Canadian R.C. Bishop ask for Women Deacons

Synod should reflect on possibility of allowing female deacons, says Canadian archbishop

Canadian Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, Quebec (CNS)

Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau said, where possible, women should be given higher positions in the Church

Canadian Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, Quebec, said the synod should reflect on the possibility of allowing for female deacons as it seeks ways to open up more opportunities for women in Church life.

Where possible, qualified women should be given higher positions and decision-making authority within Church structures and new opportunities in ministry, he told Catholic News Service on Tuesday.

Discussing a number of proposals he offered the synod fathers to think about, he said, “I think we should really start looking seriously at the possibility of ordaining women deacons because the diaconate in the Church’s tradition has been defined as not being ordered toward priesthood but toward ministry.”

Currently, the Catholic Church permits only men to be ordained as deacons. Deacons can preach and preside at baptisms, funerals and weddings, but may not celebrate Mass or hear confessions.

Speaking to participants at the Synod of Bishops on the family on October 6, Archbishop Durocher said he dedicated his three-minute intervention to the role of women in the Church — one of the many themes highlighted in the synod’s working document.

The working document, which is guiding the first three weeks of the synod’s discussions, proposed giving women greater responsibility in the Church, particularly through involving them in “the decision-making process, their participation — not simply in a formal way — in the governing of some institutions; and their involvement in the formation of ordained ministers.”

Archbishop Durocher, who recently ended his term as president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CNS that much of his brief talk was focused on the lingering problem of violence against women, including domestic violence.

He said the World Health Organisation estimates that 30 percent of women worldwide experience violence by their partner.

He reminded the synod fathers that in the apostolic exhortation, Familiaris Consortio, in 1981, St John Paul II essentially told the Church that “we have to make a concerted and clear effort to make sure that there is no more degradation of women in our world, particularly in marriage. And I said, ‘Well, here we are 30 years later and we’re still facing these kinds of numbers.’”

He said he recommended one thing they could do to address this problem was, “as a synod, clearly state that you cannot justify the domination of men over women — certainly not violence — through biblical interpretation,” particularly incorrect interpretations of St Paul’s call for women to be submissive to their husbands.

In his presentation the archbishop also noted that Benedict XVI had talked about the question of new ministries for women in the Church. “It’s a just question to ask. Shouldn’t we be opening up new venues for ministry of women in the Church?” he said.

In addition to the possibility of allowing for women deacons, he said he also proposed that women be hired for “decision-making jobs” that could be opened to women in the Roman Curia, diocesan chanceries and large-scale Church initiatives and events.

Another thing, he said, “would be to look at the possibility of allowing married couples — men and women, who have been properly trained and accompanied — to speak during Sunday homilies so that they can testify, give witness to the relationship between God’s word and their own marriage life and their own life as families.”


In the course of the current Meeting of Roman Catholic Bishops in Rome, to discuss issues affecting the Church and Family Life, this plea on the part of a Canadian Archbishop to open up the possibility of ordaining women as deacons will find an echo in many parts of the Church that are suffering from a lack of male vocations to the ordained ministry.

The ordained diaconate in the Roman Catholic Church at this time is offered only to male persons, many of them nowadays being recruited from married men in good standing in the Church. To open up this ministry to women would certainly be an advance in the Church’s attitude to the Sacrament of Holy Orders – which is currently only open to men – despite the fact that, in the Early Church, from examples in the N.T. Scriptures, there were women deacons listed among those serving in that ministry.

There will obviously be some fear felt by those in the R.C. Church who are wedded to the idea of women’s subservience to men – especially in matters of authority and leadership roles, normally granted only the male of the species – at what might seem a stark and revolutionary change from current tradition. However, the pastoral needs of the Church, as expressed by people like Archbishop  Durocher at this Conference, might just tip the balance towards a more practical acceptance of women as fellow workers in the vineyard. Whether this, in turn, might lead to women priests in the Roman Catholic Church seems unlikely at this stage of development. However, with Pope Francis in charge,  one can never tell.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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R.C. Monastery used to ‘cure gay priests” ?

Vatican uses Venturini monastery to ‘cure gay priests’, former clergy claim

Priests who ‘show inappropriate sexual tendencies’ are removed to the Venturini monastery in Trento for ‘a period of training, personal reflection and enlightenment’, according to the Italian press

The Vatican has secretly been sending gay priests to a monastery near the Alps to be “cured” alongside paedophiles and drug addicts, it has emerged.

Priests who “show inappropriate sexual tendencies” are removed to the Venturini monastery in Trento for “a period of training, personal reflection and enlightenment”, according to Italian press reports.

The revelation came as hundreds of Catholic bishops, priests and laity began three weeks of deliberations in Rome over the church’s teachings on family life – including gay relationships – at a special synod. It followed a row at the weekend when a Polish theologian, 43-year-oldMonsignor Krzysztof Charamsa, was sacked from Vatican posts within hours of declaring he was gay and had a long-term partner.

British clerical abuse victim Peter Saunders, who has been appointed to a Vatican child protection commission by Pope Francis, told The Independent that the Church was too soft on paedophile priests and their protectors, and contrasted this with their swift sacking of Msgr Charamsa.

One former clergyman, Mario Bonfante, was told to go to Venturini when his superiors discovered he was gay, in order for him “to rediscover the right path” – and after he refused, he was dismissed.

The all-male institute, and its order, the Priestly Heart of Jesus, was founded by Fr Mario Venturini in 1928 in a  large house in Trento, in the foothills of Alps. As many as a dozen priests can stay there.

Pope Francis, leaving the special synod at the Vatican on Monday, said he did not want his Church to be a ‘museum of memories’

Fr Gianluigi Pastò, 72, the priest in charge at Venturini, told Italian newspapers: “I can only say that here we help the priests become healthy.” The Independent was told that neither Fr Pastò nor any other staff were available for interview. A Vatican spokesman said: “There is no comment.”

In an interview with La Repubblica, Fr Pastò denied his institution was specifically for gay and paedophile priests, but did not deny that such clergy had come there in the past. “Right now we have neither priests nor gay paedophile priests. Of course, our task is to welcome everyone,” he said, adding that some priests who came to the monastery had problems with drug or alcohol abuse. He would not comment on which, if any, psychological or psychiatric treatments were used to treat residents.

The monastery’s website says that “various types of therapy allow the community to host a large number of priests and religious people, offering them a relaxed and open environment in which to confront their difficulties”.

Gay rights campaigners reacted angrily to the reports. “This sort of thing is completely wrong,” said Francis DeBernardo, Director of New Ways Ministry, the US Catholic LGBT rights group. “Being gay is not a disease that needs to be cured… What needs to be cured is not homosexuality but homophobia.”

Pope Francis told the synod today that the Church should not be allowed to remain just a stuffy “museum of memories” but should have the courage to change if that was what God wanted. He urged bishops to eschew conventions and prejudices. They should not “point fingers at the others to judge them”, nor feel superior to those with different ideas, he said.

In a passage that appeared to be directed at unbending traditionalists, the Pope said bishops should beware the “hardening of some hearts, which despite good intentions, keep people away from God”.

But at a news conference after the first full synod session, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris warned reporters they would be “disappointed” if they expected radical changes to basic Church doctrine on family issues such as marriage.


From the final paragraph of this ‘Independent’ report, one may detect a defensive attitude in line with the traditional Vatican stance, for instance, on matters of gender and sexuality. Cardinal Vingt-Trois was quick to deny any suggestion of doctrinal changes coming out of the Bishops Synod in Rome. This would seem to pre-empt anything that the Holy Spirit (invoked by Pope Francis at the Opening ceremony) might have to bring in the way of change to the traditional theology of the Roman Catholic Church on such matters! All of this in the light of the Pope’s action described hereunder:

“Pope Francis told the synod today that the Church should not be allowed to remain just a stuffy “museum of memories” but should have the courage to change if that was what God wanted. He urged bishops to eschew conventions and prejudices. They should not “point fingers at the others to judge them”, nor feel superior to those with different ideas, he said.

In a passage that appeared to be directed at unbending traditionalists, the Pope said bishops should beware the “hardening of some hearts, which despite good intentions, keep people away from God”.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch ,New Zealand

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Marriage and the XXXIX Articles

As has been pointed out, by Father Tobias Haller, in his comment on the ‘Thinking Anglicans’ article referring to the recent Statement by the Anglican Church of Nigeria about the requirement for Anglican Communion Churches to subscribe to the Thirty-Nine Articles in the Book of Common Prayer as one of the 3 basic criteria for membership of the Communion; there are difficulties in trying to reconcile the Church of Nigeria’s stance about the sacramental nature of Marriage with that shown in the Articles.

Here is the text from Art.XXV:
‘Of the Sacraments’:

“MATRIMONY (is) not be counted for (a) Sacrament of the Gospel, being such as (has) grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly (a) state of life allowed in the scriptures; but yet (has) not like nature of Sacraments with Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, for that: (IT HAS) NOT ANY VISIBLE SIGN OR CEREMONY ORDAINED OF GOD”.

If the GAFCON Primates really do accept the XXXIX Articles; then Marriage has not the sacramental valuation they would attribute to it; having other interpretations for its use.

Many Anglicans in the modern world no longer put our faith in the totality of the XXIX Articles; seeing them rather as 39 artifacts, only some of which are acceptable in today’s Church & World.

So, in addition to details in my previous post on this subject; this fact about (1) the non-sacramental nature of Marriage as stated in the 39 Articles – together with the fact that (2) non-Gafcon Provinces of the Church do NOT subscribe to the separatist ‘Jerusalem Statement’ of faith, peculiar to the Gafcon Primates – this effectively scuttles 2 of the 3  ‘requirements’ by Nigeria and the other Gafcon Provinces – as basic for membership of the A. Communion.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Church of Nigeria issues challenge to the ACC

Communique from the Church of Nigeria

Although the document has yet to appear on the provincial website, the full text of a communiqué from the September meeting of the Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria has been published at Episcopal Cafè and also at Anglican Mainstream. Most of the document deals with local Nigerian matters, but there are two paragraphs which may be of wider interest:


The Standing Committee unanimously resolved to continue to maintain the orthodox biblical stand on this matter. It also calls on her members to defend the orthodox biblical teaching on marriage and family. On its part, the Federal Government is further enjoined to continue to resist the foreign pressure to make it rescind its stand on same-sex marriage.


While the Anglican Communion continues to be impaired by revisionist theologies of some Anglican Provinces, the Standing Committee calls the leadership of the Anglican Communion to repentance and renewed faith in Christ as expressed in the bible, the articles of religion and the Jerusalem Declaration, and further reaffirms our commitment on these as the basis of our relationship with other parts of the communion.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento (T.A.) on Sunday, 4 October 2015


This challenging Statement, made by the Standing Committee of the Anglican Church in Nigeria, will do nothing to ease the tension expected to be experienced by the Anglican Communion Primates’ Meeting called at the invitation of the ABC, to be held in Canterbury in January 2016. That is, of course, if the Nigerian Primate intends to grace the meeting with his presence.

Such a blatant accusation of ‘unorthodoxy’ on the part of Provincial Churches with whom it does not agree will do nothing to enhance the Church of Nigeria’s credibility as a viable participant in the Anglican Communion’s future.

Further, the implicit expectation of the Nigerians that the rest of the Communion Provinces should toe the line on GAFCON’s isolationist doctrinal position contained in its ‘Jerusalem Declaration’, is little short of spiritual chutzpah; requiring, surely, a reprimand from the ABC and the other Instruments of Unity in the world-wide Anglican Communion.

The day that the non-GAFCON Provinces are held to ransom by the requirement to adhere to the secessionist ‘Jerusalem Declaration’, is the day that the Communion becomes more dysfunctional than it happens to be at this present time.

With accusatory statements such as this by the Anglican Church in Nigeria, I hold out little hope of Nigeria’s willingness to take part in Primates’ Meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury in January, convened with the sole purpose of Communion Reconciliation. 

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Vatican sacks gay priest for coming out video

The Vatican on Saturday dismissed a gay priest from his Holy See job on the eve of a major Church meeting; for a highly public coming out that challenged the Roman Catholic teaching that homosexual acts are a sin.

Monsignor Krzysztof Charamsa, a Polish theologian, had worked at the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s doctrinal arm, since 2003. He was also sacked from his jobs teaching theology at pontifical universities in Rome.

Charamsa, 43, told Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper that he was gay and had a partner in an interview published on Saturday. The Church does not consider homosexuality a sin but priests, whether heterosexual or gay, are meant to be celibate.

Charasma also held a news conference with his partner and gay activists at a Rome restaurant. They had planned a demonstration in front of the Vatican but changed the venue several hours before it was due to have started.

The Vatican said the dismissal had nothing to do with Charasma’s reflections on his personal life, which it said “merit respect”.

But it said giving the interview and the planned demonstration was “grave and irresponsible” given their timing on the eve of a synod of bishops who will discuss family issues, including the Church’s position on gays.

It said his actions would subject the synod, which Pope Francis is due to open on Sunday, to “undue media pressure”.

At the news conference, Charamsa said he wanted to make “an enormous noise for the good of the Church” and apply “good Christian pressure” on the synod not to forget homosexual believers.

“This decision of mine to come out was a very personal one taken in a Catholic Church that is homophobic and very difficult and harsh (towards gays) ” he said.

He suggested that a study be made of how many homosexuals work in the Vatican. “We can’t continue showing contempt and offence towards homosexuals,” he said.

The issue of homosexuality and the church has dominated the aftermath of the pope’s visit to the United States last week.

“I ask the pope to be strong and to remember us, homosexuals, lesbians, transsexuals and bisexuals as children of the church and members of humanity,” Charamsa said.

The Vatican has been embarrassed by a row over the pope’s meeting during his US trip with Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk who went to jail in September for refusing to honour a US Supreme Court ruling and issue same-sex marriage licences.

– Reuters


This Reuters article from Vatican City depicts a former Vatican theologian, Polish Monsignor Krzysztof Charamsa, explaining his motive in publicly announcing his long-time partnership with another man. Fr. Charasma wants to take a stand on the situation of what might be seen as double-standards in the Roman Catholic Church on the issue of homosexuality.

This happens at the very time that Bishops from around the world are gathered in Rome to consider the results of world-wide discussions by Catholic dioceses of –  amongst other things concerning intimate family life – the phenomenon of homosexuality and its impact on the Church.

This could be the first of a number of highly-placed Roman Catholic clergy becoming ready to admit the fact that, in the background of their lives, there is a ‘skeleton on the cupboard’ – a hitherto hidden relationship that the Church has traditionally either condemned, or ignored. The hypocrisy this has inflicted on the Roman Catholic Church – not unlike that inflicted on the Church of England and other Christian Churches around the world – needs to be exposed, in order to rid the Church of an endemic culture of homophobia that Pope Francis, as well as other Church Leaders, has decried as having no place in the Body of Christ.

The current Bishops’ Meeting with the Pope will no doubt be brought face to face with the reality of this latest ‘outing’ of an acknowledged Gay priest working within the Vatican. The question is; What will they do about it? And how will the outcome affect the future of Church policy towards the LGBTQI community  that exists within its ranks?

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Synod of Roman Catholic Bishops – ‘The Family’

Where do we go from here?
01 October 2015 by Massimo Faggioli

Tomorrow sees the re-convening of bishops in Rome to consider marriage, divorce and sexuality. Last year’s meeting brought bitter disagreements out into the open and the rows have continued to simmer ever since

Bishops who attended synods before 2014 were under no illusion that their discussions were either relevant for the people of God or listened to by the Pope and the Curia. The membership of the synod today is no different – there are still no women except among the auditors. The rules have not changed, but the meaning and purpose is different. The synods of 2014 and 2015 have broken new ground: something happened in Rome last October, something has happened during the inter-synodal period, and something is about to happen next month – and afterwards.

It is almost unimaginable that the process started by Francis will come to nothing. His decision to focus two synods in 12 months on a single subject challenges the institutional Church’s belief that the issues it raises – the modern family and marriage, divorce and communion, sexuality and homosexuality – have been definitively settled for all time.

The Church is beginning to acknowledge a reality that, in many cases, is significantly distant from the ideal. The synod of 2014 did not have a prepared script but developed with a substantial number of exchanges between members with different understandings of the relationship between the Gospel and the way the Church announces it and lives it as a community of believers.

The final relatio was voted through by the members: all its paragraphs received an absolute majority, and just three paragraphs were a few votes short of the required two-thirds majority. Francis opened the inter-synodal period with his decision to publish the relatio with the votes received recorded beside each paragraph to show to the Church the state of the consensus among the representatives of the world episcopate.

The preparatory document for the 2015 synod, the lineamenta, sought wide-ranging input and asked episcopal conferences to involve all groups within the Church. Despite the fact that only a few bishops’ conferences worked systematically to prepare for the synod, and even fewer mobilised lay associations and academic institutions, the working document, the Instrumentum Laboris, published in June by the Vatican, represented a step forward. The Instrumentum showed that there is broad agreement on several issues, especially on Cardinal Walter Kasper’s proposal that, in certain cases, divorced and remarried Catholics should be allowed to receive the sacraments following “a journey of reconciliation or penance, under the auspices of the local bishop”.

There are those who hope that Francis’ recent decision regarding the annulment process, announced in two motu proprios on 8 September, will take the issue of communion for divorced and remarried off the table. But this is unlikely to happen. The motu proprios show his intention to act where there is consensus but not to silence the synod on issues where there is no unanimity. Francis is a “pope of process” and the process is still wide open.

In fact, these motu proprios and the decision to call the Year of Mercy are of profound relevance: the first flows naturally from the 2014 synod; the second is an act of dialogue with the forthcoming synod. It does not hijack the agenda or anticipate its conclusions but reminds the Synod Fathers of the horizon of expectations Francis is seeking in the Church.

The ideologies that envelop in a crushing embrace much of the theological thinking about family and marriage in the Church today must be disturbing for such a profoundly anti-ideological pope as Francis. The most striking feature of the period between the two family synods has been the entrenchment of opposing positions. The disagreement is not between liberal and conservatives, but between pastors and ideologues.

At the beginning of September, there appeared in the conservative US magazine First Things an appeal against an interpretation of Humanae Vitae that appears in paragraph 137 of the Instrumentum Laboris. Signatories believe the paragraph undermines the teaching of the encyclical. Their gesture speaks volumes about their anguish following the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. In the US, the bishops elected as members of the synod are certainly not among the enthusiasts of Francis. On the other hand, American Catholic theologians and the laity are too divided to work together in a synodal process.

Those who are paying closest attention to Francis are those who do not share his views. Firm bridges have been built between the leaders of the resistance in America, in the Curia and in Italy, as illustrated in books published by Ignatius Press. The most recent, Eleven Cardinals Speak on Marriage and the Family, includes an accusation that the leaders of the 2014 synod, appointed and confirmed by Francis, rigged the process.

Africa is usually enrolled in the “culture wars” alongside the US, but the picture is more complex than that. In June, at a wide-ranging meeting in Ghana of African moral theologians, several academics and bishops called for a broader scope of discussions at the 2015 synod to include migration and displacement, high rates of domestic violence, mortality rates for women giving birth and the dowry system.

In France, Germany, Switzerland and Spain, there have been important reflections. In Italy these have come from the theological faculty of Milan, the ecumenical monastic community of Bose (near Turin), and the semi-official journal of the Vatican, La Civiltà Cattolica, under the editorship of Antonio Spadaro SJ, who conducted the celebrated interview with Pope Francis six months after his election.

The Jesuit-run journal has published a stream of essays debating the issue of marriage in post-modern and secular society, and in light of the historical-critical studies on the origins and history of marriage. In doing so it has reprised the role it played during Vatican II. The essays, together with interviews with cardinals Cottier and Schönborn, have just been republished as books, Family as a Field Hospital and Truth and Mercy, both edited by Fr Spadaro.

The Synod will also see parallel informal sessions held in public of a kind that were typical in Rome at the time of the council. A network under the heading “Catholic Women Speak” has prepared a book giving women’s perspectives on marriage and the family, which were presented in Rome this week (see pages 6-8). The Church faces tensions that were hidden for a long time, not tensions that Francis created. There is a sense of urgency that comes from the gap not only between the Church and the world, but within the Church itself.

The big picture of the Church dealing with family and marriage in the modern world has changed with the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Ireland and the US. It can be considered one of the “signs of the times” the constitution Gaudium et Spes of Vatican II alluded to in 1965.

The Pope has not started a civil war, and the subtle threats of schism coming from the most ideological of his opponents says a lot about their ecclesiology. There is no memory in modern church history of a pope called to defend himself from the accusations – coming from self-appointed guardians of orthodoxy – of being non-Catholic, a heretic, a communist. The question now is whether there will be at the synod a solution to these tensions, and, if so, what form it will take. Key to keeping the discernment process open will be to avoid a bombshell of the kind that greeted the publication of Humanae Vitae.

This synod is taking place at a pivotal moment in a two-stage strategy adopted by Pope Francis. In the first stage, the Pope has finally started to implement Vatican II in terms of institutions and procedures – the synod in relation to the Curia – in order to revitalise the idea of a more collegial Church. This may proceed more easily than on other issues where the Church needs more progressive changes.

Such progressive change is stage two, which is about making changes both on issues such as women and homosexuality, and on procedures. It requires a shift from a collegiality based on the episcopal guild to a synodality that is open to new forms of collective discernment involving all members the Church.

Francis’ view of the future Church is based on an “ecclesiology of the people”, and in the inter-synodal period the people of the Church have sent signals that need to be interpreted. This will require more than the three weeks of debate among the bishops at the synod in Rome.

Massimo Faggioli is associate professor of theology at the University of St Thomas, Minnesota.


Additional material on this subject from writer Paul Vallely:

The Pope has hand-picked additional Synod Fathers some of whom – like retired Cardinals Walter Kasper and Godfried Danneels, and Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago – share his own reconciliatory views on the treatment of the remarried and gays.

“Christians are not immune to the changes of their times”

There is a tension at the heart of Pope Francis’s attitude to the Synod.  On the one hand he has set out to reinvigorate it as a place of real debate in an attempt to elevate its status as part of the Church’s decision-making process.

On the other, as I reveal in my book Pope Francis: the Struggle for the Soul of Catholicism, it is clear from talking to individuals whom the Pope has privately consulted on the issue of the remarried taking Communion that the Pope wants the ban lifted.

In the book I conclude that, faced with a choice between the two, Pope Francis would give priority to moving away from a monarchical model of papacy to something more collegial.

But what seems to be becoming clear is that the Pope hopes he will not have to make that choice.

As with his bold gesture of clemency over the forgiveness of abortion during the Year of Mercy, Francis is hoping to find a way in which they Church can display a kinder face without altering doctrine. He wants the Church to develop greater emotional intelligence.

The scene is set for an interesting few weeks.

Paul Vallely’s new book is Pope Francis: the Struggle for the Soul of Catholicism published by Bloomsbury. He will deliver the 2015 Tablet lecture on 13th November with the title: “Pope Francis and the Synod: Changing the way the Church makes its decisions”


‘The Tablet’ Editorial this week, centres around the Synod of Bishops gathered in Rome to further discuss the findings from a year’s reflections, around the Roman Catholic dioceses, on the Church’s attitude towards Gender, Sexuality and the Human Family.

This is an initiative of Pope Francis, who is anxious that the Church move from a Curial mode of government, to a more collegial consensus, with input from not only Clerics in the Church but also the Faithful Laity, whose living out of the Gospel life in the world, he sees as being important for the balanced ethos of the Mission of the Church.

Opposed by many of the conservative diehards in his own Church – especially among the Curia and some of the Bishops in the Third World as well as in the West, who fear that any change in the dogmatic climate of the Church on issues such as Marriage, Divorce, Celibacy, Contraception and Human Sexuality will undermine the Church’s influence in the world – it would seem that this Pope; a pragmatist as well as a person of deep prayer and spiritual resources; determined to walk in the footsteps of his illustrious namesake Saint Francis of Assisi (whose Feast-day is tomorrow, 4th October) in his bias for the poor and disenfranchised; has set his heart on opening up the Church to the wider world.

One prays that the Holy Spirit will hover over the reflections and arguments  this Synod, bringing hope and love into its deliberations, with an outcome of justice and peace and hope for the future of the Gospel message in Churches around the  World.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Donald Trump – a Religious Quest on the CampaignTrail


Politico reports today that Donald Trump is courting prosperity televangelists in an effort to “keep his momentum from ebbing.” The subtext of the Trump televangelist outreach is that despite the polls, the only kind of evangelicals who really like Trump are those who love mixing not just religion and politics, but religion and money:

Roughly three-dozen leaders attended the two-and-a-half hour meeting at Trump Tower, including televangelists Gloria and Kenneth Copeland and Trinity Broadcasting Network co-founder Jan Crouch, who is also the president of a Christian theme park in Orlando.

As it came to an end, televangelist Paula White said Trump wanted them to pray for him. Trump nodded, and the faith leaders laid hands on him and prayed.

Many evangelical leaders look askance at the crowd the businessman is courting. “The people that Trump has so far identified as his evangelical outreach are mostly prosperity gospel types, which are considered by mainstream evangelicals to be heretics,” said outspoken Trump critic Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the country’s largest Protestant denomination at 16 million members.

Now let’s be honest here. Cast your eyes to the right of this text and you’ll see a link to my 2008 book,God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters. That book is about how the GOP, despite the fact that many mainstream evangelicals consider the prosperity gospel to be heretical, has long courted televangelists in the quest to consolidate the conservative Christian vote. Although the televangelists are primarily focused on the health-and-wealth gospel (sow your seed into my ministry and God will bless you with a hundred-fold return!) they have long been coveted politically for their influence over their audiences and their history as loyal foot soldiers in the culture wars.

Don’t read too much into Politico’s assertion that the televangelists would be “less turned off by his brash style and history of socially liberal positions,” or by the suggestion that Trump, by this meeting, has somehow stepped outside the typical Republican boundaries for courting the evangelical, Pentecostal, and charismatic Christian vote. Trump is following a GOP playbook established in the 1980s, and followed by his current rivals, and in particular, by one current rival’s family. Indeed Trumphimselffollowed the playbook during his unsuccessful 2012 presidential bid when he met with televangelists.

The casino mogul isn’t the first Republican (or probably the last) to get cozy with Copeland in particular. In 2008 Mike Huckabee reached out to Copeland as his campaign floundered. At the time, Copeland boasted of being a “rich Jew backed by a richer Jew” and a “billionaire in the kingdom of God.”

But Copeland’s influence dates back even further than that. As I reported in my book, Copeland has been sought out by Republican candidates, including both George H.W. and George W. Bush, because of his vast wealth and followers. In 1998, Karl Rove was advised by then-Bush family religion advisor Doug Wead that Copeland “is arguably one of the most important religious leaders in the nation.”

Never mind that he’s been the subject of many an investigative report on his appropriation of tax-exempt donations for his own enrichment with luxury homes and private jets. Senate Republicans briefly toyed with the idea of investigating Copeland and that other Trump admirer, Paula White, for their self-enrichment at the expense of their gullible donors, but ultimately puntedbecause hey, it’s more important that the government keep its nose out a church’s balance sheets, even if the church more resembles a closely-held corporation where money is worshipped above everything else.

Televangelism thrives at the precise intersection of religion, money, and keep-the-government-off-our-backs, making its relationship with the GOP a marriage made in heaven (or perhaps somewhere else). Although the Trump phenomenon has laid bare an intra-evangelical rift that has long been obscured in presidential politics, he certainly didn’t invent kissing the ring of televangelism’s rich and famous.

Still, though, the conservative evangelicals dismayed by Trumpism see it as a chance to explore thatrift as something bigger than Trump himself. As the evangelical writer Matthew Anderson put it in an unpublished piece he kindly shared with me, “The dalliance between (some!) evangelicals and Trump is simply another move in the shell game of attention-seeking that the info-tainment complex at the heart of political evangelicalism has mastered.” What Anderson calls political evangelicalism, or that unholy alliance between evangelicals and the GOP, is itself more about entertainment than it is about religion, and it’s certainly more about red meat (a form of entertainment) than about policy.

Even if Trump doesn’t end up the nominee—and even if that can be attributed, at least in part, to his waving a Bible around but demonstrating no fluency with it—the Republican Party will remain addicted to the “info-tainment complex at the heart of political evangelicalism.” In other words, Trump’s candidacy may have some unique features. Seeking the blessing of televangelists isn’t one of them.

UPDATE: Via Jacob Lupfer, here is video from the televangelists praying with/for Trump:

Has Donald Trump grown a moustache? This was what I asked my self when I looked in on this video showing the U.S. Entertainment Mogul being prayed for by his new friends, the Tele-Evangelists of North America. After some minutes, though, I realised that it was the new face of Trump, immersed in deep prayer and pious reflection on what they were asking God to do for him – to prepare him to become the next Republican President of the United States of America 
This excerpt from ‘Religious Dispatch’, tells the unsurprising story (given Trump’s ambition to become the next Republican President of the United States of America) of the millionaire Donald Trump’s courtship of the religious right, as most starkly represented by the conservative, fundamentalist televangelists in the U.S.
The last paragraph of this communique speaks of the minefield he might be entering into with this interface:
 – Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand
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