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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.