New ‘Bp to the Abps’ is anti-LGBT+-Inclusion in the C.of E.

Colin CowardApril 22, 2021

On Monday it was announced that the Rt Revd Dr Emma Ineson, currently Bishop of Penrith, is to be the new Bishop to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. Bishop Emma will work directly for the Archbishops and with the whole College of Bishops. She will play a key role in work being done on the future of the Church of England, appointments and liaising with the House of Bishops. She will also have specific oversight of the programme for the 2022 Lambeth Conference, playing a crucial role as chair of the conference’s working group since last year. She will work with the Archbishops on the role and nature of bishops meetings and the priorities they face.

In October 2016 Revd Dr Emma Ineson, then Principal of Trinity College, Bristol, was one of eighty nine evangelicals from the whole range of the evangelical constituency, ‘open’, ‘charismatic’ and ‘conservative’ evangelicals who sent a letter to all members of the College of Bishops prior to their next meeting when they were to decide what proposals to bring to General Synod in February.

Ian Paul published the letter with their permission on Psephizo. The letter said the Church of England is at a crossroads, the presenting issue being that of human sexuality, in particular whether or not the Church is able to affirm sexual relationships beyond opposite sex marriage.

“The Bible is clear that God has given the marriage of one man with one woman as the only context in which physical expression is to be given to our sexuality.

“Any change in the Church’s teaching or practice – such as the introduction of provisions that celebrate or bless sexual relationships outside of a marriage between one man and one woman – would represent a significant departure from our apostolic inheritance and the authority of the Bible in matters of faith and doctrine. It would also, inevitably, be a further step on a trajectory towards the full acceptance of same-sex sexual partnerships as equivalent to male-female marriage.

“The gift of male and female sexual differentiation, and its unique and fundamental mutuality, is part of God’s good creation and a mirror to His own nature.

“What is at stake goes far beyond the immediate pastoral challenges of human bisexual and same-sex sexual behaviour: it is a choice between alternative and radically different visions of what it means to be human, to honour God in our bodies, and to order our lives in line with God’s holy will.

“Any further changes to practice or doctrine in these important areas will set the Church on a path of fundamental disunity. It would cause a break not only with the majority of the Anglican Communion, but with the consistent mind of the worldwide Church down many centuries. It will trigger a process of division and fragmentation among faithful Anglicans in England.”

Bishop Emma is clearly opposed to the full inclusion of LGBTIQ+ people in the Church of England. Her appointment to this new and extremely powerful and influential post as bishop to the Archbishops is of great concern for those of us actively working for that to which she is opposed.

Unless she has changed her mind since signing the letter in 2016 Bishop Emma Ineson is opposed to the celebration or blessing of sexual relationships outside of heterosexual marriage and to the full acceptance of same-sex sexual partnerships as equivalent to male-female marriage.

As a signatory of the letter, she foresees any changes towards the full and equal inclusion of LGBTIQ+ people as leading to the breakdown of the Anglican Communion and trigger a process of division and fragmentation in the Church of England.

Where does her appointment leave the Archbishops’ commitment to a new radical inclusion? Bishop Emma will be in a powerful position, able to influence the outcome of the Living in Love and Faith process and whatever outcomes are presented to General Synod in November 2022. She also has huge influence over the content and culture of the next Lambeth Conference, aligning herself with those forces opposed to LGBTIQ+ equality and supporting the decision already taken to exclude same sex spouses from the programme.

Changing Attitude England’s campaign for the full inclusion of LGBTIQ+ people in ministry and relationships in the Church of England is only just beginning. We are campaigning for a changed attitude in the House of Bishops which alone will result in the radical inclusion to which Archbishop Justin and retired Archbishop Sentamu were committed and to which, we hope, Archbishop Stephen is also fully committed. There is either going to be a collision of cultures between the new bishop to the Archbishops and the Archbishops, or a collision between those groups campaigning for radical inclusion and the House of Bishops and their proposals resulting from Living in Love and Faith.

To campaign with us, join Changing Attitude England’s Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/788874575387173

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This small paragraph in Colin Coward’s article about the new appointment in the Church of England says everything about its moral and spiritual implications:

“As a signatory of the letter, she (the Rt Revd Dr Emma Ineson, currently Bishop of Penrith) foresees any changes towards the full and equal inclusion of LGBTIQ+ people as leading to the breakdown of the Anglican Communion and trigger a process of division and fragmentation in the Church of England.”

As Principal of Trinity College, Bristol (before her consecration as a bishop) Dr. Emma Ineson was a signatory to a letter by ‘a group of conservative Evangelicals’ in 2016, to the House of Bishops, containing the following paragraph:

“The Bible is clear that God has given the marriage of one man with one woman as the only context in which physical expression is to be given to our sexuality.

Having read the rest of this letter, shown in the above article, one could be forgiven if one thought that the appointment of this particular bishop in the Church of England was an attempt by the Establishment to secure a more conservative, anti-LGBT+contingency in the C. of E. House of Bishops. Now that she has been appointed to this new prestigious and powerful position – as ‘Bishop to the Archbishops’ – this fear is more a of a reality.

As a direct consequence of this appointment; the LGBT+ people in the Church of England who had high hopes of their Church becoming less sexist and homophobic through the LLF (Living in Love and Faith” process to be debated at the next General Synod in 2022. Another problem looming is that of her special influence at the next Lambeth Conference.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Fr. JamesMartin, S.J. – Documentary on LGBT people

Documentary about Father James Martin’s LGBT ministry selected for Tribeca Film Festival

Michael J. O’Loughlin – April 20, 2021 – (Building a Bridge Film/Jason Syptak)

A Martin Scorsese-produced documentary about James Martin, S.J., and his ministry to L.G.B.T. Catholics has been selected to be part of the Tribeca Film Festival in June, the organization announced Tuesday.

The documentary, “Building a Bridge,” is based on Father Martin’s 2018 book of the same name.

“The film follows Father Martin and the lives he has impacted, including a grieving Pulse mother, a family with three queer siblings, and a college student trying to reconcile his gay and Catholic identities,” reads a statement from the documentary’s creators. Father Martin is an editor-at-large of America.

“Tribeca Film Festival is the perfect place for us to premiere this documentary,” Evan Mascagni and Shannon Post, the film’s directors and producers, said in a statement. “We are so proud of this film and grateful for the opportunity to show it amongst so many talented filmmakers, especially at the first major U.S. festival to be held in person this year and during Pride month.”

Father Martin said he was moved to write his book following the 2016 shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, which left 49 people dead. He has urged church leaders to be more welcoming, emphasizing aspects of Catholic teaching that call for treating L.G.B.T. people with “respect, compassion and sensitivity.” Some Catholic leaders have criticized Father Martin’s ministry, challenging him to be more clear about the church’s teaching that condemns homosexuality.

The film also features Michael Voris, the founder of the website Church Militant, which regularly publishes articles and videos denouncing Father Martin and his ministry.

In 2018, Father Martin spoke at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, a global conference hosted by the Vatican’s family and laity office, about how parishes could welcome L.G.B.T. Catholics. The following year, he was received at a private audience by Pope Francis.

In a statement about the documentary, Father Martin said he hopes the film will prompt Catholics to reflect on how to create a more inclusive church.

“I was so happy to learn that ‘Building a Bridge’ had been accepted by the Tribeca Film Festival, since it will help more people see the kinds of outreach that the Catholic Church is doing with L.G.B.T. people,” Father Martin said. “I’m especially grateful to Martin Scorsese, the executive producer; and Evan Mascagni and Shannon Post, the directors; for making such a sensitive documentary with so many different voices. I pray that church leaders will see what is possible with this kind of pastoral ministry, and that L.G.B.T. people feel more welcome in what is, after all, their church too.”

The Tribeca Film Festival, founded in 2002 to spur economic activity in New York following the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, will run June 9-20.

More stories from America: 

Michael J. O’Loughlin is the national correspondent for America and host of the America podcast “Plague: Untold Stories of AIDS and the Catholic Church.”

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Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest in America, who has met with Pope Francis in Rome to dicuss the situation of LGBT+ people in the Church, has now teamed up with U.S. Director/Actor Martin Scorcese, to pruduce a documentary film, based on his 2018 book, “Building a Bridge”, which is about his ministry to this long-neglected goup in the Roman Catholic Church.

This documentary, to be first screened at the upcoming Tribeca Film Festival in the U.S., will be an important congtributor to further conversation on the recent Statement issued by the Vatican which regards heterosexual marriage as sacrosanct – the only context in which to exercise the God-given gift of sexuality. In the course of this Statement the Vatican reiterated the extant Catholic doctrine that homosexuality is a ‘disordered’ condition, and that Same-Sex Relationships are sinful and, therefore, unable to receive the blessing of the Catholic Church.

This would seem to be in direct contrast to the Pope’s recent message that Same-Sex Civil Partnerships conducted by the legal authorities are a good way of dealing with loving, monogamous Same-Sex relationships. (Pope Francis has recently appointed a S/S-Partnered American citizen (a survivor of child-abuse in the Chilean Catholic Church) as an Advisor to a special Child-Abuse Commission to be established in Rome).

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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German Catholic leaders plan huge same-sex blessing

Monday, April 19th, 2021

German same-sex blessing

Several German Catholic leaders are openly supporting the blessing of same-sex couples and overtly challenging the Vatican.

A massive blessing service event called “Love wins, blessing service for lovers” has been scheduled for May 10, in direct opposition to Rome’s chief doctrinal office.

Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen said priests in his diocese will face no canonical consequence if they decide to bless gay and lesbian couples in the event.

“Love wins. Love is a blessing,” says the website for the event. “People who love each other are blessed. On May 10th, 2021, we invite you to various places in Germany for blessing services.

“We don’t want to exclude anyone. We celebrate the diversity of people’s different life plans and love stories, and ask for God’s blessings. Without any secrecy.

“On this page, you will find the services that take place. You can register for a service and send us a blessing.”

Organizers also ask that on that day, Catholics in Germany use “creative symbols to make visible how many people in the Church perceive the colorful diversity of different life plans and love stories of people as an enrichment and a blessing.”

Bishop Overbeck argued on Easter that there are “many blessings for gay couples” in Germany. He also said that the Catholic Church is not supposed to reject gay people. But it should “find ways for homosexuals to be able to live together.”

Overbeck’s stance is in direct opposition to a statement released by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) on March 15 with papal approval.

The document, technically an answer to a question posed to the CDF, argues that the Church cannot bless same-sex unions because “God does not bless sin.”

The response caused division both among the faithful and the hierarchy. This was highlighted in Germany, which is currently undergoing a synodal path to address the Church’s response to clerical sexual abuse. At the same time, it is reviewing Church teaching on human sexuality, priestly celibacy and the ban on ordaining women into the priesthood.

While many bishops oppose the CDF’s response, several high-ranking German prelates support the response. The group includes Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, Archbishop of Cologne; Bishop Stephan Burger of Freiburg; and Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg.

Sources

Crux Now

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Despite the fact that the Vatican has issued a Statement which denies the right of Same-Sex Couples to receive the official Blessing of the Church – offering the explanation suggesting that all sexual relationships outside of heterosexual marriage are intrinsically ‘disordered’ – certain Bishops of the German Roman Catholic Church are planning to offer a massed ‘Blessing for Same-Lovers’ (including non-binary partnerships) on May 12th in Germany.

It will be interesting to see how this determination will be received by the Vatican’s Doctrinal Commission – especially as the anti-Blessing statement was actually counter-signed by the Pope! However, Pope Francis is well-known for his acceptance of his country’s Civil Unions legislation which allows Same-Sex Couples to undertake the responsibility of a marriage-like legal partnership. The question still remains, though: Are there two different official attitudes towards the union of two people in the Roman Catholic Church? And will the Pope choose to resolve the matter by his own authority as Supreme Pontiff?

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Catholic Argument: for/against S/S Blessings

A blessing is more than a blessing

bless people

Monday, April 12th, 2021

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s (CDF) Responsum concerning the blessing of same-sex unions brings into focus the important theological question of how homosexuality is to be understood within the order of creation and within Scripture.

On the basis of its understanding, the CDF concluded that the Church cannot officially bless people in same-gender unions that approximate marriage.

The Magisterium teaches that homosexuality is a ‘disordered nature’ and classifies homosexual lovemaking as ‘intrinsically disordered’ [CCC:2357].

In the Catechism, ordered nature reflects God’s creation of male and female human beings who are made for each other.

This principle could be described as exclusively heterosexual.

The magisterial understanding of sexuality is derived from this principle. Sexuality ‘concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate’, creating the ‘aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others’ [CCC:2332] and is ‘ordered to the conjugal love of a man and a woman’ [CCC:2360].

The Magisterium’s understanding of creation and sexuality is heavily criticised for being binary and considered outdated.

Many suggest that sexuality differentiates itself between sexual attraction, physical attraction, and emotional attraction and is not essentially related to procreation or the capacity to love.

The strongest critics of the Responsum accuse the CDF of ignoring the last 100 -plus years of research into human sexuality. They argue that maintaining the theology of ‘disordered nature’ on the assumption that the ‘psychological genesis [of homosexuality] remains largely unexplained’ [CCC: 2357] is incorrect.

Critics argue that a necessary distinction between sexual orientations and sexualities is required and that one should see sexuality as given, diverse and personal.

The desire to bless same-sex unions challenges the Magisterium’s binary view of creation and sexuality and reveals the essential question; on what basis can one say that a person’s nature is ‘intrinsically disordered’, their lovemaking a ‘grave depravity’, and still bring them into union with Christ?

Asking if the Church can bless same-sex unions puts into question the CDF’s use of the primary sources on which the magisterial teaching is built; its interpretation of scripture and the presumption that the “natural law” is fully known and not itself subject to growth in understanding.

This starting point is critical for how we understand a blessing given to a couple sharing the same gender.

It brings us back to the larger perspective:

  • what is the nature and place of homosexuality and homosexual lovemaking in the order of creation?
  • how does homosexuality and lovemaking participate in the “blessing of God? and
  • if sexuality a blessing of God, then how it is defined, and by whom it is defined is critical.

The Blessing

The debate concerning the blessing is, by comparison, a sidebar.

It is important only because the theological pathway from blessing to ecclesial act and sacramental—that resembles a sacrament—is full of potholes.

To make this clearer I will distinguish between a blessing and a benediction.

A blessing (noun) is a request to God to care for someone or something, it is also an act to make someone, or oneself, happy.

A benediction (noun) combines the Latin words bene meaning well and dicere to say Benedicere: to wish well and is to say something good to another as a prayer, invocation, or dedication.

According to the Catechism [1078ff], blessing is in the nature of God; the whole of God’s work is blessing and while everything and everyone who exists is also a blessing of God, the whole of the created order needs salvation because it is fallen.

The Catechism states that the dignity of each individual person is rooted in his, or her creation in the image and likeness of God (1700, 1702).

Blessing, as we commonly use it, is a prayer for God’s favour or the dedication of an individual or object and parents bless their heterosexual and homosexual children all the time, long before any heterosexual or homosexual tendencies become manifest, and priests bless water, oil, and wedding rings.

However, there has to be more to a blessing to turn it from natural water into holy water.

That “more” is the power of the ordained who makes the benediction; this is the basis of resemblance.

The additional “power” of the priest’s benediction is seen where parishioners ask Father to bless their candles, dogs, and cars, because his benediction is recognised as qualitatively different from their own.

What makes one a blessing and other a benediction is

  • the nature of reciprocity—who has the capacity to give and receive a blessing;
  • the priest acting with the power of ordination in the name of the Church; and
  • the intention of the blessing and its resemblance to a sacrament.

Some suggest parents blessing their homosexual child on their child’s wedding day is possible.

While laypeople may preside at some blessings ‘the more a blessing concerns ecclesial and sacramental life, the more is its administration reserved to the ordained ministry (bishops, priests or deacons)’ [CCC1669].

A benediction is a sacramental when it is received by a person who has the capacity to receive it—reciprocity—or when it is given to an object that will be used in sacred rites, such as a baptismal font.

When an ordained man gives a benediction, the benediction is implicitly reliant on the power of the priesthood.

The Responsum acknowledges that a benediction for an individual with homosexual inclinations remains licit as for example in a religious profession, which affirms a woman or man in their non-sacramental chosen lifestyle.

However, a benediction is not permitted for two people (hetero – or homosexual) entering a “marriage-like state” because the state resembles the sacrament of matrimony and the benediction would resemble the nuptial blessing.

According to the Responsum’s explanatory note, a benediction cannot be given to people whose relationship is not ‘objectively and positively ordered to receive and express grace according to the designs of God inscribed in creation and fully revealed by Christ the Lord’.

To do this is to ‘bless sin’.

At this level there is no distinction between couples on the basis of their sexual preference; neither can be given a benediction.

The issue for the same-sex couple is not their singularity as gay people but the nature of their relationship, and within it, their lovemaking.

Because their loving making is considered ‘intrinsically disordered’ their relationship is seriously at fault.

At this point we return, again, to consider the theological reciprocity between nature, sexuality, and acts of lovemaking.

The CDF concludes that when a sacramental resembles a sacrament a benediction cannot be given by the Church’s minister because the blessing moves from being “just” a blessing to an ‘ecclesial liturgical action’, or an act of the Church, that invokes the priesthood of Christ, and God—in Christ—can not bless sin.

Sacramentals are ‘sacred signs that bear a resemblance to the sacraments [because] they signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church’ for people who are ‘disposed to receive the chief effects of the sacraments’ (Sacrosanctum Concilium 60).

This definition draws together the connections between the recipient’s disposition, the church’s prayer, and the Church’s minister.

Together, these form a single unit that brings a sacramental into the orbit of a sacrament.

Critically, the Catechism [1670] states: ‘sacramentals do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the sacraments do’ but through them, believers are prepared through the Church’s prayer ‘to received grace’ and disposed ‘to cooperate with’ grace.

It also states that sacramentals ‘derive from the baptismal priesthood’ and ‘every baptised person is called to be a blessing and bless’.

There are three points to note:

  • that a benediction is not a sacrament,
  • benedictions dispose; and
  • benedictions are related to baptism.

What is not made explicit in the Responsum is the role of baptism in the reception of a benediction.

Some theologians argue that when two baptised individuals enter a same-sex union they already possess the theological capacity to receive a benediction just as baptised heterosexual couples receive the nuptial blessing.

Some suggest that because the Church’s minister is a witness to the matrimony, and not the minister of it, in a similar way he has the capacity to impart a benediction in the name of the Church on a same-sex couple. This is especially the case if the couple are not intending a sacramental union.

Christian sacraments are sacred signs instituted by Christ to give grace and to save, and the sacrament of baptism is a celebration of God’s sanctifying presence, transforming people and human experience.

Baptism is not reliant on, or referent to, a person’s sexuality—however, this is understood.

Every baptised person enjoys the purification from sin, new birth in the Holy Spirit and incorporation into the Body of Christ.

All baptised persons receive a sacramental character that consecrates them for Christian worship, enabling them to participate in the sacred liturgy, to serve God and ‘to exercise their baptismal priesthood by witness of holy lives and practical charity [Lumen Gentium 10].

Proponents of benedictions for same-gender couples argue that baptism is the legitimate basis for the blessing of baptised same-gender partners.

They point out that the nature, purpose, intention, and use of any benediction must correspond to the nature and effects of baptism.

They argue that because a person with homosexual tendencies, created in God’s image and likeness, can be baptised—receiving the effects and grace of the sacrament and incorporation into the Body of Christ—that person possesses the theological capacity to receive the Church’s benediction in virtue of their baptism, and not in virtue of the power of an ordained minister.

Where this argument is accepted, refusing two baptised people of the same-sex, who live lives of faith, a benediction when they are choosing and intending a life-long relationship, that is not intended to be sacramental matrimony, is not possible, it is required.

At this point the argument for a benediction of same-sex union moves in a pastoral direction, suggesting that if the Church were to bless same-sex unions then it would remove the pain and suffering from the lives of some of its own members.

It is argued that the Church, by openly acknowledging and blessing such unions, would be seen to affirm the baptismal call of its members to live—in public—stable relationships of mutual and lasting fidelity.

Those who disagree see here the first step towards extending the sacrament of matrimony to same-sex couples. This concern cannot be avoided.

The sacramental character of matrimony and the resemblance of a civil union to it is an inaccurate use of resemblance.

The resemblance of a sacramental benediction to a sacrament seems to imply a resemblance to either the character of the sacrament or to its Eucharistic Prayer, however, this is not outlined in the Responsum but is, nonetheless, critical to the debate.

Relying on the theological character of matrimony as the basis for denying benedictions to same-gender couples is risky given this sacrament’s history and unique sacramental character.

In matrimony, the couple are both the ministers and the recipients of the sacrament—based on their baptism—and the church’s minister is the witnesses.

Similarly, the concern with ‘a certain imitation or analogue of the nuptial blessing’ is also problematic given that blessing’s history and liturgical purpose.

The nuptial blessing’s context is the Mass, coming after the Our Father and before the couple receives communion together.

The structure of the blessing is clearly a benediction and not a Eucharist Prayer—it does not confer the sacrament—because ‘it is ordinarily understood that the spouses, as ministers of Christ’s grace, mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church’ [CCC:1623].

The Church’s minister ‘assists’ at the marriage and receives the spousal consent and blesses in the name of the Church, thus making it (matrimony) an ecclesial act.

On the basis of this understanding, many conclude that the denial of a benediction for a baptised couple who share the same gender, based on the benediction’s resemblance to the nuptial benediction in the liturgy of matrimony, is unwarranted.

Lastly, the Responsum states that ‘the Church does not have, and cannot have, the power to bless unions of persons of the same sex in the sense intended’ but, Sacrosanctum Concilium 79—a higher teaching authority—suggests this might not be the whole story.

“The sacramentals are to undergo a revision which takes into account the primary principle of enabling the faithful to participate intelligently, actively, and easily; the circumstances of our own days must also be considered.

“When rituals are revised, as laid down in Art. 63, new sacramentals may also be added as the need for these becomes apparent.

“Reserved blessings shall be very few; reservations shall be in favour of bishops or ordinaries.

“Let provision be made that some sacramentals, at least in special circumstances and at the discretion of the ordinary, may be administered by qualified laypersons.”

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In what may seem like a bit of casuistic argumentation,the New Zealand Roman Catholic priest/theologian, Dr.Joe Grayland, here puts forward the case for a denial of any Blessing of a Same-Sex Union – as ennunciated in the recent Vatican Statement on the inadmissability of such a Blessing – together with his discussion of arguments against the ban; which are being suggested by Catholics who disagree with the Statement and the ban.

The Catholic distinction between a ‘Blessing’ and a ‘Benediction’ may to the average Catholic, seem somewhat academic – which, looking at the explanation here, would seem to be the case.

However, Pope Francis has yet publicly to officially distance himself from the official Statement – even though it is now well-known to Catholics and non-Catholics alike, that he approves of Same-Sex Civil Unions, but without actually offering the official Blessing of the Church. Herein lies the anomaly: The Pope approves of Same-Sex Unions, while the Vatican continues to pronounce such unions as ‘disordered’ and unable to receive he Blessing of the Church!

There are other instances where the Catholic Church’s official doctrine differs from the ‘pastoral accommodations’ that are often dispensed – albeit quietly – by certain Catholic officials – the dispensation of a supposed ‘annulment of a Marriage being one such – so that the refusal of the Church to offer a Bl;essing to a faithful Catholic Same-Sex Couple may seem contrary to the new pastoral outlook of a Pope who wants to bring the Church into the 21st century.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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A Plea for U.S. Catholics to support Transgender people

Why the church should fight anti-transgender legislation

Apr 14, 2021by Daniel P. Horan – Opinion – People (National Catholic Reporter)

A person in New York City holds up a transgender rights flag Oct. 24, 2018. (CNS/Reuters/Brendan McDermid)A person in New York City holds up a transgender rights flag Oct. 24, 2018. (CNS/Reuters/Brendan McDermid)

Just because something is new to you does not mean that it is novel or a fad. As obvious as this statement is, sadly, too many politicians and religious leaders alike are responding to broader visibility and awareness of the reality and experiences of transgender persons with a performative sense of shock and alarm. This kind of reaction not only betrays their ignorance of the historical and scientific research on the longstanding reality of transgender identities, but these behaviors also have life-and-death consequences for trans people.

Regarding the inaccurate belief that transgender identity is “new” or some kind of “trend,” scholars have demonstrated the falsehood of such claims. Mills College Professor Susan Stryker chronicles the history of transgender persons and the community’s variable social visibility over the last two centuries in her 2017 book Transgender History: The Roots of Today’s Revolution. As Stryker illustrates in the book, the increasing recognition of the transgender community and broader representation in media and entertainment were only made possible by the heroic activism, networks and support over decades and centuries, which has not yet received adequate attention.

More recently, University of Pittsburgh professor Jules Gill-Peterson, writing last week in The New York Times, addresses acknowledgement of the reality of transgender children for at least the last century in stark contrast to the contemporary political arguments that this is a “twenty-first century issue.” Gill-Peterson offers a fuller historical accounting in her 2018 book Histories of Transgender Children. Recounting this history is especially important today given the latest attacks on transgender girls and women in sports.

Care for and protection of the transgender community is a life issue. The targeting, attacking and harm caused to the trans community — as well as contributing to anti-transgender stigma — is a social evil and something Christians and all people of good will ought to resist.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, state legislators have introduced more than 80 anti-transgender bills since Jan. 1, making 2021 a record year for such discriminatory efforts. The proposed legislation covers a range of oppressive actions, including the prohibition of transgender girls and women from participating in school sports and prohibiting or even criminalizing gender-affirming care for some transgender persons. With so many legislative attempts to curb the civil liberties of transgender adults and children, one would assume that there must be some real problems that have surfaced in need of redress by the law.

However, the Human Rights Campaign says, “These bills are not addressing any real problem, and they’re not being requested by constituents. Rather, this effort is being driven by national far-right organizations attempting to score political points by sowing fear and hate.”

The right-wing political interest in centering discriminatory legislation like what is currently proposed in at least 28 states, is fairly self-evident. In the wake of the 2020 elections, the Republican Party realized that it has little or nothing to offer that appeals to the majority of the population — including much of its electoral base — in terms of fiscal or political policy. Returning to its playbook of cultural warfare distractions (think of the racism of the “war on drugs” of the 1980s and ’90s, the homophobia of the anti-gay-marriage legislation during the 2004 presidential campaign, or the anti-intellectualism and science skepticism of climate denialism, among others), the GOP has to select a new scapegoat, and the party’s leaders and special interest groups have chosen some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

Decades of gerrymandering have resulted in this evitable race to the ethical bottom. With certain congressional districts statistically a sure win for the Republican Party, the only serious threat to the reelection of many politicians is a primary challenge from the radicalized extreme right. What has resulted is the formation of an echo chamber that perpetuates the vilest talking points and conspiracy theories, which are then adopted by otherwise mainstream politicians out of a perceived sense of necessity to compete with their challengers.

As a result, the absurd becomes normalized, conspiracy becomes truth, and victims become enemies in this vicious circle of evil.

The flurry of gratuitous and dangerous legislative proposals, buoyed by increasing hate speech and transphobic attitudes, is a distraction from real problems like the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, systemic racism, rising income inequality and global climate change, to name a few.

While I can understand such a desperate political ploy, as insidious as it is, what I have a harder time reckoning with is the persistence of transphobia and hatred perpetrated by self-identified Christians, especially by those in ministerial leadership.

Such was the case last summer when the Indianapolis Archdiocese announced new policies that could ban transgender students from attending Catholic schools in central and southern Indiana. Or, two summers ago when the Vatican’s Congregation for Education released a truly reckless statement that conflated a number of discrete issues and generally lambasted what anti-LGBTQ activists like to call “gender ideology,” an amorphous and essentially meaningless phrase. (You can read my response to the 2019 document here).

Bishop David Konderla, left, pictured at his ordination in 2016, and Bishop Michael Barber, pictured in Rome in 2020, signed a letter in October 2020 addressed to then-Sen. Kelly Loefler and U.S. Rep. Greg Steube expressing their support for proposed legislation that targeted transgender girls and women in school and collegiate sports. (CNS/Eastern Oklahoma Catholic/Dave Crenshaw and CNS/Paul Haring)

In October, Bishops Michael Barber of Oakland and David Konderla of Tulsa, chairmen of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Catholic Education and Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, respectively, signed a letter addressed to then-Sen. Kelly Loefler and U.S. Rep. Greg Steube expressing their support — and, tacitly, that of the United States bishops — for proposed legislation that targeted transgender girls and women in school and collegiate sports.

In January, several bishops issued a letter condemning the Biden administration’s plans to extend nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ persons through executive action. The bishops’ letter not only attacked protections for couples in legally protected same-sex civil marriages, but it also identified their opposition to civil rights protecting individuals on the basis of their gender identity.

While these examples of individual and corporate transphobia and anti-transgender activism on the part of church leaders represents the most contentious and visible public responses to increasing trans visibility in our communities, they are not the only Catholic responses; nor are they the most Catholic responses.

Last month on “Transgender Day of Visibility,” celebrated each March 31 since 2009, the Human Rights Campaign released a joint letter with several “prominent Catholic leaders” — including two bishops, several Catholic organizations and some theologians — expressing support for transgender persons and explicitly condemning anti-transgender violence (full disclosure: I am one of the signatories). The letter draws from a range of Catholic sources, including the teachings of Popes John Paul II and Francis, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and St. Bonaventure, a 13th-century Franciscan theologian and doctor of the church.

The letter closes with these simple, yet powerful, lines: “Transgender people have always been members of our local parishes and the witness of their lives has lead us to greater contemplation of God and the mystery of our faith. To our transgender siblings, may you always know that the Image of God resides in you, and that God loves you.”

There have been other constructive pastoral statements and resources, though they often do not receive the attention that the most vocal culture-warrior and transphobic church leaders garner. Such is the case with a recent pastoral resource published by the Catholic Health Association titled “Transgender Persons, Their Families, and the Church.” As the small book explains, this is not a project of moral theology but is intended “for the use of Catholic ethicists, chaplains, priests, mission leaders, executives, health care providers and others who want to provide compassionate, quality care to trans persons and their families.”

The collection of five first-person narratives is gathered from among those who were invited to speak to the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Doctrine about their experiences as Catholics who identify as trans, are raising trans children or have ministered to the trans community. Unlike the arrogance of those transphobic Catholic leaders and politicians who falsely insist that the visibility of trans people signals a “new trend,” the preface to this Catholic resource states plainly and accurately: “It is likely that transgender people have always existed, but several recent events have brought them and their experiences into the spotlight.”

In addition to these pastoral responses, rigorous scholarly efforts within the Catholic theological and ethical tradition have situated the reality of transgender persons within the Catholic context without antagonism. Such is the case with St. Norbert College theological ethicist Craig Ford, whose recent work has revisited the Catholic natural law tradition in light of the anti-transgender policies of some Catholic schools.

One might even look to my own recent work in theological anthropology, which demonstrates how there are other resources in the Catholic tradition and ways of thinking about human personhood that do not result in anti-transgender positions.

As politicians continue to spread transphobic messages, seeking to stoke fear in their constituents by scapegoating a community that is already tremendously vulnerable, church leaders need to stand in solidarity with our transgender siblings and their allies who have been advocating for basic civil rights.

It is also important to note that despite all the noise about so-called “gender ideology,” there is no magisterial teaching on this subject. Bishops and other church leaders in the United States and abroad would do well to listen, learn and consult actual experts — especially transgender persons — before condemning something they clearly do not understand. Otherwise, whole groups of people will continue to be oppressed and more people will die.

Daniel P. Horan

Franciscan Fr. Daniel P. Horan is the Duns Scotus Chair of Spirituality at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, where he teaches systematic theology and spirituality. Follow him on Twitter: @DanHoranOFM.

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It is good to see a Franciscan Scholar (Fr. Daniel P. Horan) making a plea to Catholics in the U.S.A to oppose Trans-Phobic legislation currently being pursued in some U.S. States by Far-Right politicians – and supported by some Roman Catholic Bishops – in an effort to discredit President Biden’s push for common human rights for all LGBTQI citizens, including Trans-Gender people, whose sexual orientation or gender identity is different from the binary ‘norm’.

With the old Republican regime of ex-President Donald Trump now largely dismantled – although much damage had been done in the meantime by Trump’s repressive government – there is a new era of human rights legislation being steadily re-introduced to the legislature of the Federal government. However, some States that are still controlled by conservative Far-Right Republicans are busy putting into place legislation that would deny the rights of LGBTQI people to live their lives without being discriminated against for their innate gender/sexuality status.

Father Daniel rightly points out the fact that ‘difference’ in human gender/sexuality identity have always been part and parcel of humanity at large, and that it is only since the advent of scientific research which offers an etiology of the variety of human sexuality and gender identity, with examples being identified and examined socially and scientifically; that the Church has been able to catch up with a situation that has already been recognised and humanely dealt with by the more advanced societies in the modern world.

See also: https://lgbtqnation.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=ecab442566f15d8d4dcf64b0d&id=bffcc162bc&e=887af28a4c

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Vatican to consider Baptismal implications for priesthood

Cardinal unveils major Vatican conference on priesthood slated for 2022

Apr 12, 2021by Cindy WoodenCatholic News Service Theology Vatican

Pope Francis greets Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, during the sign of peace at a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in this Jan. 6, 2020, file photo. Cardinal Ouellet announced plans for a major international conference at the Vatican in 2022 on the theology of the priesthood. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — Increasing vocations to the priesthood, improving the way laypeople and priests work together and ensuring that service, not power, motivates the request for ordination are all possible outcomes of a major symposium being planned by the Vatican in February 2022.

“A theological symposium does not claim to offer practical solutions to all the pastoral and missionary problems of the church, but it can help us deepen the foundation of the church’s mission,” said Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and the chief organizer of the symposium planned for Feb. 17-19, 2022.

The symposium, “Toward a Fundamental Theology of the Priesthood,” seeks to encourage an understanding of ministerial priesthood that is rooted in the priesthood of all believers conferred at baptism, getting away from the idea of ordained ministry as belonging to “ecclesiastical power,” the cardinal said at a news conference April 12.

The three-day gathering, the cardinal said, is aimed specifically at bishops and delegations of theologians and vocations personnel from every country, although it will be open to other theologians and people interested in the topic.

The relationship between baptism and ordained ministry needs greater emphasis today, Ouellet said, but reviewing the foundations of a theology of priesthood also “involves ecumenical questions not to be ignored, as well as the cultural movements that question the place of women in the church.”

The recent synods of bishops on the family, on young people and on the church in the Amazon all show the urgency of questions surrounding priesthood and relationships among people with different vocations in the church, the cardinal said.

Michelina Tenace, a professor of theology at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, is helping organize the symposium and told reporters that going back to baptism and the priesthood of all believers “isn’t just a fashion, it’s the basis for all Christian life.”

The clerical abuse scandal, she said, makes the questions of priestly identity, vocational discernment and formation more urgent.

Fr. Vincent Siret, rector of the Pontifical French Seminary in Rome, said a deeper reflection on priesthood — both the priesthood of all the baptized and ministerial priesthood — is essential for those engaged in training men for the priesthood.

“The baptismal life is the fundamental human vocation, and all must exercise the priesthood received at baptism. Ministry is at the service of this,” he said. “Reflecting on the fundamental theology of the priesthood will also make it possible to return to the justifications for priestly celibacy and the way it is lived.”

The Catholic Church requires most priests in its Latin rite to be celibate. While Ouellet, Siret and Tenace all mentioned the importance of celibacy in the Latin rite, none of them mentioned the traditions of the Eastern Catholic churches that continue to have both married and celibate clergy.

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It is by now well-known that Pope Francis is unhappy about the dangers of what he, himself, is disposed to call the problems of ‘clericalism’ in the Roman Catholic Church He is also known to favour the forward-looking incentives of the Vatican II Council to modernise the Church’s pastoral and liturgical functions – in order to emphasize the Baptismal call on all Christians, both clerical and lay, to exercise ministries appropriate to their particulkar vocations, but with the understanding that ‘ministry’ is all derived from the charism of a common Baptism into Christ.

Pope Franics’ keenness to include the ministry of women into the Church’s administration – although he has not yet included them as being suitable for (or necessarily called to) ordained ministry – has now been proved by his appointment of various women into the organisational structures of the Church. Such functions were formerly carried out only by men, and mostly from the ranks of the ordained.

What is at stake, perhaps – in this calling of a special meeting to consider the ministry of the priesthood in the Catholic Church – is the constant tension between the elements of function and authority in priestly ministry. The faculty of trust has been a major preoccupation for the hierarchy of the Church, especially over the matter of the abuse of laity by the clergy. These matters will ievitably form part of the discussion that will take place at the meetings.

The ontology of the ordained priesthood must have a place in the discussion – a matter which will certainly concern the women of the Church – especially the likes of Michelina Tenace, a professor of theology at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, (who) is helping organize the symposium and who told reporters that going back to baptism and the priesthood of all believers “isn’t just a fashion, it’s the basis for all Christian life.”

Cardinal Ouellet the Organiser of the upcoming symposium has offered his own take on “The relationship between baptism and ordained ministry (that) needs greater emphasis today”, but reviewing the foundations of a theology of priesthood also “involves ecumenical questions not to be ignored, as well as the cultural movements that question the place of women in the church.”

This latter point is mentioned in this report at the end: “The Catholic Church requires most priests in its Latin rite to be celibate. While Ouellet, Siret and Tenace all mentioned the importance of celibacy in the Latin rite, none of them mentioned the traditions of the Eastern Catholic churches that continue to have both married and celibate clergy.”

So; one wonders whether there may be any substantive changes in the established R.C. tradition of (1) Celibacy; and (2) Male-only Priesthood – suggested or even made at this conference?

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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U.S. Battle for S/S Couple’s right to adopt children

“LGBTQ families are no different from heterosexual families. We have the same desire to connect and to love.”
— John Freml

The shifting legal landscape or the finer points of moral theology are not the primary issue for most same-sex parents. Those couples insist that the real-life stories of struggle and success can humanize debates that too often feel abstract.

John Freml, left, with husband Rick Nelson and their children Jordan Freml-Nelson, front left, and Riley Freml-Nelson. (Courtesy of John Freml)

John Freml, left, with husband Rick Nelson and their children Jordan Freml-Nelson, front left, and Riley Freml-Nelson. (Courtesy of John Freml)

John Freml and his husband, Rick, adopted a baby girl in 2016 through a private Illinois agency. It was a dream fulfilled, and they immediately bonded with their daughter. But when a few of the infant’s biological family members found out the child had been placed with a same-sex couple, they took action to remove the baby. Experts made home visits. The Department of Children and Family Services seemed to favor keeping the child in Freml’s home. But the painful process dragged on for over a year and cost the couple more than $30,000 in legal fees. They eventually lost in court. “It was heartbreaking,” Freml said. “It took us a while to recover.”

The couple later successfully adopted and now have a 5-year-old son, Riley, and a 7-year-old daughter, Jordan.

They had planned to raise their children in a religious tradition. But Freml acknowledges his Catholic faith has been tested by the church’s opposition to LGBTQ rights — from the firing of gay teachers in Catholic schools to bishops fighting the Equality Act and opposing same-sex couples adopting children. The 36-year-old, who attended Catholic schools for 12 years, drifted away from the church. He found his way back after his bishop, Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, led prayers of “supplication and exorcism” to protest the state passing a marriage equality law in 2013. John called the spectacle “egregious and hurtful.”

“I found a group of Catholic moms of LGBTQ kids protesting outside the cathedral,” he said. “They hugged me and we cried and we sang. It really brought me back to the church. It showed me there was a place for me in the church.”

But in recent years, he has struggled to identify as Catholic.

“My kids come from foster care and had such traumatic experiences in their lives even before they came to live with us so to think they might sit in Mass on a Sunday and hear a homily that calls their parents ‘disordered’ would only inflict more trauma on them,” Freml said. He wants church leaders to hear a simple message. “LGBTQ families are no different from heterosexual families. We have the same desire to connect and to love.”

[John Gehring is Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life and author of The Francis Effect: A Radical Pope’s Challenge to the American Catholic Church.]

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Currently, in the U.S. Supreme Court, another case is being fought on whether – or not – a same-sex couple can legally adopt children. See :-

Cases like these – of Same-Sex Couples who are prepared to adopt otherwise parent-less children – are sometimes prevented from adopting a child/children simply because of the fact that they are not the so-called ‘normal’ heterosexual couple, capable of producing a child of their own.

Objections are most often. nowadays, based on the flawed understanding that the sexual preference of their prospective S/S parents might in some way affect the children’s choice of their personal sexual orientation! This, of course, is based on the false premise that sexual orientation is a personally ‘chosen’ rather than a ‘given’ characterIstic.

Since the recently-issued Vatican Statement that their Church cannot authorise the ‘Blessing’ of a same-sex partnership’ on the grounds that it is ‘against nature’ (even though the Church has officially stated that LGBT+ people are to be welcomed by the Church) there has been a current of unrest amongs Gay Catholic couples who want to adopt children in order to give them a family upbringing – when otherwise their prospects might be limited to living in an institution.

The struggle here is between Church dogma and the need for appropriate pastoral care by the Church towards the burgeoning number of children condemned to grow up without the close support of a family in which they are personally nurtured and loved.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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An Appreciation of Hans Kung – theologian, par excellence

Hans Küng, celebrated and controversial Swiss theologian, has died

Apr 6, 2021 by Patricia Lefevere – People – Theology – NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER

Theologian Fr. Hans Küng is pictured in his office in Tübingen, Germany, in February 2008. (CNS/KNA/Harald Oppitz)Theologian Fr. Hans Küng is pictured in his office in Tübingen, Germany, in February 2008. (CNS/KNA/Harald Oppitz)

Catholic priest and theologian Hans Küng, the renowned scholar and prolific writer who had lived with Parkinson’s disease, macular degeneration and arthritis since 2013, died April 6 at his home in Tubingen, Germany. He was 93.

Few men throughout Christendom have had as much to say or had their work seen by as many Christians — and others — as Küng, the celebrated and controversial Swiss theologian and Catholic priest.

Open a magazine or turn on the television in Europe and it’s likely the viewer caught the face and heard the Germanic-toned voice of the famous Swiss professor who lived, taught and lectured more than 40 years in Germany. Often, he was photographed in the company of heads of state — Britain’s Tony Blair, the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev, Germany’s Helmut Schmidt, as well as world religious leaders.

He frequently carried on public dialogues with scholarly representatives of Buddhism, Chinese religions, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism. He also met with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan as he pursued his quest for a global ethic as a pathway toward international peace in the 21st century.Related: Ripples spread out from Hans Küng’s work

Tens of thousands of his readers living beyond Europe’s borders in America, Australia, Asia and Africa had heard him too, or at least read one or more of his tomes. He was the premier Catholic theologian to speak in China on religion and science, the first theologian to address a group of astrophysicists, and later the European Congress of Radiology on the subject of a more humane medicine.

Reasons for his popularity were ubiquitous: readability, clarity, erudition, honesty, fearlessness. He was smart, occasionally profound. Someone less intellectually gifted could understand his arguments and be drawn to his texts and his talks for just that reason. He said and wrote what he thought needed to be aired in what he deemed his relentless struggle for intellectual freedom and his passionate search for truth.

In his most popular book — Christ sein (On Being a Christian) — which quickly sold more than 200,000 hard covers in German alone when it was released in 1974, Küng said he probed theological issues that are of concern to any educated person. He wrote for those “who believe, but feel insecure,” those who used to believe “but are not satisfied with their unbelief” and those outside the church who are unwilling to approach “the fundamental questions of human existence with mere feelings, personal prejudices and apparently plausible explanations.”

For such a wide audience, Küng kept the Scriptures and the daily paper close at hand. From age 10 when the Nazis invaded Switzerland’s neighbor Austria, thus initiating World War II, the lad Hans — eldest of seven Küng children — began reading the daily paper. It was a discipline he maintained to his death despite declining vision. Keeping up on world and religious affairs rendered him “a realist, not a romanticist,” he told this reporter at a number of our meetings.

Often controversial, the name “Küng” came with its own brand of adjectives in conservative church and political publications: He was Küng the dissident, the bête noire, the disobedient, the heretic, the apostate, the errant, the Protestant. In short, “l’enfant terrible of the Catholic Church,” yelled many a headline.

His 1971 book, Infallible?: An Inquiry, caused an uproar across the Catholic world, challenging the papal infallibility declaration promulgated in 1870 at the First Vatican Council. Küng probed its theological basis and found the claim of supreme papal authority to be an impasse to reunion with other Christian churches.

The book appeared only three years after the Vatican had asked Küng to answer charges brought against his earlier volume, The Church. Catholic officials disputed the theologian’s understanding of papal authority and requested he appear in Rome to answer charges.

Küng stood his ground. He would not recant. He wanted to see the file the Vatican had amassed on him. He demanded a written list of the questions regarding his book as well as the names of those vetting the work. He asked to speak in German during any meetings with Vatican officials and further requested that the Vatican pay his travel expenses to Rome or else hold the hearings at Küng’s house in Tübingen.

Besides taking on infallibility, Küng also criticized the law of celibacy, favoring instead a married clergy and a diaconate, with both open to women as well as men. He argued compulsory celibacy was the chief reason for the shortage of priests, and he accused the hierarchy of preferring to deny the faithful a close-to-home celebration of the Eucharist for the sake of maintaining mandatory celibacy. The law contradicted the Gospel and ancient Catholic tradition and ought to be abolished, he wrote.

He found fault with the ban on dispensations for priests who wanted to leave the priesthood — introduced by Pope John Paul II after his election as pontiff in 1978 — calling it a violation of human rights.Related: Hans Küng knows church’s problems – and that change is inevitable

His historical critical approach to research led him to conclude that the early Christian communities in Corinth and elsewhere had had lay members preside over eucharistic services in the absence of a priest.

He took issue with the church’s ban on artificial contraception and its inhibitions in matters of human sexuality. He even had the chutzpah to critique the first year of the pontificate of John Paul II. In an essay appearing in eight papers across Europe, the Americas and Australia, Küng questioned whether the new pope was open to the world, was a spiritual leader, a true pastor, a collegial fellow bishop, an ecumenical mediator or even a real Christian.

Küng acknowledged that traditional Catholics would find the putting of such questions to the popular pope “more unforgivable than blasphemy.” But he said his criticism arose from “loyal commitment” to the church and he felt “the pope has a right to a response from his own church in critical solidarity.”

License to teach revoked

Headline writers and broadcasters had their day Dec. 18, 1979, when the Vatican pulled the rug out from under Küng’s teaching career, revoking his missio canonica, or license to teach as a Catholic theologian at the University of Tübingen, where he had been since 1960. Such a license is required to teach as a Catholic theologian at a pontifically recognized institution, like Tübingen’s Catholic theology school.

The German secular university has long had separate schools of Catholic and Protestant theology. Its Catholic school, at which Küng served as professor of dogmatic theology from 1963 to 1979, is renowned for its modern interpretation of the New Testament.

In Disputed Truth, Book 2 of his three volumes of memoirs, Küng spent 80 pages reviewing charges against him — secret meetings by German bishops and Vatican officials outside of Germany, betrayal by seven of his 11 Tübingen colleagues and a near physical and emotional breakdown caused by exhaustion from his efforts to answer Vatican accusations while preserving his place in a state university.

In the end, Küng retained his professorship, not in the Catholic faculty, but in the university’s secular Institute for Ecumenical Research, which he had founded and directed since the early 1960s. He also remained “a priest in good standing,” which upset those who sought his excommunication. Despite his outspokenness, Rome recognized his lifelong devotion to the church and allowed Küng to preach and to publish until illness and disability slowed him in 2013.

Küng indicated a certain dismay in 1979 when he learned of the involvement of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the removal of his teaching license. As dean of theology at Tübingen in the early 1960s, Küng had offered — and Ratzinger accepted — a professorship at Tübingen. But following student revolts in Germany in 1968, Ratzinger left academia, returning to his native Munich where he became archbishop, then cardinal. He later headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for 25 years under John Paul.

To the surprise of many, Küng requested a meeting with Ratzinger shortly after Ratzinger was elected pope in April 2005. The two priests had retained their respect for one another and a limited correspondence over 45 years. Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, quickly agreed to meet Küng. The pair talked for four hours and dined at Benedict’s summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.

A communiqué issued by the Vatican two days after the Sept. 24, 2005, reunion indicated the meeting was friendly and that Benedict praised Küng for his efforts to build a global code of ethics that enshrined the values that were held in common among religions and recognized by secular leaders, too.

The two did not take up any doctrinal questions. Nor did Küng ask that his teaching license be restored. Instead, they found accord on matters relating to science and religion, faith and reason, and social issues concerned with ethics and peace-building.

Although their shared evening was but a scintilla of time compared to the quarter-century that Küng had been in a state of strained relations with the Vatican, the theologian saw it as a sign of openness and even a harbinger of hope for those who share his critical vision of the church and what he had oft termed its “inquisitional proceedings” against him and against other dissidents.

For years, Küng had asked priests and bishops to show some courage against what he called a repressive Roman system that demanded obedience over reason and conformity over freedom of conscience. What was it in fact that gave this renegade thinker such abiding confidence in the midst of decades of struggle?

A hint is provided in On Being a Christian, which has seen many editions and been translated into dozens of languages. Küng called it “a small Summa” on which he worked for seven years. Its 720 pages probe whether Christian faith could continue to meet the challenges of the modern world and whether the Christian message was an adequate one for today’s men and women. Küng said he wrote it because he did not know what was specifically Christian, and he needed to find out.

‘I have an infinite intellectual curiosity. I am never satisfied. I must always know more about everything so I can detect just what are the problems. I do not have many prejudices before starting, as I do not fear the outcome.’

—Hans Küng

Early in the work, Küng quoted German physicist and philosopher Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, who said: “There is one thing I would like to tell the theologians: something which they know and others should know. They hold the sole truth which goes deeper than the truth of science, on which the atomic age rests. They hold a knowledge of the nature of man that is more deeply rooted than the rationality of modern times. The moment always comes inevitably when our planning breaks down and we ask and will ask about the truth.”

Truth-seeking was the chosen task to which Küng brought his insatiable probing and unquenchable intellect.

“I have an infinite intellectual curiosity,” he told this reporter during the first of many meetings over nearly 40 years. “I am never satisfied. I must always know more about everything so I can detect just what are the problems. I do not have many prejudices before starting, as I do not fear the outcome.

“Christology presents so many problems and so people say: ‘It’s dangerous to touch the virgin birth, the pre-existence of Christ, the Trinity.’ But I think the truth cannot do harm — not to me personally and not to the church,” he told NCR.

The chance to reflect on God gave Küng enormous pleasure and satisfaction, he related in My Struggle for Freedom, the first volume of his memoirs.

‘I can swim’

Already as a youngster, Küng recalled coming home “radiant” when he realized “I can swim … the water’s supporting me.” For him, this experience illustrated “the venture of faith, which cannot first be proved theoretically by a course on ‘dry land’ but simply has to be attempted: a quite rational venture, though the rationality only emerges in the act,” he wrote in his first memoir.

A lifelong lover of nature, Küng spent much time in its environs — swimming almost every day of his life and skiing up to age 80 during brief holidays in Switzerland. Skiing helped him if only for a few hours to “air my brain and forget all scholarship, often defying the cold, wind, snow and storm,” he attested in his memoir.

Almost all of his books were composed in longhand as Küng sat on his living-room-sized terrace in Tübingen, close to the banks of the Neckar River, or alongside his Lake Lucerne home in his native Sursee, Switzerland. Sunshine and fresh air pervade his texts as much as do research, history, exhaustive scholarship, and analysis of and solutions to specific theological and philosophical problems.

‘The nicest liturgical words and the highest praise of Christ — unless backed by Scripture and understood by the people — are just not useful.’

—Hans Küng

The inclement elements to which Küng alluded while on the Alpine slopes became the stuff of weathering the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In fact, the Holy Office — as it was known in pre-Vatican II days — opened a secret file (the infamous 399/57i) on Küng shortly after he wrote his first book and doctoral dissertation, Justification, in 1957. In it, Küng predicted that an agreement in principle between Catholic theology as set down at the 16th-century Council of Trent and 20th-century Reformation theology as evidenced in Swiss Reformed* theologian Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics was possible.

Although only 28 when he published this conclusion, it would be the first of many ecumenical and interfaith inquiries that solidified his own roots in a living faith in Christ, which he said lasted his entire career and helped him always to be open to other faiths. Indeed, Küng long held that steadfastness in one’s own faith and a capacity for dialogue with those of another belief are complementary virtues.

Four decades after writing Justification, Küng brought out volumes on Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Chinese religions. In the course of his research, he met frequently with religious leaders in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Of these meetings, he said he initially had more questions of faith (dogmatics) than of ethics (morality). But in the course of time, it dawned on him that despite dogmatic differences between the religions, there were already decisive common features in ethics that could be the foundation for a global ethic.

So, at the start of the 1990s, Küng was well-prepared to take on the task of preparing a Declaration Toward a Global Ethic for the Parliament of the World Religions that convened in Chicago in 1993. The most referenced part of the declaration was no peace among the nations without peace among the religions.

Not surprisingly, the child who discovered he could swim became the man who recognized the three great river systems of the high religions of China, India and the Semitic Near East, which he found in preparing a journey of many weeks to sub-Saharan Africa in 1986 and while working on a German television series in Australia in 1998.

None of this would have happened had he not had his teaching license withdrawn in 1979, he later admitted.

Nor would it have occurred had he not been ordained a Catholic priest. That event took place in 1954 in Rome. Küng celebrated his first Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and preached to the Swiss Guard, some of whom he knew well after seven years studying philosophy and theology in Latin at Rome’s Jesuit Gregorian University.

He completed a further three years of study in French for his doctorate at the Sorbonne and the Institut Catholique in Paris, where he wrote his Justification thesis.

Küng returned to Switzerland, serving two years as an assistant priest in Lucerne. Barth invited him to lecture in Basel on the theme: The church always in need of reform. Some in the audience found his enthusiasm for renewal over-optimistic. However, on Jan. 25, 1959 — the week following his talk — Pope John XXIII called for a Second Vatican Council. And Küng in preparing his reform lecture of Jan. 19 had already amassed extensive notes for a volume on just such a venture.

That book, The Council, Reform and Reunion, became programmatic to a number of Vatican II documents, including those on scriptural study, worship, liturgy in the vernacular, on dialogue with other cultures and faiths, on reform of the papacy, religious liberty and on the abolition of the Index of Prohibited Books.

Vatican watcher and former NCR Rome correspondent Peter Hebblethwaite ventured that no theologian would ever again exert as much influence on the agenda of a council as Küng had. Not only was The Council, Reform and Reunion a best-seller in Germany, Holland, France and the English-speaking world, it bore the approval of Vienna’s Cardinal Franz König, who dictated its imprimatur to Küng from his hospital bed after sustaining grave injuries in a road accident.

Council adviser

Shortly after the book’s release, Küng’s bishop, Carl Joseph Leiprecht of Rottenburg, Germany, invited him to be his personal peritus, or expert, at the upcoming council. Küng was hardly keen about a return to Rome. But a number of colleagues persuaded him that the council promised to be the church event of the century and Küng dare not miss it.

“How am I to suspect that this yes will determine my fate for almost a decade and beyond?” he noted in his memoir.

At 34, Küng was the youngest expert at the council, soon joined by Dominicans Edward Schillebeeckx of Belgium and Yves Congar of France; German priests Ratzinger and Karl Rahner, plus U.S. clerics John Courtney Murray, George Higgins, John Quinn, Gustave Weigel and Vincent Yzermans.

A younger Fr. Hans Küng is seen in an undated photo. (Newscom/Album/sfgp)

A younger Fr. Hans Küng is seen in an undated photo. (Newscom/Album/sfgp)

Not only did progressive bishops seek out Küng’s acumen and writing skills, but his fluency in French, Italian, Dutch, German, English and Latin made him the go-to guy in dealing with the press. He was quick to publish his views on council texts and backroom maneuvering in leading papers and was a frequent television guest, remembered as much for his good looks and business suits as for his expertise.

During the council’s third session in October 1964 — by which time Pope Paul VI had replaced the late John XXIII — it looked as if the new pontiff was about to postpone a vote on key declarations on religious liberty and on the Jews by first returning them for further checking to the highly conservative Curia.

Working behind the scenes but at the behest of powerful progressive churchmen, Küng helped convene meetings with 13 cardinals who quickly drafted a protest letter to the pope. Before the ink had dried, Küng breached the secrecy imposed on periti and put the public in the picture. He telephoned reporters at top European newspapers and briefed them “on the scandalous machinations” against the two declarations.

When the bishops returned for their session on Monday morning, they were greeted by a storm in the international press. The uproar plus the personal intervention by cardinals with the pope meant that both schemata remained on the council agenda. The draft on the Jews passed 1,770 to 185 on Nov. 20, 1964.

A year later, the bishops voted in favor of the Declaration on Religious Liberty 2,308 to 70.

On Dec. 2, 1965, Paul VI invited Küng to a private audience. It lasted 45 minutes — more than twice as long as predicted. Küng recalled the pontiff’s telling him that having looked over everything Küng had written, the pope would have preferred that he wrote “nothing.” This was after the pontiff had lauded him for “his great gifts” and suggested Küng use his talents at the service of the church.

Conform

Confused but still smiling, the theologian assured his supreme boss, “I’m already at the service of the church.”

To this, the pope implied Küng must “conform” if he really intended to serve the church. Before leaving the papal library, Küng managed to steer the conversation to the disputed issue of contraception, offering the pope a memorandum with a dozen points for him to hand on to his papal commission studying the birth control issue.

‘My theology obviously isn’t for the pope [I will do theology] for my fellow human beings … for those people who may need my theology.’

 —Hans Küng

He later recalled that the audience with Paul VI confronted him vividly with the question: For whom was he doing theology? Already in late 1965, Küng understood: “My theology obviously isn’t for the pope (and his followers), who clearly doesn’t want my theology as it is.”

On that very day Küng resolved he would do theology “for my fellow human beings … for those people who may need my theology.”

Over the years following the council, Küng would point out frequently the hundreds of letters he received and the comments from crowds of supporters who attended his lectures in Germany and abroad testifying that they remained in the church because of his vision, his theology and writings.

His spring 1963 lectures in the United States, following the first session of Vatican II, drew more than 25,000 people to Notre Dame, Boston College and Georgetown University and to venues in California, Texas, Minnesota, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. At St. Louis University, he received the first of many honorary degrees, but the Jesuit school was chastised for not first seeking Rome’s permission to honor Küng.

On April 30, 1963, President John Kennedy welcomed Küng to the White House, introducing him to Vice President Lyndon Johnson and congressional leaders with the words: “And this is what I would call a new frontier man of the Catholic Church.”

In November 1983, on the 20th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination, Küng shared with this reporter how privileged he had felt to live during “the reign of the two Johns.”

Noting that John XXIII’s death had come only five months ahead of Kennedy’s, Küng recalled that each man’s time in office was cut short. Yet each had a brief window of opportunity that they seized — the pope in calling the council, the president in working on arms control with the Soviets, Küng said while relaxing in his hotel room in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he was teaching the autumn semester at the University of Michigan.

On visits to his home in Tübingen in 1977 and 1985 and during subsequent meetings in Berkeley, California; New York; Ann Arbor; Detroit; Chicago; Pittsburgh; and Mahwah, New Jersey, this reporter held wide-ranging conversations with Küng about his faith, his family, the role of God, prayer and liturgy in his life.

‘I have a real aversion to bad liturgy. I think it is essential that people feel immediately that the man presiding believes what he says, is committed to this cause, is addressing them and not just performing prayers.’

—Hans Küng

Those privileged to see Küng say Mass — as this reporter was in Greenwich Village where he preached on the Sonship of God in the late 1980s — saw a man of deep faith who gave as much attention to the words and symbols of the liturgy as he did to composing his books and lectures.

For years, he had presided at the 11 a.m. Sunday Mass at St. Johannes Kirche (St. John’s Church) in the center of the Tübingen campus. Küng had proposed the Mass for professors.

“I have a real aversion to bad liturgy,” he said. “I think it is essential that people feel immediately that the man presiding believes what he says, is committed to this cause, is addressing them and not just performing prayers. The nicest liturgical words and the highest praise of Christ — unless backed by Scripture and understood by the people — are just not useful,” he said in Tübingen.

Years later in a final seminar on “Eternal Life” delivered to 20 students and 20 auditing professors at the University of Michigan, Küng focused on the Last Supper.

“We see a man facing his death. It’s very simple. It’s a ceremony in a traditional Jewish context. He takes bread, gives his blessing, breaks it, passes it out,” Küng said, extending his arms to those close to him. “He knows it’s his last time with them. He says: ‘Take. My body. Remember me. This night.’ “

Students exchanged glances. Person to person. Catholics and Hindus. Moist eyes and silence. A sense of communion filled the seminar room.

“There are depths of piety in this man that we’ve not yet begun to fathom,” biblical scholar David Noel Freedman told NCR after the seminar. Freedman credited Küng’s strong faith to his very traditional Swiss Catholic upbringing, his strong mother, and his father who ran a shoe store in the middle of Sursee — “and those five sisters of his.”

Patricia Lefevere

Patricia Lefevere, a longtime NCR contributor, interviewed Hans Küng many times.

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Fr. Hans Kung shared experience with Fr. Joseph Ratzinger (future Pope Benedict XVI) as ‘periti’ (monitors) at the Second Vatican Council called by Pope John XXIII in the early 1960s. Wikipedia has this further entry about their association in the world of Roman Catholic Theology:

“Hans Küng was a Swiss Catholic priest, theologian, and author. .. At Küng’s instigation, the Catholic faculty at Tübingen appointed Ratzinger as professor of dogmatic theology….”

Whereas Ratzinger became gradually more conservative after their joint experience of Vatican II, Hans Kung went on to question those who, in the Vatican, were gradually reverting to a theological stance more diffident about implementing the progressive Reforms of the Council. Although their theological views were sometimes widely different, these two ‘Doctors of The Church’ were both respected as ‘stand-alone’ promoters of their particular views of the Church and its mission in the modern world.

From his battles with the hierarchy of the Church, his ecumenism and his writings, it is obvious that Hans Kung would have been a more fervent follower of the initiatives of Pope Francis – than those of Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI.

May Father Hans Kung +Rest in Peace and Rise with Christ in glory!+ Christ is Risen, Alleluia!

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealan

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Religious Right causes Free-Fall in Church Membership in the U.S.

Church membership is in a free fall — and the Christian right has only themselves to blame

Amanda Marcotte, Salon – April 02, 2021 – NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER

Church membership is in a free fall -- and the Christian right has only themselves to blame

www.rawstory.com

The trend of Americans exiting the pews, never to return, has been steady for some years now and shows no signs of slowing down. According to a new Gallup poll released this week, only 47% of Americans polled in 2020 belong to a house of worship, which is the first time that number has fallen below half of the country since they started polling Americans on this question.

This article originally appeared at Salon.

But what’s really interesting is that the collapse in church membership has happened mostly over the past two decades. Since Gallup started recording these numbers decades ago, church membership rates were relatively steady, with only the smallest decline over the decades. In 1937, 73% of Americans belong to a church. In 1975, it was 71%. In 1999, it was 70%. But since then, the church membership rate has fallen by a whopping 23 percentage points

It is not, however, because of some great atheist revival across the land, with Americans suddenly burying themselves in the philosophical discourse about the unlikeliness of the existence of a higher power. The percentage of Americans who identify as atheist (4%) or agnostic (5%) has risen slightly, but not even close to enough to account for the number of people who claim no religious affiliation. A 2017 Gallup poll finds that 87% of Americans say they believe in God. So clearly, what we’re seeing is a dramatic increase in the kinds of folks who would say something akin to, “I’m spiritual, but not big on organized religion.

Blame the religious right. Until recently, the U.S. was largely unaffected by the increasing secularization of many European countries, but that started to change dramatically at the turn of the 21st century. And it’s no mystery why. The drop in religious affiliation starts right around the time George W. Bush was elected president, publicly and dramatically associating himself with the white evangelical movement. The early Aughts saw the rise of megachurches with flashily dressed ministers who appeared more interested in money and sermonizing about people’s sex lives than modeling values of charity and humility

Not only were these religious figures and the institutions they led hyper-political, the outward mission seemed to be almost exclusively in service of oppressing others. The religious right isn’t nearly as interested in feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless as much as using religion as an all-purpose excuse to abuse women and LGBTQ people. In an age of growing wealth inequalities, with more and more Americans living hand-to-mouth, many visible religious authorities were using their power to support politicians and laws to take health care access from women and fight against marriage between same-sex couples. And then Donald Trump happened.

Trump was a thrice-married chronic adulterer who routinely exposed how ignorant he was of religion, and who reportedly — and let’s face it, obviously — made fun of religious leaders behind their backs. But religious right leaders didn’t care. They continually pumped Trump up like he was the second coming, showily praying over him and extorting their followers to have faith in a man who literally could not have better conformed to the prophecies of the Antichrist. It was comically over the top, how extensively Christian right leaders exposed themselves as motivated by power, not faith. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, Gallup’s numbers show numbers of religiously affiliated Americans taking a nosedive during the Trump years, dropping from 55% of Americans belonging to a church to 47%.

To be clear, the drop-off in religious affiliation is, researchers have shown, likely less about people actively quitting churches, and more about churches being unable to recruit younger followers to replace the ones who die. As Pew Research Center tweeted in 2019, “Today, there is a wide gap between older Americans (Baby Boomers and members of the Silent Generation) and Millennials in their levels of religious affiliation

All of which makes sense. It’s rare that people abandon an ideology or faith that they’e had for a long time. Once an adult actively chooses to belong to a church, it’s hard to admit that you were wrong and now want to abandon the whole project. But young adults, even those who went to church with their parents, do have to make an active choice to join a church as adults. And many are going to look at hypocritical, power-hungry ministers praying over an obvious grifter like Trump and be too turned off to even consider getting involved.

In 2017, Robert P. Jones, the head of the Public Religion Research Institute and author of “White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity,” spoke with Salon about how the decline in religion is concentrated largely among young people. There’s “a culture clash between particularly conservative white churches and denominations and younger Americans,” he explained, noting that young people were particularly critical of anti-science and homophobic rhetoric from religious leaders

“[C]onservative white Christians have lost this argument with a broader liberal culture,” he explained, including “their own kids and grandchildren.”

It’s a story with a moral so blunt that it could very well be a biblical fable: Christian leaders, driven by their hunger for power and cultural dominance, become so grasping and hypocritical that it backfires and they lose their cultural relevance. Not that there’s any cause to pity them, since they did this to themselves. The growing skepticism of organized religion in the U.S. is a trend to celebrate. While more needs to be done to replace the sense of community that churches can often give people, it’s undeniable that this decline is tied up with objectively good trends: increasing liberalism, hostility to bigotry, and support for science in the U.S. Americans are becoming better people, however slowly, and the decline in organized religious affiliation appears to be a big part of that.

______________________________________________________________________________

This trend – of fewer Christians in Church – is a sad commentary of the American culture of Christian church-going. In a country once remarkable for its adherence to Christian ethics and Church attendance, the U.S.A. has suffered more under the presidency of Donald Trump than at any other time in the history of religious statistical records.

Encouraged by the ex-President of the United States, Donald Trump; many of the country’s fundamentalist Christian Leaders flourished in their desire to shore up fundamentalist beliefs that have been challenged by both scientific and social research that has moved beyond the out-dated understandings of the 19th century.

One instance of change in social and theological understanding of human nature, for instance, has been that of new learnings about the aetiology of human gender and sexuality – matters which the modern world has come to terms with, but which some fundamentalist Christian organisations are unwilling to acknowledge and deal with. Such resistance to change, paradoxically in the U.S., has been evidenced in President Trump’s siding with publicity-hungry Pentecostal pastors, whose attitude towards LGBTQ+ people and Women’s Rights are out if kilter with the modern understanding of these important issues in a modern world society. This is a President whose own dismissive attitude towards women has been well-documented, yet, stunningly, this does not seem to deter his religious Right-Wing ‘Christian’ backers.

Young people, who are discovering for themselves the real ‘facts of life’ on gender, sexuality, equality and other social justice issues, are just not interested in investing their personal integrity in any religious system which denies the realities they themselves are encountering in their own lives; so that those who want to embrace integrity and justice are no longer attracted to a religious code that takes no account of their understanding of what it means to be a citizen of the world as they have come to know and embrace it.

When even the Pope in Rome acknowledges that things have changed in the Church’s understanding of gender and sexuality (and the place of women in a formerly male-dominated patriarchal Church and society); then it is time for other Christian Churches to open up to new possibilities of recognising the hand of God acting in creation in ways different from the outdated understanding of our predecessors. (Is this a new ‘Galileo Moment’ in the Church?)

At this Season of the Easter proclamation, of the Christ who brought a new understanding of the Ways of God to the people of his own day – but was rejected by the religious authorities and put to death for his pains – the Church of today needs to repent of its deadly resistance to change in its attitude towards the facts of human evolution. so that today’s youth might recognize what it might mean to be called into the ‘Body of Christ’, a vital, living organism which transmits the ongoing power of love and justice of a Creator God, who made all humanity in God’s own Image and Likeness.

“Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us; therefore, let us keep the Feast – not with the old leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Christ is Risen, Alleluia! He is Risen indeed, Alleluia!”

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Pope appoints child-abuse survivor to Vatican panel

pope appoints abuse survivor

Monday, March 29th, 2021

  • Pope Francis has appointed a prominent Chilean survivor of clerical sex abuse to a Vatican commission that focuses on education to prevent abuse in the Catholic Church.
  • Juan Carlos Cruz, an international advocate for abuse victims, has been appointed to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

The 59-year-old Cruz was abused as a teenager in his native Chile by a notorious paedophile, Father Fernando Karadima.

Karadima was convicted in 2011 by a Vatican court of committing pedophile acts in the 1980s and 1990s. He was also dismissed from the clerical state and sentenced to lead a life of penance.

During the pope’s trip to Chile in 2018, Cruz criticised Francis for defending a bishop whom Cruz and other victims accused of having witnessed Karadima abuse them and of covering up for him.

Days after returning to Rome, Francis, citing new information, ordered an investigation of the Church in Chile. It produced a 2,300-page report accusing Chile’s bishops of “grave negligence” in investigating the allegations. The report also said evidence of sex crimes had been destroyed.

Francis later that year received Cruz and other victims of Karadima in the Vatican and demanded the resignation of all of Chile’s bishops.

“When the pope asked me for forgiveness, I have never seen someone so contrite. I felt he was in pain,” Cruz said of his private meeting with Francis.

By this time, the pope was aware Cruz was openly gay and living with his partner in the United States.

“God loves you just as you are,” Francis told him.

Cruz has spent years fighting clergy sex abuse and the Church’s code of silence. He expressed “his gratitude” to the pope for the new appointment.

“I am very grateful to Pope Francis for trusting me with this appointment. This renews my commitment to continue working to end the scourge of abuse and for so many survivors who still do not have justice,” Cruz said on Twitter.

____________________________________________________________________________________

On last night’s TV1 programme on New Zealand television we were treated to a two-hour documentary on the papacy of Pope Francis.

Since the recent statement from the Vatican Curia – that the Catholic Church could not bless Same-Sex Unions – as being contrary to official Catholic doctrine – there has been speculation about the seeming contradiction between the action of Pope Francis in adding his signature to this document, and his obvious acceptance of Same-Sex relationships in public.

In last night’s documentary, viewers were able to see a meeting between Pope Francis and the new appointee to a special Commission on child abuse, Juan Carlos Cruz (himself a survivor of clerical abuse as a child in Chile). During the meeting, when Juan Carlos told Pope Francis of his status as a gay person in a relationship, Pope Francis was heard to say that he should not feel guilty, because this was how he was made by God!.

Relating the outcome of this interview, where the Pope assured Juan Carlos that his gay status was a ‘creation of God’, this must surely be interpreted as a situation where his relationship was not a matter for criticism by the Church – whatever the recent statement by the Vatican Curia might have to say about the Blessing of Same Sex Unions.

Pope Francis also said recently – of the legal Civil Union of Same-Sex couples – that this was a situation that the Church could agree with.

NOW.. The FACT that a S/S partnered gay Catholic – Juan Carlos Cruz – has been admitted by the Pope to a position of some responsibility on an official Vatican Commission on child-abuse within the Catholic Church; the Vatican Curia may be confronted with the possibility that their recent statement about the Blessing of S/S Unions could be overturned by papal fiat.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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