Catholic Church


The Catholic Church in Honduras is reaching out to both criminal gangs, such as Mara Salvatrucha and M18, and the government to negotiate a cessation to violence, similar to truces reached with church mediation in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Colombia. Agenzia Fides reports:

"We are in a process of recovery of the respect for life, we are listening to both gangs, but the government has not yet given an answer," said Mgr. Romulo Emiliani Sánchez, C.M.F Auxiliary Bishop of San Pedro Sula to a local radio station, announcing the start of a dialogue with the main criminal gangs in Honduras, to reach a truce similar to that in force in El Salvador.

Read more here.

Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners

Sr. Simone Campbell and other 'Nuns on the Bus' greet rally attendees in D.C., last year. Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners

NEW YORK — The “Nuns on the Bus” are revving up their engines for another national campaign, only this time the Catholic sisters are taking their mobile platform for social justice along the country’s Southern border to push Congress to pass immigration reform.

“The ‘Nuns on the Bus’ is going on the road again!” Sister Simone Campbell, head of the social justice lobby Network, told an enthusiastic gathering of faith leaders and charity activists at a Manhattan awards ceremony Wednesday (May 1).

“This time we’re going out for commonsense immigration reform,” she said to rousing applause.

Alessandro Speciale 05-01-2013
Pope Benedict photo by Gregory A. Shemitz,Pope Francis photo by Andrea Sabbadini

(Left) Pope Benedict photo by Gregory A. Shemitz, (right) Pope Francis photo by Andrea Sabbadini.

More than two months after his resignation, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will return to the Vatican on Thursday to live in a small convent that has been recently renovated for his needs.

Benedict’s return will face the Vatican with the unprecedented situation of a reigning pope and a retired pope living a short distance from each other.

The potential difficulty is compounded by the fact that Benedict’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, will move in with the former pope while he continues to serve as Pope Francis’ Prefect of the Papal Household, charged with setting his schedule and audiences.

Mark Mueller 04-30-2013

Newark Archbishop John J. Myers is facing fierce criticism for shielding a priest with abuse allegations. Photo courtesy RNS.

Amid calls for a Vatican investigation, Newark Archbishop John J. Myers is facing fierce criticism for his handling of a priest who attended youth retreats and heard confessions from minors in defiance of a court-ordered lifetime ban on ministry to children.

At St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Colts Neck, where the Rev. Michael Fugee had been spending time with a youth group, angry parishioners said they were never told about Fugee’s background, and they questioned Myers’ defense of the priest, the subject of a lengthy story in The Star-Ledger.

“It’s complete craziness that the church can let this happen,” said John Santulli, 38, a father of two at St. Mary’s. “I’m a softball coach, and I need a background check just to get on the field. Every single person I spoke to today said, ‘Oh my God. I didn’t know about this.’ It’s incomprehensible.”

George Martell/The Pilot Media Group via Flickr (

Kim Daniels (pictured here on March 13, 2013). George Martell/The Pilot Media Group via Flickr (

A former adviser to Sarah Palin and an attorney with a long record of advocating conservative causes, will become the first spokeswoman for the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the USCCB announced Monday.

The addition of Kim Daniels, who is a leader of the conservative media lobby, Catholic Voices USA, seems aimed at revamping the hierarchy’s communications strategy, which many bishops say has been hampered by a lack of coordination and an authoritative spokesperson.

Under the new structure, Daniels will speak for the president of the bishops’ conference — currently New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan — while the USCCB’s media office will continue to speak for the bishops as a whole.

Daniels’ hiring also looks like an effort to satisfy Dolan’s goal of finding an “attractive, articulate, intelligent” laywoman to help recast the hierarchy’s image, which many feared was starting to be seen as unfriendly to women because of legal battles like the fight against the Obama administration’s contraception mandate.

Daniels has experience in that field, having worked for years with the Thomas More Law Center, a conservative legal group, where she fought, for example, for the rights of pharmacists to claim a conscience exemption from dispensing morning-after pills. Such religious liberty battles have become a public policy priority for the bishops, and having Daniels on board gives another veteran voice to the bishops’ campaign.

Yet the hiring — Daniels has been working on a “contract basis,” according to the USCCB — also raises many questions that the USCCB’s brief press release did not answer.

Ann Marie Somma 04-29-2013
RNS photo by Ann Marie Somma/Hartford Faith & Values.

The new confessional at St. Mary the Immaculate Conception Church, RNS photo by Ann Marie Somma/Hartford Faith & Values.

DERBY, Conn. — The Rev. Janusz Kukulka can’t say for sure that his parishioners are sinning more, but they sure are lining up at the new confessional booth to tell him about it.

For years, Kukulka, was content with absolving sins in a private room marked by an exit sign to the right of the altar St. Mary the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.

But something happened during Lent this year. For the first time, Kukulka really noticed the two confessionals missing from the rear of his church. They’d been gone for four decades, ripped out during the 1970s to make room for air conditioning units during a renovation inspired by the Second Vatican Council.

They must have been a thing of beauty, Kukulka thought. He imagined their dark oak paneled doors and arched moldings to match the Gothic architecture of the church designed by renowned 19th-century architect Patrick Keely.

Their absence was striking, especially when the Archdiocese of Hartford had asked parishes to extend their confession hours during Lent, part of a public relations campaign to get Catholics to return to the sacrament of reconciliation.

So, one Sunday Kukulka announced his desire to the congregation. “I told them I wanted a visible confessional,” he said.

He got one within a week.

Rose Marie Berger 04-29-2013

The Ecclesial Network for the Amazon, a Catholic church network representing 12 Latin American countries, met recently in Puyo, Pastaza, Ecuador, challenging unrestrained market forces that are decimating the Amazonian ecosystem. The Network has been established to provide on-the-ground facts about Amazonia's environment, indigenous communities, and to strengthen the church in the region. Agenzia Fides reports:

"Many people still think that there is an unlimited amount of energy and resources that can be used, and that the negative effects of the wild manipulation of nature can be easily absorbed. But this is totally false." Such attitudes, Catholic Bishop Julio Parrilla continued, "are not rooted in science or technology, but in a technocratic ideology that serves the interests of the market." The Bishop concluded by reiterating "the influence of secularization, because when man turns away from God, he falls into the temptation of thinking that everything is permitted, in order to meet one’s immediate needs and desires."

Pope John Paul II gestures in a still from the PBS frontline show.

Pope John Paul II gestures in a still from the PBS frontline show, “John Paul II: The Millennial Pope.”

Reports this week that the late Pope John Paul II may be on the verge of sainthood after a second miracle was credited to his intercession aren’t a huge surprise: When he died eight years ago, crowds were already clamoring for his canonization, and Pope Benedict XVI quickly waived the usual five-year waiting period to get the process rolling.

But the news that Pope Francis, just six weeks on the job, has cleared the way for the long-stalled canonization of martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero is a stunner that sends another important signal about the new pope’s priorities.

“Sainthood is often as much about politics and image as anything else,” said the Rev. Harvey Egan, a Jesuit priest and professor emeritus of theology at Boston College.

“It’s not surprising to me that this present pope being from South America, having the same inclinations as Romero, would unblock the process and say ‘Push his cause through,’ and I think rightly so.”

Alessandro Speciale 04-18-2013
Pope Francis at his installation. marcovarro /

Pope Francis at his installation. marcovarro /

Vatican employees won’t receive the special bonus they are traditionally awarded when a new pope is elected, the Vatican confirmed on Thursday, under orders from Pope Francis to give extra money to charity instead.

“On account of the difficult situation of the general economy, it seemed neither possible nor opportune to burden Vatican institutions with a considerable unforeseen extraordinary expense,” the Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said in an emailed statement.

In place of the employees’ bonus, Pope Francis ordered Vatican officials to make a donation to some “charitable organizations.”

The money will be drawn from the pontiff’s personal charity budget “as a sign of the church’s attention for the many people who are suffering” from the global economic slowdown, Lombardi said.

Dawn Cherie Araujo 04-11-2013
Ghana’s Cardinal Peter Turkson. Photo by Dawn Araujo / Sojourners

Ghana’s Cardinal Peter Turkson. Photo by Dawn Araujo / Sojourners

On April 11, 1963 Pope John XXIII published an encyclical some initially dismissed as naive and myopic, as too liberal and too lofty. But today, his "Pacem in Terris" is generally lauded as genius and prophetic – well ahead of its time on the issues of human rights, peace, and equality.

As Maryann Cusimano Love, a Catholic professor of international relations, notes, the same year “Pacem in Terris” was published, spelling out the theological mandate for political and social equality for all people, women in Spain were not allowed to open bank accounts, Nelson Mandela was standing trial for fighting apartheid, and Walter Ciszek was serving time in a Soviet gulag simply for being Catholic.

On Monday and Tuesday, the Catholic Peacebuilding Network hosted a two-day conference at the Catholic University of America, commemorating 50 years since the publication of "Pacem in Terris.”

Aaron Schrank 04-10-2013
Catholic Church, CURAphotography /

Catholic Church, CURAphotography /

As the Senate takes up a heated debate over gun control and background checks, Catholic bishops have used the months since the Newtown school massacre to push gun control in email blasts and Senate Judiciary Committee testimony. But among the Catholic faithful, not everyone supports gun control measures.

Call them the NRA Catholics.

Alessandro Speciale 04-10-2013
Scientists in a lab, anyaivanova /

Scientists in a lab, anyaivanova /

Wading into one of the most controversial fields of modern medicine, the Vatican is pushing adult stem cell research as ethical and scientifically more promising than embryonic stem cell research.

That’s despite assertions from many in the scientific community that that it’s important to pursue all types of stem cell research, including embryonic, to maximize chances of finding cures for diseases.

Harvesting embryonic stem cells requires the destruction of fertilized embryos — which are considered nascent human life in Catholic doctrine. Adult stem cells can be safely taken from adult human beings.

The Vatican started promoting adult stem cells in 2011, when its Pontifical Council for Culture launched a collaboration with U.S. bio-pharmaceutical company NeoStem.

David C. Steinmetz 04-08-2013
Pope Francis, emipress /

Pope Francis, emipress /

From the very first moment of his unexpected election as Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina has embraced a series of small departures from established tradition.

He took his papal name from a great nonconforming saint of the Middle Ages — and one that no other pope in the history of the Roman Catholic Church has taken. He then refused to stand on an elevated platform that would separate him from his “brother cardinals,” and asked the people of Rome to bless him rather than receive his blessing. He even insisted on returning to his hotel to settle his account (as though his credit were in any doubt).

Everyone who knew Bergoglio saw in him an unconventional and even unpredictable figure. He lived in Buenos Aires in a modest apartment rather than in the archbishop’s palace. He dispensed with a private limousine and took public transportation to work. He even cooked his own meals at home in his own kitchen.

Now, as pope, he has continued this pattern by ignoring long-settled traditions of what a pope should wear, where he should reside, and how he should conduct himself in public functions. Francis has chosen not wear the gold papal cross to which he is entitled, instead wearing the more simple cross he wore in Argentina. He also seems satisfied with normal men’s footwear, avoiding the elegant red loafers Pope Benedict normally wore in public.

Pope Francis waves to the crowd in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. Photo courtesy RNS.

Pope Francis has won widespread acclaim thus far in his nascent papacy with popular gestures like washing the feet of juveniles during Holy Week and refusing many papal perks. But now comes the hard part of his new job: reforming the Vatican.

The Roman Curia, as the central administration of the Catholic Church is known, has been riven by scandals and allegations of infighting and careerism, which helped undermine Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s reign and reportedly pushed him to resign.

The dysfunction was so bad that reforming the Curia became a rallying cry for many cardinals at the conclave that elected Francis. But will he deliver on the promise of reform?

Alessandro Speciale 04-03-2013

Pope Francis on Wednesday said women play a “fundamental role” in the Catholic Church as those who are mostly responsible for passing on the faith from one generation to the next.

While the new pope stopped far short of calling for women’s ordination or giving women more decision-making power in the church, his remarks nonetheless signaled an openness to women that’s not often seen in the church hierarchy.

“In the church and in the journey of faith, women have had and still have a special role in opening doors to the Lord,” the Argentine pontiff said during his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, celebrates Mass. Photo courtesy RNS.

When New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan told national news programs on Easter Sunday that Catholic leaders need to do a better job of showing that their opposition to gay marriage is not “an attack on gay people,” the nation’s top Catholic bishop seemed to be signaling an important shift in tone, if not policies, that acknowledges two new realities.

One is the election of a new pope, Francis, who in less than a month has demonstrated a clear preference for engagement and inclusion (washing the feet of women and Muslim inmates at a Rome youth prison, for example) rather than the confrontation and political purism that often found favor under his predecessor, Benedict XVI.

The other is the ongoing shift in favor of same-sex marriage in the court of public opinion and — if recent arguments on Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act are any guide — perhaps soon in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Birth control pills, Christy Thompson /

Birth control pills, Christy Thompson /

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Thirteen state attorneys general are urging the federal government to broaden religious exemptions for private businesses under the White House’s contraception mandate, claiming the policy violates religious freedoms.

Put simply, the group believes any employer who says he or she objects to contraception should not have to provide contraceptive coverage.

Doug Stanglin 04-01-2013
Shroud of Turin, I. Pilon /

Shroud of Turin, I. Pilon /

New scientific tests on the Shroud of Turin, which went on display Saturday in a special TV appearance introduced by the pope, date the cloth to ancient times, challenging earlier experiments that dated it only to the Middle Ages.

Pope Francis sent a special video message to the televised event in the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy, which coincided with Holy Saturday, when Catholics mark the period between Christ’s crucifixion on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

The Vatican, tiptoeing carefully, has never claimed that the 14-foot linen cloth was used to cover Christ after he was taken from the cross 2,000 years ago, as some believers claim.

Alessandro Speciale 04-01-2013

Pope Francis waves during his inauguration Mass at St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. Photo courtesy RNS.

The Vatican on Friday dismissed criticism of Pope Francis’ decision to wash the feet of two women during a Maundy Thursday Mass at a Rome youth prison.

The move has come under fire from Catholic traditionalists who say that the rite is a re-enactment of Jesus washing the feet of the 12 apostles before his death, and thus should be limited only to men.

Traditionally, popes have washed the feet of 12 priests during a solemn Mass in Rome’s St. John Lateran Basilica.

RNS photo by Gregory A. Shemitz

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York. RNS photo by Gregory A. Shemitz

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the top U.S. Catholic prelate, says the Roman Catholic Church has to make sure that its defense of traditional marriage is not reduced to an attack on gays and lesbians.

Dolan is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and last month was reputed to have gathered some votes in the Vatican conclave where Pope Francis was eventually elected.

He made his remarks on two morning talk shows on Easter Sunday, just days after the Supreme Court heard arguments in two same-sex marriage cases.