are we superior to is, although we used to think so (and some people still do). We are, in fact, an interdependent part of creation. As Native American spirituality points out, the buffalo are our relatives. So is our environment, the animals, and plants. So are people: those near us, those who are different from us, even those we are at war with. We are all interdependent. We are all sacred parts of God’s evolving creation.

Therefore let us use care with our natural resources. Let us build structures that support people who suffer, who are oppressed, or who are disempowered. The call here is to develop a sense of kinship with the Earth and with each other.

Secondly, just as life forms continue to evolve, so does human consciousness. Theologians working in the area of Evolutionary Christianity point out the evolving phases of human consciousness. In the earliest millennia, consciousness was tribal and rooted in group think. Over time this slowly evolved into a new consciousness called the Axial Period. Consciousness grew to understand and honor the individual. The ancient Greeks said, “Know thyself.” Later in the Enlightenment period, Descartes said, “I think therefore I am.”

Some evolutionary theologians say that we are now entering what they call the Second Axial Period. Human consciousness is evolving into a new phase. We are moving beyond the individual focus and toward greater consciousness of our connectedness. Theologians such as Ilia Delio, a Franciscan nun and author of Christ in Evolution, help us see that as our universe continues to evolve, so does our human consciousness. Things are changing! This is a hopeful message, and I am very excited about how these concepts can help us develop our faith life.

So we must ask, how does God call us in this emerging consciousness?

In this Second Axial Period, we find there isn’t so much individual focus as there was when I was growing up. We have less focus on how do I get to heaven, or am I personally saved. Instead, the focus is moving away from the individual toward asking how we work together to bring about the Reign of God. And that Reign is not up in heaven but right here on Earth, in the midst of God’s creation.

Nevertheless, we are still individuals, and that continues to be important. God still calls each of us as individuals. But the call is not just to grow in our own personal piety. The call is to help the world evolve into the Reign of God that Jesus promised.

The call here is to become active participants. We are not simply to be bystanders, not simply to be recipients of creation. We are, in fact, co-creators with God in evolution. We are called to actively build God’s Reign (1) by cherishing the earth, (2) through our work for justice and for peace, and (3) when we find ways to touch others with compassion. When we do these things, we are co-creating God’s Reign.

As we open ourselves to hear this call, we each need to look inward as individuals to see where our resistance lies. We must ask ourselves what holds us back. Where are we stuck in our excuses, self doubts, or false humility?

As Lent begins for us this week, this time of reflection, let us ask ourselves two questions:

(1) How is God calling me to participate in this evolving co-creation?

(2) How am I responding?

Maybe we can sit with these questions in our hearts until we too can courageously respond as Isaiah did, “Here I am God. Send me.”


For an excerpt from Ilia Delio's book The Emergent Christ: Exploring the Meaning of Catholic in an Evolutionary Universe, click here.

For some helpful articles on evolutionary Catholicism, click here.

For information about the upcoming workshop, "Our Role in God's Evolving Creation: A Catholic Spirituality for the 21st Century," click here.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Good News: Archbishop Already Planning Archdiocesan Pastoral Council

By Paula Ruddy

Concerned that lay people have no regular channels of communication with the clerical leadership, the Council of the Baptized published and sent to Archbishop John Nienstedt its first position paper entitled "Archdiocesan Pastoral Council: A Recommendation for Re-establishment" on January 17, 2013. The Archbishop responded by a letter dated February 1, 2013. He says a plan is already in the works to bring an APC back to this archdiocese.

Despite the fact that we have heard nothing about this plan, lay Catholics can welcome the Archbishop’s initiative.

The concern now is for how the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council will be structured. In its position paper, the Council of the Baptized recommends that the members of the APC be elected from diverse groups of people within the archdiocese. It also recommends that everyone be allowed to submit subjects for discussion by the APC in open agendas. And finally, to hold everyone accountable, the APC meetings should be open to the press and the public.

Without a degree of openness, the new APC will be doomed. The history of Diocesan Pastoral Councils has shown that when the pastors and bishops hand pick the members, when the bishop sets the agenda, and when the meetings are closed, responsible lay people lose interest. The mission of the Church is best served by laity and clergy of all points of view listening to each other. If we believe that the Holy Spirit speaks through all the faithful, an open atmosphere welcomes the Spirit’s voice.

Of course, canon law puts the responsibility on the Archbishop to determine what structure the APC will have. There is no requirement of canon law, however, that the Archbishop cannot consult widely in its planning and make it an open, diverse, and truly representative body. That is up to his good will and good judgment.

We urge Catholics concerned about authentic two-way communication in the Church to express their hopes and needs to the Archbishop while he is planning the new Archdiocesan Pastoral Council. His address is: 226 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55102.

Order a copy of the Council of the Baptized’s position paper
by clicking here. The paper will be sent to you free of charge.

See also the previous PCV post:
Council of the Baptized Recommends Comeback for Archdiocesan Pastoral Council

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Taboo, a New Pope, and a Truer Church (Part 1)

By Jerry Slevin

Note: This article was originally published on Jerry Slevin's blog Christian Catholicism.

Will a taboo bring down the 'Roman Holy Empire'?

The escalating scandal of priests sexually abusing children, and the resulting increasing legal pressures on the Vatican, appears to be threatening the very survival of the “Roman Holy Empire”. This mythical medieval concept supports the essential foundational claim that seeks unsuccessfully to justify historically Vatican hierarchical power. The Pope, as “Supreme Pontiff” for life and the “semi-divine infallible Vicar of Christ”, along with his “Imperial Staff” of Vatican Cardinals, have evidently pursued an imperial “top-down” policy for centuries, in secrecy and despite the rule of law, that seems directed too often at enhancing the power and wealth of senior Vatican officials and their subservient Cardinals and Bishops worldwide.

The Vatican implements this strategy mainly at the expense of trusting and generous lay Catholics, including their many children who continue to suffer from priest sexual abuse. Various prosecutors and survivors’ lawyers internationally are now increasingly challenging the Roman Holy Empire’s strategy with enhanced prospects for more success, in national courts and governmental investigations, as well as at the independent International Criminal Court.

The Vatican’s strategy centers on claiming monopolistic control over a “unique Eucharist” that purportedly can be offered to Catholics only by “ontologically pure celibate male priests”. These priests receive long theological preparation, but work for low wages, under the rigid control of well rewarded and exceedingly obedient Cardinals and Bishops. These hierarchs also usually serve for life in very comfortable surroundings, provided they zealously follow Vatican orders, including those relating to punishing prophetic voices among priests and nuns that could undercut absolute papal authority. A Jesuit from South America, for example, was just silenced for recently questioning a point in the Pope’s new Jesus book, even though the Jesuit relied for his point on the work of the same Scriptural scholar the Pope refers to favorably in his book. So much for the papal pleas for “religious liberty”! Liberty for anonymous Vatican officials, but not for Jesuit scholars. Really?

“Pure priests” are absolutely essential for promoting hierarchical fundraising and political influence among the docile Catholic faithful; hence, Bishops are pressured by the Vatican to supply and protect a continuous stream of priests at all costs to sustain this desired fundraising and influence. Indeed, the resulting absolute priest protection policies, apparently even some that employ illegal cover-ups at the expense of innocent child sexual abuse victims, are at the heart of the growing threat to the Roman Holy Empire.

Bishops in many countries must staff parishes with a diminishing domestic priest pool. Bishops are forbidden by the Vatican from seeking available married or female Catholic priests, since permitting these “impure priests” risks undercutting papal “mystical power claims” to infallibility, given prior papal statements by the current Pope and his immediate predecessor on the purported “divine mandate” requiring the “pure priesthood of celibate males” only. Apparently, the need for more priests, especially very “obedient” ones, helps explain the Pope’s disproportionate efforts to solicit support from rigid and controversial groups of “traditionalist” priests, like those involved in Opus Dei, the Legion of Christ and the Society of St. Pius X, as well as the Pope’s unecumenical efforts to “poach” dissident Anglican priests.

Hence, notwithstanding the decades’ old worldwide scandal of priest sexual abuse of children, Bishops still are effectively, and even increasingly, under Vatican pressure to accept some questionable seminarians and many unsuitable foreign priests, and shockingly still to retain suspected sexual predators, whenever feasible, it appears. This blatant clericalism was just reinforced by the appointment of a new Vatican chief prosecutor of predatory priests, who had served under Boston’s infamous Cardinal Law. The new prosecutor reportedly has a reputation for being more “pro accused priest” than many other canon lawyers.

Moreover, Philadelphia’s Archbishop Chaput appears still to be carrying accused priests that his predecessor, Cardinal Rigali, suspended over a year and a half ago. And Cardinal Rigali surely was not one that suspended priests lightly, as amply shown at the recent criminal trial convicting his long time subordinate, Monsignor Lynn, of child endangerment.

The billions of dollars expended by U.S. Bishops relating to legal claims of abuse survivors that result, at least in material part, from the Vatican’s “anti-children” policy appear currently to be just another “cost of doing business” for Bishops to be funded either by trusting Catholics’ contributions or by cost-savings from closing more Catholic churches and schools. Paying large settlements that keep Bishops’ incriminating files sealed appears acceptable to survivors’ lawyers, not too surprisingly given their usual percentage fee arrangements, but also apparently to many Bishops, so long as the Bishops can be assured of avoiding criminal prosecution for child endangerment by making the large payments.

Avoiding criminal prosecution appears, however, to be becoming more difficult for Bishops to do. This prospect potentially poses a very serious threat to the Roman Holy Empire. For example, Philadelphia’s Cardinal Bevilacqua apparently avoided prosecution recently only by being terminally ill, not a “first choice defense” for most hierarchs presumably. Boston’s Cardinal Law apparently only avoided local prosecutors earlier by fleeing to Rome and getting immunity protection from the Vatican, not likely to be available any longer to many other hierarchs. Kansas City’s Bishop Finn was, of course, recently convicted, but got a “soft plea deal” and still seems, nevertheless, to remain for now in good standing with the Vatican.

Will a new pope save the church?

Voting Cardinals know that a new Pope is on the horizon, ending an era of Popes who attended the Second Vatican Council but were beholden for their elections to powerful Vatican Cardinals who thwarted key Council structural reforms overwhelmingly approved by over 2,000 Cardinals and Bishops from around the world. The present providential opportunity may now enable these Cardinals and all Catholics, as the People of God revitalized by the Council, to implement Council structural reforms that Vatican Cardinals have effectively blocked for a half-century.

The recent October Roman Synod was fully “Vatican orchestrated” with carefully pre-selected Cardinals’ and Bishops’, who generally and amazingly ducked the monumental abuse scandal. This Synod was the latest example of the Vatican Cardinals’ success in neutralizing the power-sharing arrangements between the Pope and worldwide Bishops that over 2.000 “Vatican II Fathers” naively thought they had overwhelmingly and definitively approved in 1965 before leaving the Council.

Will voting Cardinals soon act to save the Catholic Church from its present shameful and deteriorating condition, even if some Cardinals may do so mainly to assure their own survival? Or will they instead foolishly choose to remain subject to the control of a corrupt and ruthless Vatican administration that increasingly scandalizes Catholics worldwide, while also intimidating and/or picking off isolated Cardinals, Bishops, priests and members of religious orders, especially female ones, who object to the Vatican’s self-serving strategy?

The world’s Catholics will be watching closely the Cardinals’ actions in choosing a new Pope. If the Cardinals fail to act decisively here, many of the world’s Catholics will likely vote with their feet, as many other millions of Catholics who have left the Catholic Church in disgust in recent years already have? Many of these Catholics will likely also demand governmental investigations following the lead of almost 90 % of Australian Catholics who, according to polls, are supporting their Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, in her bold establishment of a national royal commission to investigate organizational child sexual abuse, including in the Australian Catholic Church.

Recently, also, many U.S. Catholics and other U.S. citizens have begun the inevitable push to get President Obama to set up a comparable national investigation commission in the U.S.A. Following the Pope’s disastrous misstep recently in trying to help tax-avoiding Republican plutocrats defeat the President in his recent re-election campaign, why would President Obama, who has spoken out strongly against the organizational sexual abuse of defenseless children, not act here? Moreover, the Pope’s U.S. plutocrat allies just received a major tax increase and may not be returning Vatican calls these days, given the electoral defeat they just received relying too heavily on the Pope’s well funded, but very counter-productive, anti-contraception crusade, it appears.

The Catholic Church likely will soon either reform itself voluntarily or be reformed involuntarily by prosecutors applying international human rights law to protect defenseless children. Either way, it will likely be reformed soon. Worldwide Cardinals sadly and unwisely may again let their Vatican counterparts dictate to them. Notwithstanding, Catholic parents are fed up with priests with impunity raping their children, while insensitive and childless celibates in the Vatican waft mystical smokescreens about the “ontological superiority” of priests. It is time to end this pernicious scholastic nonsense and to protect innocent children honestly and effectively.

Catholics may soon finally eliminate their Church’s coercive and corrupt imperial structure and return to the Church’s original consensual and credible democratic structure with leaders who are once again accountable to the faithful. The consensual Catholic Church structure the Apostles left behind served the original Catholics well. This structure also reflects much better the spirit of God’s loving rule that Jesus revealed to the Apostles than does the hierarchical structure imposed coercively by Roman Emperors in the Fourth Century and that still shamefully continues in Rome. Moreover, modern technology among Bishops themselves, as well as with the Catholic faithful, can make this restored consensual leadership structure function even more efficaciously than it did for Catholics in the post-Apostolic era.

This may be the last chance for any Pope and the Cardinals and Bishops to salvage their rapidly disappearing moral authority that most Catholics once respected. Even in countries with large numbers of Catholic voters, perceptive political leaders have begun to challenge increasingly previously mandated papal positions, for example, on contraception and same sex marriage. These political leaders know well that more Catholic voters are regularly disregarding papal mandates, as respect for the Vatican declines in light of the ceaseless media reports of child abuse scandal cover-ups and financial corruption and incompetence at the Vatican Bank.

The Roman Holy Empire has survived since Emperor Constantine for almost 1,700 years. It has survived despite the violently executed Reformation that failed to reform the Church sufficiently. But the taboo against sexually abusing children is more powerful than opposition to selling indulgences. This Holy Empire has even survived democratically inspired Revolutions that by 1918 helped end all other European absolute monarchies, but still left the papal monarchy intact. The democratic revolution has now reached the Vatican.

It clearly appears that the Roman Holy Empire may now be in its final days as the mandates of the democratic rule of law are being applied increasingly to alleged Vatican misconduct relating to endangering children. The previously unaccountable Vatican administration is facing growing challenges from the application of international human rights laws. These challenges are likely to compel the Vatican and worldwide Cardinals and Bishops against their personal preference, but in their legal self-interest, to reform radically the Catholic Church’s centralized hierarchical structure and to discard the contrived theological and clearly unhistorical positions underpinning it.

The Vatican’s administration’s failure to address the abuse problem effectively to date, and the prevalence of the current code of silence, or “omerta”, on child abuse matters, reported last February by the Vatican’s former chief prosecutor before he was “promoted out” to Malta, suggest that the Vatican administration is incapable of curtailing abuse sufficiently itself, unless legally compelled to do so. If Vatican officials will not even discuss the priest child abuse problem openly among themselves and with their own prosecutor, how can they possibly resolve this continuing problem?

Of course, these Vatican officials likely are aware their abuse related discussions could come back to haunt them in a future criminal proceeding. Presumably, their lawyers have so advised them. For example, Philadelphia’s Monsignor Lynn testified extensively about his boss, Cardinal Bevilacqua’s misdeeds. Perhaps someone, for example, even the Pope’s mistreated butler, may testify against senior Vatican officials, possibly even against the Pope himself. For example, what more does the butler know about the documents the Pope reportedly marked, “Destroy!”

Will Catholics be able soon to select leaders who they can really respect, and who will listen to them even if they are not major donors? Will Jesus’ clear mandate of the “First” serving the “Last” finally be the Catholic Church’s policy once again soon, by force of international law no less? Will Catholic Church leaders now be able again boldly and widely to speak “truth to power” on behalf of victims of injustice in all forms, without having to soften their message for some questionable organizational or plutocratic advantage pushed by Vatican intimidation?

Until now, an unaccountable papal monarch generally has ruled this Holy Empire. Often during the last millennium, he has been selected to rule the Catholic Church absolutely for life by an opportunistic and self-interested elite “male club” dominated by a clique of Roman Cardinals. Is this hierarchical structure about to end? Will the Catholic Church finally return to its original consensual Gospel structure that the Apostles left behind and that was mainly followed for almost three centuries, until Constantine and his successors began to coercively commandeer the Church for Roman imperial purposes beginning in the Fourth Century?

To be continued.

Related Off-site Links:
In Los Angeles, a Victory for TruthNational Catholic Reporter (February 2, 2013).
Mahony Defends Legacy on Church Abuse in Blog – Gillian Flaccus (Associated Press via Yahoo! News, February 2, 2013).