Catholic Church

Bobby Ross Jr. 7-31-2017

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“It’s hard to really put into words,” said Marita Rother, a nun and younger sister of the priest who was shot to death on July 28, 1981, while serving as a Catholic missionary during Guatemala’s bloody civil war.

“I think the whole thing is beyond what any of us would expect to be happening,” she added.

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Pope Francis has defrocked an Italian priest who was found guilty of child sex abuse, three years after overturning predecessor Benedict XVI’s decision to do the same after allegations against the priest first came to light.

Mauro Inzoli, 67, was initially defrocked in 2012, after he was first accused of abusing minors, but Francis reversed that decision in 2014, ordering the priest to stay away from children and retire to “a life of prayer and humble discretion.”

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One of the most senior officials in the Vatican took a leave of absence and pledged to defend his name after being charged with multiple historical sex crimes in Australia.

Cardinal George Pell, one of Pope Francis’ most trusted advisors and head of the Holy See’s finance department, is the highest ranking official in the Catholic Church to face abuse charges.

Pope Francis talks as he embraces a child during a special audience with members of the "Train of the children" at the Vatican, on June 3. Reuters/Remo Casilli

Prominent U.S. ethicists are among a number of international experts chosen by Pope Francis for his bioethics advisory board —  a move that might temper the group’s conservative views on sexual morality and life issues.

The same week that President Donald Trump was meeting with Pope Francis in Rome, another historic event was taking place, as the Global Christian Forum facilitated a groundbreaking encounter with the major global bodies representing most every part of world Christianity.

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Twelve Catholic priests and brothers live, work, and pray at the Vatican Observatory as they explore some of the universe’s biggest scientific questions, from the Big Bang theory to the structure of meteorites and stars.

“The observatory exists to show the world that the Catholic Church supports science,” says Brother Guy Consolmagno, an astronomer from Detroit who is also the observatory’s director.

California "weed nun" Christine Meeusen, 57, who goes by the name Sister Kate (L), and India Delgado, who goes by the name Sister Eevee, trim hemp in the kitchen at Sisters of the Valley near Merced, California, U.S., April 18, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Based near the town of Merced in the Central Valley, which produces over half of the fruit, vegetables, and nuts grown in the United States, the Sisters of the Valley grow and harvest their own cannabis plants.

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Pope Francis condemned the suspected chemical weapons attack that killed over 100 people in Syria and renewed his call for an urgent political solution to end the war. Speaking at his weekly audience at the Vatican on April 5, the pope said he was horrified by the “unacceptable” massacre of civilians, including at least 20 children, on April 4.

Image via RNS/European Union 2016 - European Parliament/Pietro Naj-Oleari

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks made a name for himself as chief rabbi of Great Britain for nearly a quarter-century, a time of great tumult that included the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the influx of millions of Muslims into Europe, and the ongoing pressures to absorb and assimilate newcomers into a mostly secular society.

As chief rabbi, from 1991 to 2013, he stressed an appreciation and respect of all faiths, with an emphasis on interfaith work that brings people together, while allowing each faith its own particularity.

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“There is simply no justification in our day for failures to enact concrete safeguarding standards for our children, young men and women, and vulnerable adults,” O’Malley said.

“We are called to reform and renew all the institutions of our church. … And we certainly must address the evil of sexual abuse by priests.”

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As Pope Francis marks the fourth anniversary of his revolutionary papacy, the pontiff apparently finds himself besieged on all sides by crises of his own making: an open “civil war” in the Catholic Church and fears of schism, mounting opposition from the faithful, and a Roman Curia so furious with his reforms that some cardinals are plotting a coup to topple him.

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Despite criticism from conservative opponents who question his approach to church doctrine and his reform of the Vatican Curia, the pope said he had never lost his peace of mind.

Image via Josephine McKenna/ Religion News Service 

“The effort to keep the church from stopping this sort of thing is shocking,” she added. “It is about male power and male image, not people’s stories. The real trouble is they have defined their power as spiritual leadership and they don’t have a clue about spiritual life.”

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In a major setback for the pope, Collins on Mar. 1 announced that she had resigned from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, established by the pontiff in 2013 to counter abuse in the church.

She said the pope’s decision to create the commission was a “sincere move,” but there had been “constant setbacks” from officials within the Vatican.

“There are people in the Vatican who do not want to change, or understand the need to change,” Collins said in a telephone interview from Dublin.

Sean Carroll 2-16-2017

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On Feb. 8, Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos went to Mass and said a prayer before voluntarily going to her biannual appointment at the immigration office in Phoenix.

Guadalupe knew that, because of President Trump’s executive order on immigration enforcement, she was now considered a high priority for deportation and could be sent back to Mexico, leaving her two teenage children, both of them U.S. citizens.

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Pope Francis has condemned clerical sex abuse as an “absolute monstrosity,” and asked victims and their families for forgiveness on behalf of the Catholic Church.

In an unusual move, the pontiff’s comments were published as a preface to a new book by Daniel Pittet, a Swiss victim who was sexually abused for four years by a priest when he was a child.

Image via RNS/Lee Pellegrini/Boston College

For Catholics, the key to working collaboratively with Pope Francis, on issues from mass migration to climate change to Hispanic evangelization, may be found in a controversial movement that many left for dead long ago: liberation theology.

That message reverberated, from Feb. 6 to Feb. 10, through the halls of Boston College and a nearby retreat center, as nearly 40 theologians gathered from across the Spanish-speaking world to discuss the movement’s future with its founding figures.

Image via RNS/The Catholic University of America/Dana Rene Bowler

For much of its long history in the U.S., the Catholic Church was known as the champion of the working class, a community of immigrants whose leaders were steadfast in support of organized labor and economic justice – a faith-based agenda that helped provide a path to success for its largely working-class flock.

In recent decades, as those ethnic European Catholics assimilated and grew wealthier, and as the concerns of the American hierarchy shifted to battles over moral issues, such as abortion and gay marriage, traditional pocketbook issues took a back seat.

Warren Hall 1-12-2017

Image via RNS/Francis Micklow/courtesy of The Star-Ledger

It has also been five months since Myers suspended me from all priestly ministry, for my “disobedience” in continuing to be involved with that same work against LGBT discrimination.

That’s given me a lot of time to think about what would happen when a new archbishop came to Newark, and what my future would be.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Andres Stapff

If I’ve learned anything since my time in Rome, it’s that people — not just Catholics — are hungering to connect peace with justice. This is why those of us who traveled to Rome just before the election, accompanied by Stockton, Calif., Bishop Stephen Blaire, and Houma-Thibodaux, La., Bishop Shelton Fabre, are preparing for a regional WMPM meeting in Modesto, Calif., in February.

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