There is intense anticipation in the Catholic Church — and no small amount of anxiety for traditionalists — over what Pope Francis will say about communion for divorced and remarried Catholics in a key document expected in the coming weeks. But Francis has already made an intriguing change in this area, albeit one that only concerns the Vatican’s arcane diplomatic protocol and a very, very select group: Catholic heads of state.
We cannot control or shape the place of our birth. It gives us our bounds for understanding ourselves on this earth. It is difficult to grow beyond our background to include others who are different within the scope of our compassion. Most often we are inclined to feel loyalty only to people who are similar to us in critical regards.
A series of essays in the semi-official Vatican newspaper is urging the Catholic Church to allow women to preach from the pulpit at Mass, a role reserved almost exclusively to the all-male priesthood for nearly 800 years.
“This topic is a delicate one, but I believe it is urgent that we address it,” Enzo Bianchi, leader of an ecumenical religious community in northern Italy and a popular Catholic commentator, wrote in his article in L’Osservatore Romano.
A Louisiana judge has ruled that a state law requiring clergy to report child abuse or other crimes learned in the confessional is unconstitutional because it infringes on religious liberty. At issue is a long-running case involving Rebecca Mayeaux, a 22-year-old who claims that when she was 14 she told the Rev. Jeff Bayhi, a Catholic priest, during confession that a church member was abusing her. Mayeaux claims Bayhi told her to “sweep it under the rug.”
Cardinal Sean O’Malley, head of the Archdiocese of Boston, whose record on clergy sex abuse was uncovered by The Boston Globe and portrayed in this year’s Oscar-winning film Spotlight, has praised the movie for forcing the Catholic Church to acknowledge its “crimes and sins.”
“Spotlight is an important film for all impacted by the tragedy of clergy sexual abuse,” said O’Malley, who was named to the archdiocese after Cardinal Bernard Law was forced from office in 2002 following revelations that church officials protected abusive priests.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
“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.”
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.