The Vatican today announced that the vice president of the John Paul II Pontifical Institute for the Study of Marriage and the Family will be a consulter to the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops.
Professor José Granados‘ appointment, alongside eleven other consulters, means he will be taking part in the upcoming Ordinary Synod on the Family in October. This is significant because at last October’s synod no faculty member from the John Paul II Institute was represented (although some previous institute presidents did attend, including its founding president, Cardinal Carlo Caffarra).
Today’s appointment will therefore be welcomed, but could it also be an effort to appease critics? It’s easy to be skeptical and perhaps see conspiracy when there is none. But given what happened last year, it’s perhaps not unwise to view these developments with some suspicion.
For instance, news of Professor Granados’ appointment was published on Saturday, with his name listed at the bottom. Was this to avoid drawing too much attention? Possibly.
But more substantially, when one examines the theological backgrounds of the 11 other appointees, a case could be made that the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops is stacking the deck in favor of certain positions.
For example, Salesian Father Aimable Musoni, professor of systematic ecclesiology and ecumenism at the Pontifical Salesian University, wrote a book in 2007 entitled Identità e storicità nella Chiesa. Father Musoni’s director for the book was Cardinal Walter Kasper, who also wrote its preface.
Professor Maurizio Gronchi’s “progressive” leanings are well known. A consulter at the last synod who teaches dogmatic theology at the Pontifical Urbaniana University, he penned a long article for L’Osservatore Romano in December 2013 that aimed to rehabilitate the thinking of the French Jesuit philosopher, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.
Although de Chardin’s writings have become more accepted in recent years, the Vatican has never lifted a 1962 monitum (reprimand) which deemed his works “replete with ambiguities, or rather with serious errors, which offend Catholic doctrine”.
Another appointee, Professor Michele Giulio Masciarelli, is a professor or fundamental theology at the Abruzzese-Molisano Institute of Fundamental Theology in the archdiocese of Chieti-Vasto. Although his theological leanings are not immediately clear, he belongs to the same archdiocese headed by Archbishop Bruno Forte, a key figure behind the last synod’s controversial interim report. Professor Masciarelli and Archbishop Forte have taken part in several book presentations together.
Jesuit Professor Georges Ruyssen, a canon law expert at the Pontifical Oriental Institute and also a consulter at last year’s synod, once floated the idea of Eucharistic sharing between a Catholic and a member of a Reformed denomination within a mixed marriage.
Professor Giuseppe Bonfrate, who teaches theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, gave this interview around the time of last year’s synod in which he speaks of a “need of feeling with the faith, which puts the imagination and emotion in play. You have to start with this,” he said. “Everything, then, in the Christian experience, is proclaimed and celebrated by having a graduality, introducing a path that remains open until the end.”
Also a consulter for this year’s synod is Professor François-Xavier Dumortier, rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University who gave this interview to the National Catholic Reporter in August 2013.
None of this is meant as a criticism of these professors, but rather to show that their views and leanings do seem to indicate a bias in a certain direction, and therefore one favored by the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. If so, is this not contrary to the Holy Father’s wish for a free, open – and one imagines fair – debate?
A final observation: for a synod that will largely focus on moral issues, consulters who are experts in moral theology or moral philosophy are, so far at least, strangely absent.
Interviewed by journalist Valentina Alazraki for the Mexican broadcaster Televisa, he also said giving holy Communion to remarried divorcees “won’t solve anything” and noted that the Roman Curia is the “last court” not to have been democratized left in Europe.
The Holy Father went on to say he would be ready to resign the papacy rather than serving for life and that the only thing he dislikes about being Successor of Peter is the inability to be free to just go for a pizza without being recognized. He also revealed that he prays “three Rosaries daily.”
The Pope began the interview by explaining why Mexico was not part of his scheduled visit to North America in September. He said he had thought of entering the United States by passing through the border with Mexico, but going to Ciudad Juarez or Morelia without a visit to Our Lady of Guadalupe would be perplexing for Mexicans. He also said any visit to Mexico would need at least a week, but he promised to pay a visit as soon as possible.
Voice for Migrants
Turning to the subject of migration, Francis agreed that, as a Latin American, he sees himself as having a special responsibility for millions of migrants and wants to be a voice for them. His sensitivity towards the issue is “not ideological,” he said. Migration is the “result of a malaise” and linked to “hunger and lack of work.” People, he added, “are being discarded and forced to seek employment elsewhere.”
But he said he “rejoiced” that Europe is reviewing its migration policy, and he praised the mayor of Lampedusa, the Italian island housing many asylum seekers, who has “put herself on the line” by trying to make the island a welcome place of asylum rather than a tourist destination — which means less income. “This is heroic,” the Pope said.
Returning to the situation in Mexico, Francis said he wished to make Archbishop Alberto Suarez Inda of Morelia — a diocese hard hit by drug-related violence — a cardinal “because he is in the firing line” and a “great priest.” Asked about the recent brutal, drug-related murder of 43 students in Iguala, Francis recalled the country’s long history of saints and martyrs and underlined the importance of altruism in helping society overcome its ills.
“We cannot turn away as if the problems did not concern us all, and we cannot blame it all on the government or one sector, group or person, because that would be infantile,” he said.
Warning Against Clericalism
Remaining with Latin America, the Pope warned against a “strong clericalism” on the continent that creates “a certain distance” from people and stops the laity from growing. Regarding evangelical-Protestant movements, the Pope distinguished between those that are good and others that are considered sects. He said many Catholics have joined these groups because of “disastrous homilies” that “do not reach the heart.” Typically, evangelicals are “close to the people” and prepare homilies really well. For Protestants, he observed, the homily is “almost a sacrament.”
In discussing reform of the Roman Curia, the Holy Father said, “All change begins in the heart.” He noted the Curia is “the last court that remains in Europe,” while others “have been democratized.” The papal court “maintains a somewhat atavistic tradition,” he said, stressing he didn’t mean that in a derogatory way, but that it’s a “question of culture.”
Synod’s ‘Protected Space’
Concerning the upcoming Ordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, the Pope recognized there are “enormous expectations,” but he believes the Lord wants the Church to address specific problems, such as “marriage preparation, support for cohabiting couples, accompanying newlyweds, support for those who have failed marriages and new unions.”
He stressed that a synod must have freedom of discussion or it is simply a conference and that it should be “protected space” where the Holy Spirit can work.
On the related and hotly debated issue of admitting divorced-and-civilly-remarried Catholics to holy Communion, the Pope said to “simplify” pastoral practice in such way would “not solve anything.” Instead, the Church wants them to “integrate” themselves into the Church’s life.
‘Protection of Minors’
Asked about the issue of child abuse and zero tolerance for offenders among the clergy, the Pope stressed that the newly created Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors “is not about abuse, but for the protection of minors.” Even one priest committing abuse “is sufficient reason to mobilize all structures of the Church to confront the problem,” he said, and he paid tribute to the work of Benedict XVI and John Paul II in dealing with clerical sex abuse.
Francis recounted in the interview his election on March 13, 2013. Much of what he said is already known, but he revealed he had come to Rome with just a “small suitcase,” as he didn’t think he would be elected pope, and he remembered that London bookies had ranked him in 42nd and 46th place. An acquaintance “bet on him” as a joke and did very well, he said.
After he had received a significant number of votes in the morning of his election, he said he was asked about his health, and, when the cardinals came back in the afternoon, he believed “the cake was already in the oven.” Noticing the relatively high number of votes he received in the first vote that afternoon, he realized the situation “may be irreversible.”
As the second vote took place, he said he was praying the Rosary — “I usually pray three Rosaries daily” — and added that he felt “great peace, almost to the point of insentience.” He continued to feel such peace when “everything was resolved,” and this, for him, “was a sign that God wanted it.” From that day on, he continued, “I have not lost it. It is ‘something inside’; it is like a gift.”
Benedict XVI has “opened a door” to papal resignations, he said, adding that he can imagine popes retiring at 80, like bishops, but he doesn’t like the idea of age limits for popes, as he sees the papacy as a “kind of last instance,” a “special grace.” He praised the pope emeritus as a “man of God” who has adhered to his promise to be loyal, faithful and obedient to his successor.
Asked if he liked being pope, he replied, “I do not mind,” but the only thing he would like to be able to do would be to “go out one day, without being recognized, and go to a pizzeria for a pizza.” He said in Buenos Aires he was a “rover” and moved between parishes, and this has been “hard work to change.” But he said he has gotten used to it and has found ways around it “on the phone or in other ways.”
The Pope has often said he believes his will be a short pontificate, and in the interview, he repeated he had a “feeling” it would be brief, maybe four to five years or even two to three. “It’s a somewhat vague sensation,” he said. “Maybe it’s like the psychology of the gambler who convinces himself he will lose so he won’t be disappointed and if he wins is happy. I do not know.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
Speaking to pilgrims at a penitential liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica Friday evening, the Holy Father said the celebration of this “Jubilee of Mercy,” also called an “extraordinary holy year,” will commence with the opening of the holy door of the basilica and conclude on the feast of Christ the King, Nov. 20, 2016.
He made the announcement as he opened “24 Hours for the Lord,” a Lenten initiative that invites churches worldwide to remain open for 24 hours today for confession and Eucharistic adoration.
”I am convinced that the whole Church will find in this jubilee the joy needed to rediscover and make fruitful the mercy of God, with which all of us are called to give consolation to every man and woman of our time,” Pope Francis said. “From this moment, we entrust this holy year to the Mother of Mercy, that she might turn her gaze upon us and watch over our journey.”
In Catholic tradition, a year of jubilee is a time of joy, remission or universal pardon. The Vatican pointed out that the opening of this “Jubilee of Mercy” will take place on the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council in 1965.
“This is of great significance, for it impels the Church to continue the work begun at Vatican II,” the Vatican said in a statement.
Pope Francis has entrusted the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization with the organization of the year.
The last “ordinary jubilee” year was in 2000, when Pope St. John Paul II held the “Great Jubilee,” which was likewise a celebration of the mercy of God and forgiveness of sins. The most recent extraordinary holy years were those in 1933, proclaimed by Pius XI to celebrate 1,900 years of redemption, and 1983, proclaimed by John Paul II on the occasion of 1,950 years of redemption.
The Vatican statement said that, during the year, the Sunday readings for Ordinary Time will be taken from the Gospel of Luke, known as “the Evangelist of Mercy.” Dante Alighieri described him as scriba mansuetudinis Christi (narrator of the meekness of Christ). “There are many well-known parables of mercy presented in the Gospel of Luke: the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, the Merciful Father,” the statement said.
The statement added, “The official and solemn announcement of the holy year will take place with the public proclamation of the Bollain front of the holy door on Divine Mercy Sunday, the feast instituted by St. John Paul II and celebrated on the Sunday after Easter.”
The Jubilee Tradition
The jubilee tradition has its roots in Judaism, when a jubilee year was celebrated every 50 years. It was meant to restore equality among all of the children of Israel, offering new possibilities to families that had lost property and even their personal freedom.
The Vatican statement said a jubilee year was also a reminder to the rich that a time would come when their Israelite slaves would once again become their equals and would be able to reclaim their rights. “Justice, according to the Law of Israel, consisted above all in the protection of the weak” (St. John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente 13).
The Catholic tradition of the holy year began with Pope Boniface VIII, in 1300, who had envisioned a jubilee every century. From 1475 onwards — in order to allow each generation to experience at least one holy year — an ordinary jubilee was to be celebrated every 25 years.
An extraordinary jubilee may be announced on the occasion of an event of particular importance. There have been 26 such “ordinary” celebrations, while the custom of calling extraordinary jubilees dates back to the 16th century.
The Catholic jubilee has added spiritual significance to the Hebrew jubilee, comprising a general pardon, an indulgence open to all and the possibility to renew one’s relationship with God and neighbor. The holy year is, therefore, “always an opportunity to deepen one’s faith and to live with a renewed commitment to Christian witness,” the Vatican statement said.
Mercy has been a central theme of Pope Francis’ pontificate, as expressed in his episcopal motto: Miserando Atque Eligendo. This citation is taken from the homily of St. Bede the Venerable, during which he commented on the Gospel passage of the calling of St. Matthew: Vidit ergo lesus publicanum et quia miserando atque eligendo vidit, ait illi Sequere me(“Jesus, therefore, sees the tax collector, and since he sees by having mercy and by choosing, he says to him, ‘Follow me’”). This homily is a tribute to Divine Mercy. One possible translation of this motto is “With Eyes of Mercy.”
Mercy ‘Changes Everything’
In his first Angelus after his election, Francis said feeling mercy “changes everything.”
“This is the best thing we can feel: It changes the world,” he said. “A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to understand properly this mercy of God, this merciful Father, who is so patient.”
In the English edition of Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, the word “mercy” appears 32 times.
In his Angelus on Jan. 11, 2015, the Pope stated: “There is so much need of mercy today, and it is important that the lay faithful live it and bring it into different social environments. Go forth! We are living in the age of mercy; this is the age of mercy.”
In his 2015 Lenten Message, the Holy Father said, “How greatly I desire that all those places where the Church is present, especially our parishes and our communities, may become islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference!”
And, at the beginning of 2015, Francis also said: “This is the time of mercy. It is important that the lay faithful live it and bring it into different social environments. Go forth!”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
In his first two years as leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has scored high marks in the secular world where his popularity continues to soar, chiefly among non-Christians and fallen-away Catholics.
But although the general perception of Francis has been very positive since his election on March 13, 2013, he remains a mystery to many of his flock.One of his most visible achievements so far involves his reform of the Roman Curia (the Vatican bureaucracy), a task that has eluded many past pontiffs.
This has been largely helped by a strong mandate: cardinals entering the conclave two years ago placed reform of the Vatican bureaucracy — a sclerotic institution with an outdated patronage, shadowy finance, and a few secret lobbies — top of the agenda of any new pontificate.This had taken on a particular urgency after various scandals in preceding years, topped off by “Vatileaks” — leaked Vatican documents.
The real nuts and bolts of the reform have yet to be revealed, but the scandals have disappeared off the front pages and mostly become a distant memory. In an interview this week with Il Fatto Quotidiano, Cardinal Velasio de Paolis, a former head of Holy See finances, said the curia “seems more disciplined.”
Vatican scandals have “reduced in scope and number,” he said, although he did not say they had totally gone away. “Let’s say that with Francis, attention has been directed elsewhere.”
In terms of the Vatican’s hitherto shadowy finances, Francis has successfully implemented reforms in the face of some predictable resistance. In line with the wishes of cardinals, he set up the “council of nine” cardinals to examine reform which has included implementing a raft of transparency checks.
Among them have been centralizing most of the curia’s finances under the newly created Secretariat for the Economy, headed by Australian Cardinal George Pell. The reforms are promising on paper, but the effectiveness of these changes will only be fully known when financial statements are released later this year.
Francis has also been resolute in tackling clerical sex abuse, establishing a pontifical commission comprising clergy and lay experts. The new body aims at better protecting minors, and making prelates properly accountable for mishandling abusive clergy.
But among a minority of officials, the old patronage of the curia largely remains, partly because of Francis’ reticence to tackle it head on. To some, he has even fostered cliques by removing Benedict XVI-appointees and choosing like-minded officials largely from the Holy See’s diplomatic service, many of whom have served in Latin America.
A buzzword of this pontificate is collegiality, or synodality: an attempt to make the church more democratic and less centralized around the Pope and the Vatican. Francis has attempted to achieve this principally through two synods on the family, the first held last October, and a second this coming fall.
The meetings, which have included the unprecedented step of giving Catholics a questionnaire on issues related to family, marriage and human sexuality, aim to help the church better deal with today’s pastoral challenges in these areas.
But although he said he hoped for an open and free debate, the process has been hampered by strong allegations that synod managers have steamrollered through a heterodox agenda, particularly on neuralgic issues of divorce and remarriage and homosexuals.
Some believe this reflects the Pope’s own approach, viewed by some as autocratic.“Bergoglio speaks of decentralization of power in the church and then proves to be a strong centralist,” said church historian Roberto de Mattei in a March 8 interview with the Italian daily Il Resto del Carlino.
He and others believe the reported abuses at the synod, and especially the fact that the Pope appears to have sympathy for some liberal positions, will exacerbate division. His supporters, however, argue he’s unblocking channels and opening a process to allow the Holy Spirit to work amid disagreement. “This is ultimately about a process which is designed to be of God,” said papal biographer Austen Ivereigh, author of ‘The Great Reformer’. “This is part of a much deeper and wider reform.”
In terms of evangelization and as a communicator to the masses, Francis has been significantly more successful. Since his election, he has made going out to the peripheries, in an affective and personable manner, a central theme.
In doing so, he has reached out to those who are far from the church, or had turned their backs on her, and enabled them to take a fresh look at Catholicism. In a recent Pew survey, 9 out of 10 American Catholics said they had a favorable view of him.
Such outreach may or may not succeed in prompting non-Catholics to enter or re-enter the church, but it has at least positively engaged many of the church’s vehement critics. “Whatever the doubters say, we’re winning,” said one Catholic source in Rome who’s worked closely with the Vatican.
But traditional Catholics believe Francis’ freewheeling chats, perceived liberalism, and laissez-faire pastoral approach is undermining doctrine, if not in reality then by perception.
Francis’ pastoral strategy is “revolutionary,” de Mattei said, but it marks a “profound discontinuity” with the past 50 years of papal history. He believes it “subordinates truth to practice” and is “confusing” clergy and laity alike.
After two years, Pope Francis therefore remains a paradox. To the world at large, he has masterfully succeeded in rescuing the church from a poor public image, and to progressive Catholics, he appears to be the pontiff they have long wanted.
But the church’s first Latin American Pope remains an enigma among many of his own flock who find his immense popularity at odds with a church called to be countercultural.
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In this recent interview with Austen Ivereigh, author of the recently published The Great Reformer, probably the most comprehensive biography of the Holy Father to date, he discusses with the Register Francis’ probable intentions, how he is likely to view the well-publicized disagreements the synod has engendered and whether he really would like to see Cardinal Walter Kasper’s controversial proposal for re-admitting divorced-and-civilly-remarried Catholics to holy Communion adopted by the universal Church. Ivereigh, a former deputy editor of The Tablet and once a press office spokesman for Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, is also the founder of Catholic Voices, which aims to improve the Church’s representation in the media.
What do you think is the Pope’s general view of the synod?
It’s a misreading to see Pope Francis as seeking to impose a concrete solution to anything. He sees himself as initiating and overseeing a process, which is basically of the Holy Spirit. His own criteria for discernment are: If you get people together who are faithful to the magisterium, who speak boldly from their own experience and listen humbly to each other, and you give the process sufficient time for a proper discernment, then, if there is a convergence at the end of it, you can be confident that is of the Holy Spirit.
From my own research into his life, it became very clear to me that this actually is a subject that has occupied him since his 30s [and derives from] his deep reading of theologians, but also his understanding of how Church councils worked and his own experience of Church governance, first with the Jesuits and then the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires and with the presidency of the bishops’ conference. [These have] taught him a lot of lessons about how the Church develops, as it were, under the Holy Spirit and how it can avoid the temptations that can beset any exercise of Church reform, which is splitting into parties. So that’s how I see the process. I see him enacting the process that is, in fact, very, very deeply thought through.
Do you think it could actually be causing a split in the Church?
Two things are going on, which can be confused with each other: There’s disagreement and then there’s division. We have to distinguish between those two things. You can’t have an authentic process of discernment without strong disagreement, because wherever human beings are gathered together, particularly Catholics and Church leaders, there will be disagreement. And some of these questions being looked at are, frankly, very complex questions and difficult questions.
Because there has been strong disagreement over some of the questions of the synod, it doesn’t follow that there’s division, because division happens when people start to look at a question not through the eyes of the Church, but through the eyes of a particular way of viewing the world. And they start to prefer that view and stop listening to others and seek to impose that view. That’s division; that’s schism.
I don’t think we’ve reached that point at all. What happened last year was that the Kasper address to the cardinals opened up the question, as Francis wanted it to. I think it’s a mistake to see Francis as wanting Kasper’s proposals.
But would you say that he is, at least, sympathetic to them, as he did want the discussion opened up?
Yes, well, what he wanted to open up was the question of how to bring back to the sacramental economy those who have been alienated through remarriage and divorce. And the hermeneutic, the lens that he wanted to use for that, was the lens of mercy, which Kasper has developed in his theology.
So he was using Kasper, yes, to open up the question, but I think the specific proposal was modeled on the Orthodox Church for readmission to the sacraments — I’m not aware that Francis has any particular sympathy, necessarily, for that. I don’t really know if he has sympathy for it or not.
So Kasper opened up the questions, and there was a very, as you know, strong reaction from [Cardinals] Müller, Caffarra, Pell and so on. And I think I heard reports that Francis was disturbed by this.
I don’t know whether that is true or not, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that healthy debate. And I don’t think Francis was bothered by it — not troubled by the disagreement, but he may have been worried that a lot of the disagreement was taking place outside the protected space of the synod. That’s another important thing to point out: He sees the synod as a space, a safe space, in which that discernment can take place.
Isn’t a debate outside the synod inevitable in this process?
Yes, it’s inevitable that disagreements are going to be expressed in the press, but what happens when parties develop is that you begin to get people campaigning, if you like, to persuade public opinion of a particular view in order to put pressure on the synod. That is what he would regard as unacceptable. That would be when it became politics. And a bit of that did happen.
Wasn’t that easily foreseen?
Yes, some of the disagreements were inevitable. I think the extent to which some synod fathers were using the media could not necessarily have been foreseen. What was going on in the synod was that, particularly, the interim document was received by the wider world, the liberal press, as this is putting doctrine up for grabs. And a number of cardinals, who were deeply concerned that that was the message getting through to the media, then went out of their way to criticize the synod in order to demonstrate that that wasn’t going to happen.
In other words, they thought there was a very strong reaction to that. Now, that dynamic was unfortunate, because it gave the impression there was a much greater struggle, as it were, going on — that was the image of the synod that came out to the outside world.
My understanding, from talking to people present at the synod, was that it wasn’t like that actually inside. There were, I know, a couple of dramatic moments — Pell saying it was unacceptable — but I don’t think that was problematic. I think it shows that it was a healthy, functioning synod.
What I’m saying is: I don’t have the impression that there were two parties in tension at the synod, and I think the final votes reflect that, actually even on the famous three paragraphs [on issues relating to pastoral practice towards civil unions, cohabitation and divorce and remarriage that failed to get enough votes]. They’re still majorities. Okay, they didn’t get the two-thirds [majority required for a consensus], and there is, and we obviously know there is, disagreement on those issues. But that wasn’t an issue of doctrine.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
ROME — The Church needs to have “very clear procedures” in dealing with bishops and religious superiors who have mishandled clerical sex-abuse cases “because, right now, it’s very unclear, and, as we see, it’s very open-ended,” Cardinal Sean O’Malley said.
Speaking to the Register Feb. 16, during a recess of a conference at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, the cardinal-archbishop of Boston, who heads the newly formed Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, told the conference that the failure of the Church to punish bishops who covered up for abusers has seriously harmed its credibility in central areas, such as defending human rights, the unborn and immigrants.
The conference provided an update on the Center for Child Protection, a Church-run resource founded in 2012 aimed at providing prevention and protection against abuse. Along with an e-learning program, the center, which moved its headquarters to Rome in January of this year, will offer in 2016 a course at the Gregorian dedicated to safeguarding minors against abuse.
The Church, Cardinal O’Malley said, must lead the way by “humbly making the commitment to accountability, transparency and zero tolerance.”
Canon lawyers and theologians are reviewing proposals to present to Pope Francis on increasing the accountability of bishops and religious superiors. The proposals were developed by the commission, which comprises experts and two survivors of abuse. “We cannot fail to do all that is possible to restore our credibility,” Cardinal O’Malley said.
He said the commission is “very much focused on coming up with clear procedures which we need to represent as recommendations to the Holy Father.”
“We’re working on them right now,” he said, adding: “We think they will be [ready] very soon.”
A constant criticism of abuse victims has been that the Vatican failed to sanction bishops who covered up for abusers.
Trained psychologist and Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, who chairs the Center for Child Protection, said he does not know at this stage what accountability measures will be devised.
“It has been said over and over again and very clearly, by the cardinal now and last week, that this is an issue we have to face and do something,” he told the Register.
Father Zollner, who is also a member of the pontifical commission, said one of the aims is to ensure that it is not the Holy Father “who is always immediately put on the spot if there is any issue.” He added that “clear procedures should now be in place so that, in the case of a priest who abuses, you know what you have to do, what is the next step, to whom to refer and so forth.”
But he said it’s also necessary to know “what kind of punishment a bishop or a provincial will receive” — and others — “if they don’t follow Church law and in case they don’t follow state law.”
Asked for a timeline for the new guidelines and rules, Father Zollner said it’s impossible to say, but added that the commission has discussed the issue in depth, and Cardinal O’Malley “has brought it to the attention of the Holy Father” and other cardinals.
He stressed these proposed measures need to be adapted and implemented into the Code of Canon Law’s norms so they are “applicable to bishops’ conferences in all parts of the world.” He noted that this is especially applicable to “missionary countries because, in a certain way, they are not under [the jurisdiction of] many dicasteries of the Holy See butPropaganda Fide [the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples].”
But Father Zollner said he hopes these measures “will apply to any part of the world” as they take shape and that “the Holy See or maybe even bishops’ conferences will have to confront and pursue cases where a bishop is negligent of the Church’s law.”
The Jesuit professor stressed these measures are not being devised with regard to exceptional cases, but “a bishop who knows about an abusive priest and who, therefore, should be punished if he continues to send him to parishes to continue his work.”
Alongside implementing measures to make bishops and religious superiors more accountable in this area, the commission is also looking into improving formation of Church leaders, Father Zollner said.
Through the Center for Child Protection, the Pontifical Gregorian University, together with the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising and the University of Ulm in Germany, is trying to help improve formation of priests and thereby prevent abuse and help victims.
Pope Francis publicly endorsed the initiative at the conference, saying in a message addressed to Father Zollner that he rejoiced “for all that you are doing, and I know that this work will be fruitful.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
In a statement released by the secretariat Feb. 28, a spokesman said the new department has actually been operating “below the budget set when the office was established.”
The spokesman said it would shortly release financial statements giving detailed accounts of all Vatican entities, including the Secretariat for the Economy. In response to some personal attacks against the cardinal, the statement added: “Finally and for the record, Cardinal [George] Pell does not have a cappa magna” — a five-meter long scarlet mantle cardinals have traditionally worn in procession. It is often ridiculed by critics of long-standing Catholic traditions.
The communiqué followed allegations in the Italian magazine L’Espresso that the secretariat had run up a high level of expenses (500,000 euros, more than $550,000) in its first six months of existence and that Cardinal Pell, appointed to his post by Pope Francis in February 2014, was facing resistance to ongoing reforms of the Vatican’s finances.
The Associated Press reported that the leak of Cardinal Pell’s receipts to L’Espresso, as well as “other documents detailing cardinals’ complaints about his efforts,” was “clearly aimed at discrediting him and harked back to the Vatileaks affair.”
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said in a Feb. 27 statement that “passing confidential documents to the press for polemical ends or to foster conflict is not new, but is always to be strongly condemned, and is illegal.
“The fact that complex economic or legal issues are the subject of discussion and diverse points of view should be considered normal. In light of the views expressed, the Pope issues guidelines, and everybody follows them.”
Father Lombardi continued, “The article makes direct personal attacks that should be considered undignified and petty. And it is untrue that the Secretariat for the Economy is not carrying on its work with continuity and efficacy. In confirmation of this, the secretariat is expected in the next few months to publish the financial statements for 2014 and the estimated budgets for 2015 for all of the entities of the Holy See, including the secretariat itself.”
Resistance to Cardinal Pell’s reforms has been growing steadily, with some questioning the scope of the cardinal’s authority and the influence of the secretariat. Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, head of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, said earlier this year that some checks and balances were needed on the powers of the secretariat.
He claimed that investment management should be handled by separate bodies and that two assistant auditors be added to the proposed one to ensure greater autonomy and impartiality. Cardinal Pell, the former archbishop of Sydney and perceived as an outsider by Vatican bureaucrats, rejected Cardinal Coccopalmerio’s criticism, telling cardinals in February that the secretariat is ushering in a new era of efficiency and transparency. He also revealed that an unexpected 1.4 billion euros ($2 billion) had been discovered, which would be placed on the balance sheets in the future.
Cardinal Pell also admitted some resistance to his efforts, as did another member of the secretariat, South-African Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier, who said there were some concerns from the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, although these appear to have been resolved.
There is, however, reportedly some trepidation about future financial reforms. Traditionally, members of the College of Cardinals used to automatically have access to significant funds. However, Pope Francis has stated that alleviating financial waste, clerical bureaucracy and cronyism are among the early aims of his pontificate, which will mark two years on March 13. So changes to fund allotments are expected in the future.
Observers suspect the recently leaked financial documents reveal a power struggle within the Curial offices and possible motives to smear the cardinal who, by all appearances, Pope Francis values for his honesty and commitment and whom he has entrusted with this powerful department.
The tactics hint at the “last spluttering of old Vatican politics,” one high-level source told the Register. “The use of the poison pen just isn’t going to do it anymore.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
Both the head of the Vatican police force and the Italian security services have, in recent days, warned that ISIS poses a threat against Pope Francis, Rome, and Italy.
Meanwhile, a report by Italy’s security services says that Italy is a “potential target” for terrorist attacks because it is “symbolically the epicenter of Christianity.” The report was presented to the Italian parliament last Friday. But like Vatican security, it said they have received no details of “plans or activities” to suggest an attack, although “surveillance remains high.”
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One of the most frustrating aspects of covering the Church today is the unwillingness of trusted and reliable sources to go on the record. Strangely, this seems most common when it comes to defending doctrine, and the Church generally, in the face of attack.
Whether it’s Church teaching coming under fire at the Synod on the Family, Vatican officials with vitally important and helpful information to share, or German bishops outnumbered by their dissenting brother bishops, few appear willing to go public and speak up for Christ and the truth (it should be said the situation is arguably better in the United States than elsewhere).
And yet many Catholics would say that now is the time when they should do so. The Church is perennially under attack from all sides, but especially so today, and perhaps most severely from within. If, as critics say, the synod is debating certain issues which, if adopted, could seriously undermine Church doctrine, apart from Cardinal Raymond Burke and a seeming handful of others, why is it so hard to find voices willing to go on the record to take a public stand in the Church’s defense?
There could be a number of reasons for their reticence: they trust in the Holy Spirit that all will be well and so feel they need not do or say anything in the Church’s defense; they simply lack spine to speak up, and recoil at confrontation; they are just indifferent, and don’t care enough because they don’t really believe in the truths of the Gospel anymore; they feel they must be silent in obedience to their superiors; or they refuse to speak up for fear it might jeopardize their ecclesiastical “career.” In the case of the synod, many are being cowed into silence because of what some have described as a “reign of terror” being wielded by synod managers.
Circumstances obviously demand prudence, but few serious Catholics would consider any of the above reasons as worthy excuses for not speaking up and going on record. Doesn’t silence in these instances imply consent? And isn’t that what the Church’s enemies want, allowing them to further their agendas unimpeded?