Catholic Church

Archbishop Terrence Prendergast.

Image via Paul Haring/Catholic News Service/RNS

A leading Canadian Catholic churchman has said that a person who plans to die through assisted suicide can be denied last rites by a priest, a view that may spark debate as assisted suicide laws proliferate and pastors are presented with a new moral quandary. The bottom line, said Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, is that a Catholic who requests assistance in dying “lacks the proper disposition for the anointing of the sick,” as the sacrament is formally known.

Cardinal George Pell. Public domain image

Australian Cardinal George Pell, now a top adviser to Pope Francis, testified in a landmark clergy sex abuse inquiry that the Catholic Church made “enormous mistakes” in trying to deal with the scandal. Speaking to an Australian commission investigating the church’s response to abuse, Pell — who had previously been archbishop in Sydney — also said that during the 1970s he was “very strongly inclined to accept the denial” of a priest accused of abuse.

Image via REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes/RNS.

With the abortion debate continuing to gather steam, evangelical church leader César Augusto of the Source of Life Church in Goias, central Brazil, advised women last week to avoid becoming pregnant, while Cardinal Odilo Scherer, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Sao Paulo, told women in a BBC interview to “view (babies with microcephaly) as a mission.”

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Christian Ventisette was stopped at Madrid airport after an international arrest warrant was issued for the French-Italian businessman, Italy’s financial police said Feb. 24. Ventisette is accused of scamming more than 250 investors out of around 30 million euros ($33 million) in an international operation involving an Argentine priest. The retired cleric, the Rev. Patrizio Benvenuti, was put under house arrest in Italy earlier this month. He previously worked at a Vatican tribunal and currently has residency in the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago off the west coast of Africa.

Brian Kaylor 2-24-2016

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Catholic candidates are mistakenly seeking to put politics and economics on one side and religion on the other. Such a dividing point misses the point of their faith. Catholic Mass — and worship services of other Christians — remains grounded in politics. Religious worship is political. The religious and political cannot be separated. To reject the politics or economics of Jesus would be to reject the spiritual teachings of Jesus.

Image via REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/RNS

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has been a longtime fan of Pope Francis’ positions on social justice and income inequality, and now he says the pontiff is in fact a socialist — just like himself.

“(W)hat it means to be a socialist, in the sense of what the pope is talking about, what I’m talking about, is to say that we have got to do our best and live our lives in a way that alleviates human suffering, that does not accelerate the disparities of income and wealth,” Sanders tells the Rev. Thomas Rosica, head of the Toronto-based Catholic network Salt and Light in an interview to be broadcast the evening of Feb. 23.

Nancy Cambria 2-22-2016

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St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson has issued a letter calling on parishes to seek alternatives to Girl Scouts, arguing that the program and related organizations conflict with Roman Catholic teaching. The Archdiocese of St. Louis isn’t directly kicking Girl Scout troops and activities off church properties, but is suggesting they and their cookies may no longer be welcome in the fold.

Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley. Image via Paul Haring/Catholic News Service/RNS

Catholic clergy have a “moral and ethical responsibility” to report sexual abuse, the cardinal tasked with reforming the Vatican’s approach to sexual crimes said after criticism of the Holy See. Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley sought to reaffirm the church’s position on reporting abuse in his role as head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which Pope Francis set up in 2014.

Christopher Kerr 2-12-2016
Pope Francis

Pope Francis at a general audience, April, 30, 2014. softdelusion66 / Shutterstock.com 

Do you remember the video clips of 5-year-old Sophie Cruz dashing across Constitution Avenue to Pope Francis’s popemobile during his visit to Washington, D.C., last September? The story of that encounter went viral: a young child with undocumented parents from Mexico who was granted permission to approach the pope, give him a letter, and receive a hug.

At the time, many seemed surprised by encounters like these during the pope’s U.S. trip — particularly that he would choose to make personal contact with the realities faced by marginalized populations. But this encounter-centered approach has been Francis’ way of operating since the outset of his pontificate.

Travis Knoll 2-11-2016

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The discovery of a sexually transmitted case of the Zika virus is already reverberating in Latin America. In Brazil, at ground zero of the Zika virus outbreak, the Health Ministry issued new guidelines for pregnant Brazilians, including cautions to use condoms and abstain from sex or even kissing. Activists are also weighing in, calling for legalizing abortion of deformed fetuses. But an important voice with the potential to influence the debate has said relatively little on the topic thus far: the Catholic Church.

Tim MacGabhann 2-11-2016

Image via REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/RNS

On a recent morning outside the Church of San Agustin in the middle-class neighborhood of Narvarte, two students sell bric-a-brac and blast the Beatles’ “Let It Be” through a smartphone hooked up to speakers. When asked what Pope Francis’ first visit to the country as pontiff on Feb. 12 means to them, they shrug. “It’s not like he’s going to come in and magically make all of our problems go away,” said Uriel Velazquez Tonantzin, 20, who dropped out of seminary a year ago to take a music composition program.

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The Vatican commission on clerical sexual abuse has wrapped up a turbulent week-long meeting during which one of two victims on the panel was effectively ousted and Chilean Catholics upset that Pope Francis has not sacked a controversial bishop delivered protest letters. But a statement released on Feb. 8 at the end of the biannual meeting of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors made no mention of its decision on Feb. 6 that Peter Saunders, a clerical abuse victim from Britain, would take a “leave of absence.”

Peter Saunders. Image via REUTERS/Tony Gentile/RNS

One of the two victims of clerical sexual abuse serving on a Vatican commission set up by Pope Francis has apparently been sidelined. The Holy See on Feb. 6 said Peter Saunders, a British Catholic who was abused by Jesuit priests as a teenager, is taking a “leave of absence” from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

A pregnant woman rests as health officials collect mosquitoes to check for Zika virus at a village in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Feb. 4, 2016. Image via REUTERS/Samrang Pring/RNS.

“We should never talk about ‘therapeutic’ abortion,” the cardinal said in his homily, according to Honduran media reports.

“Therapeutic abortion doesn’t exist,” he said. “Therapeutic means curing, and abortion cures nothing. It takes innocent lives.”

Sister Helen Prejean. Image via Rosie Scammell/RNS

Two decades after her anti-death penalty work was transformed into an Oscar-winning movie, Dead Man Walking, Sister Helen Prejean’s campaign continues with the backing of Pope Francis. Prejean met with the pope on Jan. 21 to deliver a thank-you letter from Richard Glossip, whose execution in the U.S. was halted in September after intervention from the pontiff.

Image via REUTERS/Tony Gentile/RNS

Pope Francis has changed the rules so that a priest may wash the feet of women and others in the community and not just men, as church law had previously decreed. The change, announced Jan. 20, reflects Francis’ own groundbreaking gesture when, just a month after his election in 2013, he washed the feet of young people — including women and Muslims — at a youth detention center outside Rome.

the Web Editors 1-20-2016

Screenshot via The Late Show with Stephen Colbert/Youtube

“Are you challenging me to a Catholic throwdown?”

Thus commenced Stephen Colbert and Patricia Heaton’s Catholic-off on the Jan. 18 episode of the Late Show. The famously Catholic TV host wanted to give his guest a fighting chance though. So, he produced a family photo of Heaton’s family with approximately enough people to fill a village.

Image via Lalupa/Wikimedia Commons

Pope Francis is studying an invitation to visit the Grand Mosque of Rome — extended to him several days after his first visit to the city’s Great Synagogue. If he accepts, Francis would be the first pope to visit the mosque. He received the invitation on Jan. 20 during a short audience he gave to Muslim community leaders at the Vatican.

Bill Tammeus 1-15-2016

The cast of Spotlight. Image via Open Road Films/RNS

A few months before Robert W. Finn became bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, I interviewed him for The Kansas City Star about the challenges he might face when he replaced the much-loved Bishop Raymond Boland. Of course, neither Finn nor I had any way of knowing that a decade-plus later he would resign in disgrace, having been convicted of the misdemeanor crime of failing to notify law enforcement authorities about a suspected child-abusing priest in the diocese — a priest who now spends his time in prison.

Image via REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/RNS

Pope Francis has fascinated the public in large part because of how willingly he upends long-standing traditions and promotes a “revolution of tenderness” to set the Catholic Church on a new, more pastoral course for a new, more merciful era. To help fulfill this vision, Francis is also relying on an old-fashioned ritual — indulgences. They are a way of winning remission from penance — in this life or in Purgatory.

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