Ukraine to Be Hot Topic of Pope Francis-Vladimir Putin Meeting


Vladimir Putin and Pope Francis greet each other at the Vatican on Nov. 23, 2013.

VATICAN CITY — On Wednesday, for the second time in his pontificate, Pope Francis will receive Russian President Vladimir Putin in private audience, during which the Russian president is expected to explain Moscow’s position on the crisis in Ukraine.

Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov said the Russian leader hopes a “whole range of bilateral ties” will be discussed, as well as “topical international issues,” but, in particular, “the situation in Ukraine, with the focus on interreligious relations and the activity of Ukraine’s Catholics.”

He also said the two leaders are expected to discuss persecuted Christians in the Middle East “and the need to protect their interests,” the Russian news agency TASS reported June 9.

The Pope and Putin last met in November 2013 at the Vatican, during which persecuted Christians also figured high on the agenda; but tensions between the Orthodox Church and the Vatican were avoided, and Ukraine had not at that time become such a focus of tension.

Today’s meeting, reportedly requested by Putin and prepared in secret, was not initially on the Russian president’s itinerary to Italy. But when the Kremlin’s request was received, the Holy See reportedly inserted it into the Pope’s busy agenda without hesitation, according to Vatican Insider.

The Vatican’s readiness to meet the Russian leader is being seen as a sign of the Holy Father’s proactive diplomacy, one that, in the words of Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, aims to “to build bridges in order to promote dialogue and use negotiation as a means to solve conflicts, spread fraternity, fight against poverty and build peace.”

But it also shows the Pope’s determination that Russia not be left out in the cold following its annexation of Crimea last year and military incursions into Ukraine — a common response among many Western nations. He is also no doubt aware that, in the nearly two years since their last meeting, tensions between Russia and the West have markedly increased, and he will probably use this meeting to help ease them.

Putin is expected to convey to the Pope that, contrary to widespread Western public opinion, he is “not an aggressor” — a frequent refrain in a long interview the Russian leader gave to the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera on Sunday.

He will also be eager to gain the Pope’s favor: His willingness to take the initiative and visit Francis shows he places a high premium on the Pope’s influence on foreign affairs, something he witnessed in 2013, when the Holy Father sent a letter to the G20 summit in St. Petersburg. Many saw this gesture — along with a prayer vigil at the Vatican — as helping to avert military action against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, which is a strong ally of Russia.

For its part, the Vatican sees Russia as an important bulwark against Islamic fundamentalism, especially in the Middle East. The Pope also sees a common front with the Russian Orthodox Church and what he calls an “ecumenism of blood.” Partly for this reason, the Holy See is unwilling to take sides against Russia on the Ukrainian crisis.


Ukrainian Frustration

But for many Ukrainian Catholics, the sight of Putin meeting the Pope verges on the intolerable. To them, Putin has unmistakably invaded their land (not “fratricide,” as the Pope once called it), and Ukrainian Catholics have faced a barrage of abuse from politically motivated Russian Orthodox Church leaders who see Ukrainian Catholics as too involved in Western policy against Russia.

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, patriarch of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Kiev, has therefore tried, so far unsuccessfully, to persuade the Holy See to speak out against Putin.

Ukrainian Catholics are particularly frustrated that, according to Archbishop Antonio Mennini, who served eight years as apostolic nuncio to Russia, Francis has never defined Putin as an aggressor. Archbishop Mennini contended at a conference in London last month that this view is similarly held by the majority in the Vatican.

This is why Francis’ international strategy is also viewed across the Atlantic “with a mixture of curiosity, admiration and perplexity,” wrote Holy See foreign-policy expert Massimo Franco in Corriere della Sera.

But Franco, who spoke at the same conference as Archbishop Mennini, explained that the Pope has always maintained a “cautious and autonomous strategy” with Russia, with the “full agreement” of Cardinal Parolin.

The Vatican’s primary concern, Franco stressed, is the unwanted development of a new Cold War between Russia and the United States, as well as one between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, which could become a “religious Cold War.” Like St. John Paul II, Franco wrote, Francis wants Europe to breathe with “two lungs, one East and one West.”


Papal Visit?

Franco suggested “a winning move” for the Vatican would be if Putin would convince Patriarch Hilarion Alfeyev, the Russian Orthodox “foreign minister,” to invite Pope Francis to Moscow — a perennial possibility that the Vatican has long pursued.

“It would stop the drift towards conflict and promote religious reconciliation,” Franco wrote, adding that an opportunity to discuss this may arise when Archbishop Hilarion comes to Rome to meet Cardinal Parolin on June 20, at which time he may also meet Francis.

However, the Kremlin’s Ushakov said June 9 that Putin and the Pope are not likely to discuss a papal visit to Russia, adding that it is a matter of not only state relations, “but also of church.”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

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Cardinal Pell’s Lawyer: Peter Saunders’ Allegations ‘Objectively False’


Peter Saunders, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, criticizes Cardinal George Pell on Australian television.

VATICAN CITY — A lawyer representing Cardinal George Pell has asked Peter Saunders, a sexual-abuse survivor and member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, to correct “false allegations” he has made against the cardinal and withdraw them.

The move is just the latest development in a strange dispute that has left Vatican officials confounded and unsure of what to do next. The cardinal’s position, however, is not thought to be at risk.

In a June 8 letter to Saunders, attorney Richard Leder said the strong criticisms Saunders made against the cardinal on the Australian Channel Nine program 60 Minutes last month were “either uninformed as to the relevant history or were deliberately selective.”

In his comments on the program, Saunders claimed the cardinal had a “catalogue of denigrating people, of acting with callousness, coldheartedness.” He said such “lack of care” was “almost sociopathic.”

“I think he is somebody who, understandably, victim survivors will have a huge, huge issue with,” he added. “In all the interviews, in all I’ve read, in all I’ve heard, I have seen not a shred of evidence that George Pell has any sympathy, empathy or any kind of understanding or concern for victims and survivors of these crimes.”

Leder wrote that the cardinal, who is prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, is concerned that Saunders had utilized the authority of the Pontifical Commission and the Holy See “in a wholly misleading manner.”

“This is confirmed by the many media reports that suggest you made the comments in an official capacity. The cardinal is concerned that you allowed this to occur,” the letter says.

“As you know, over the past two years, the cardinal has given evidence twice before the Royal Commission and once before the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry,” Leder continued, referencing governmental inquiries into clergy sexual-abuse allegations in Australia. “He has refuted on oath the various allegations which you chose to repeat on 60 Minutes. In the light of those appearances, your comments were either uninformed as to the relevant history or were deliberately selective.”

The letter says Saunders’ allegations “are objectively false.” It then highlights the “Melbourne Response,” which Cardinal Pell pioneered. The initiative has “provided compensation and made available ongoing counseling for hundreds of victims and their families,” the letter stated. “His compassion for victims is expressed in concrete, practical help — hardly the actions of one you choose to brand as ‘sociopathic.’”

Following the airing of the 60 Minutes program, Cardinal Pell’s office swiftly issued a statement June 1, saying Saunders’ “false and misleading” claims were “outrageous.” It pointed out that the cardinal “has never met” Saunders, who “seems to have formed his strong opinions without ever having spoken to His Eminence.”

In light of “all of the available material, including evidence from the cardinal under oath, there is no excuse for broadcasting incorrect and prejudicial material,” it said, and, therefore, the cardinal had “no alternative” but to consult his lawyers.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors did not respond to a Register request for comment.

In his June 8 letter to Saunders, Leder stated that the cardinal is “concerned that you knew, or should have known at the time, that each of those matters was factually wrong, and before speaking, you should have made proper inquiries to ensure your opinions were based on reliable information.”

“The cardinal invites you to correct the public record and withdraw these false allegations,” the letter concluded.


Saunders’ Response

In June 9 comments to the Register, Saunders said he had received the lawyer’s letter and that, until he had taken legal advice and responded, he would decline to answer questions sent to him by the Register.

“Let us let the Royal Commission take its course,” said Saunders, founder of the United Kingdom’s National Association for People Abused in Childhood. “I am only interested in supporting the victims of these vile crimes and the protection of our children today.” He also said he is “deeply committed to Pope Francis’ initiative in setting up the pontifical commission.” But he added: “I stress again I was not speaking on behalf of the commission when I spoke to 60 Minutes.”

The Vatican has backed the cardinal, asserting his statement against the allegations was “worthy of respect and attention” and that Saunders’ words were “entirely personal” and not made on behalf of the commission. The pontifical commission itself stressed that it has “no jurisdiction” to comment on individual cases or inquiries and remains “dedicated to its mission.”

A group of Australian bishops have also emphasized Cardinal Pell’s record of leadership against clergy sex abuse following the critical news broadcast.

“He is a man of integrity who is committed to the truth and to helping others, particularly those who have been hurt or who are struggling,” seven bishops said of the cardinal in a June 3 statement.


The Allegations

At the center of the dispute are allegations, repeated by the 60 Minutes episode, that Cardinal Pell, then a parish priest in the Diocese of Ballarat, attempted to bribe David Ridsdale to keep quiet about the molestation he had suffered from his uncle, Gerald Ridsdale. The former priest is in prison for committing more than 130 offenses against children, some as young as 4, between the 1960s and 1980s.

Cardinal Pell vehemently denies the bribery claims, and Ridsdale has allegedly changed his story several times, at one time claiming then-Father Pell tried to bribe him and then saying he offered him nothing financial.

Despite the Royal Commission not being able to summon a person living overseas to testify, Cardinal Pell has nevertheless volunteered to fly back to Australia to give evidence about the case, even though he has already given much evidence under oath. He said in a statement he was “extremely sympathetic” to Ridsdale, was committed to complete cooperation with the commission and was “horrified once again” by survivors’ accounts of abuse.

The cardinal also said he would never have condoned or participated in any decision to move the priest in the knowledge he had abused children.

“The suicide of so many victims is an enormous tragedy,” he said. “The crimes committed against them by priests and brothers are profoundly evil and completely repugnant to me.”


Why Was the Cardinal Targeted?

The impromptu and highly contested allegations have led some to speculate other issues are in play in the attacks on the cardinal. For its part, the Australian 60 Minutes doubled down on its criticism of Cardinal Pell by airing a second episode June 7 that opened with a claim by journalist Tara Brown that “the Catholic Church in Australia stands in crisis” because “the men who lead it have put themselves on a collision course with the victims of child sexual abuse by expressing their unfailing support for George Pell.”

Andrew Rabel, an Australian Catholic journalist for Inside the Vatican and other journals, believes Saunders is being used as a tool and “possibly doesn’t realize it.”

Rabel pointed out that Cardinal Pell, then a young priest in Ballarat, was not as involved in parish life as many other diocesan clergy, as he was serving as rector of a Catholic teachers’ college and editor of the diocesan newspaper.

“He would have had as much knowledge of this issue as anyone else, which wasn’t much at all, in an era when subjects like priestly abuse were pretty much under wraps,” Rabel said.

He added that it is “unfair” there is so much attention on the cardinal when the real responsibility lies with the bishops of that time. He also blames the media, which, he said, is “not providing fair coverage of the situation and is incredibly biased.” They and the cardinal’s critics fail to give Pell even the “slightest credit for what he has done when compared to others,” he said.

Rabel said the cardinal has done “more than anyone else in Australia to lead a Catholic revival in the country,” and he stressed that, with the Melbourne Response, he was the first Australian bishop to pioneer the country’s first compensation scheme for abuse victims.

Knowing Saunders’ commitment for cracking down on molestation as a sexual-abuse survivor, Rabel blames the television show for taking advantage of that zeal, probably to boost ratings. He believes the show exploited Saunders both for its own ends and possibly also to further an agenda.

That agenda, he added, is likely related to the recent referendum in Ireland approving same-sex “marriage” and a strong push in Australia currently taking place on the same issue.

Some also speculate it is part of a ploy to discredit the cardinal, one of the most senior Vatican officials to firmly uphold traditional Catholic moral teaching, ahead of the next synod on the family this fall.


‘Massive Embarrassment’

A Vatican source, speaking to the Register on condition of anonymity, said the episode is a “massive embarrassment” to the pontifical commission and suggested that Saunders, like many who suffer sexual abuse, might sometimes “lose perspective” about abuse allegations.

The Vatican source believes that media critics have impugned the cardinal in an indirect attack on the Pope, possibly in an attempt to weaken the thrust of Curial reform.

But he stressed that Cardinal Pell’s standing with Pope Francis is “not in any way affected” by the accusations.

“If Saunders thinks he can drive a cardinal out of office, he must be dreaming,” he said, adding that the Pope knows very well what it is like to be the victim of a slur. “What would the cardinal be thrown out for? For something he allegedly said years ago and which he firmly denies?”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

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Cardinal Müller Warns Against Adapting the Church to Today’s Often Pagan Lifestyles



Cardinal Gerhard Müller

Cardinal Gerhard Müller has spoken out firmly against trying to adapt the Church’s teaching to today’s often pagan lifestyles, saying such an approach introduces subjectivism and arbitrariness.

In an interview with the Catholic newspaper Die Tagespost on June 6th, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith warned that placing “any so-called lived realities” on the same level as scripture and tradition is “nothing more than the introduction of subjectivism and arbitrariness, wrapped up in sentimental and smug religious terminology.”

The cardinal’s comments have been widely seen as a criticism of a recent “shadow council” when bishops and experts from Germany, France and Switzerland met May 25th in Rome to discuss how the Church could adapt its pastoral approach to today’s current lived experiences, especially regarding sexual ethics.

Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück, a participant at the meeting and one of the German episcopate’s representatives at the upcoming Synod on the Family, has gone on record saying that the “lived realities” of people should be a source of information for dogmatic and moral truths, the Austrian site reported.

But Cardinal Müller stressed that these “lived realities” can sometimes be very pagan and that the faith cannot be the result of a compromise between acceptable Christian ideas, abstract principles and the practice of a pagan lifestyle. He added that Rome will strengthen bishops’ freedom and responsibility, but this will be threatened by “nostalgias for national churches and by the haggling over social acceptance.”

The German cardinal also said that the Pope invited each bishop to the October synod as a “witness and teacher of the revealed faith.”

Referring to the recent controversial closed-door meeting in Rome, Cardinal Müller said it is right to exchange information on any point or major issue. But he added that one cannot organize the truth. If this principle were to be adopted and taken as true by the Church, leading her to take her cue from public opinion, then the Church would be “shaken to her foundations,” he said.

The Catholic Church is mother and teacher of all churches, he said, one that teaches and is not taught. “She does not need anybody – as superior and as adapted to our times he might think he is – to teach her a notion of the right faith, because in her, the apostolic tradition has been faithfully safeguarded and always will be preserved.”

Bishop Koch appointed

On Monday, Pope Francis appointed Bishop Heiner Koch of Dresden-Meißen as the new Archbishop of Berlin.

Bishop Koch was also present at the May 25th meeting and will be one of the three German bishops to attend the October synod. He is currently chairman of the bishops’ marriage and family commission and known to strongly support the Cardinal Kasper thesis on admitting some remarried divorcees to Holy Communion.

Bishop Koch, 61, is also a proponent of Church recognition of same-sex unions. He has said that “any bond that strengthens and holds people, is in my eyes good; that applies also to same-sex relationships.”

In an interview earlier this year with a local German newspaper, the prelate said that to “portray homosexuality as a sin is hurtful” and that the Church “needs a different language when it comes to homosexuals.”

“I know gay couples who value ​​reliability and commitment and live these in an exemplary manner,” he said.

Since the 1950s, all archbishops of Berlin have gone on to become a cardinal. The archdiocese is likely to grow in prominence in the coming years as the bishops’ conference is understood to want to move its headquarters from Bonn, the former West German capital, to Berlin.

The Pope appointed Bishop Koch archbishop following his election last week by the Berlin archdiocese.

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Pope Will Go to Sarajevo as ‘Messenger of Peace’ 



Sacred Heart of Jesus statue adorns Cathedral of Jesus’ Heart in Sarajevo.

VATICAN CITY — Peace and reconciliation will be the central focus of Pope Francis’ intense 11-hour trip on Saturday to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

In a video message to the people of the city released Tuesday, the Holy Father said he was preparing to visit the central-European country as a “fellow messenger of peace.”

“With the help of God, I come among you to confirm the faith of Catholics, to support ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, and especially to encourage peaceful coexistence in your country,” he said.

The country is still recovering from a devastating three-year war in the 1990s that followed the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

Sandwiched between Croatia and Serbia, the nation has a population of 4 million people, with a rich ethnic and interreligious heritage, roughly evenly split between Christians and Muslims. Ethnically, most of the population is made up of Muslim Bosniaks, followed by Serbs, who make up 37% of the populace and are mostly Orthodox, and 14% who are Croats and are largely Catholics. Protestants and Bosnian Jews round out the rest of the country’s makeup.

During the 1992-1995 war, Bosnian Serbs began a policy of “ethnic cleansing” in large areas of the country inhabited by non-Serbs, Muslims and Croats, as well as Serbs who opposed their army. Around 2 million people fled their homes during the war.

After the Dayton Peace Accords were signed in 1995, a Bosniak-Croat Federation and a separate Bosnian Serb Republic were established, under a central government with a rotating presidency. NATO forces, followed by a European Union-led peacekeeping force, helped to preserve the agreement.


‘Peace Be With You’

The motto of the Pope’s visit is “Peace Be With you” — the words of the risen Lord when he greeted his disciples in the Upper Room. “It is he, the Lord, our strength and our hope, who gives us his peace, that we might welcome it into our hearts and spread it with joy and with love,” the Pope said in his video message.

The Pope said he will come not only as a messenger of peace, but also to express his “respect and friendship” to the people Sarajevo and convey to every citizen “the mercy, tenderness and love of God.” He also encouraged Catholics to be “witnesses to their fellow citizens of the faith and love of God, working for a society that makes ways towards peace in brotherhood and in mutual cooperation.”

Last year, Cardinal Vinko Puljić of the Vrhbosna Diocese in Sarajevo said Catholics act as “catalysts” for easing tensions between the country’s Christian and Muslim populations. “We want to create tranquility” and “a climate of dialogue,” he told CNA. This is in the face of Catholics being in a “grave position,” as they suffer from inequality.

Pope Francis will be welcomed at 9am local time on Saturday by Bosnian-Croat President Dragan Čović, one of the country’s three presidents, each representing Bosnia’s ethnic groups.

Čović will accompany Francis to the presidential palace for a private meeting, after which the Holy Father will deliver an address to the civil authorities and diplomatic corps before travelling to the city’s Olympic stadium to celebrate Mass.


Mass in a Snowstorm in 1997

More than 50,000 faithful from Bosnia-Herzegovina and surrounding countries have so far registered to attend the Mass. The venue, Kosevo Stadium, is reported to be able to accommodate up to 70,000 people. Pope St. John Paul II famously celebrated Mass in a snowstorm there during a visit to the war-ravaged city in April 1997. The venue was also the site of the 1984 Olympic Games.

After a private lunch with the six bishops of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Pope will meet with local priests, religious and seminarians at the local cathedral. The Holy Father is expected to spend time in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and listen to three vocation testimonies from a priest, a religious sister and a friar. Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told reporters last week that he expects the testimonies to be “very powerful, intense and dramatic.”

Francis will then be driven to a nearby Franciscan student center for an ecumenical and interfaith encounter with leaders of the local Muslim, Jewish and Orthodox communities.

Before leaving for Rome, the Holy Father will visit a youth center dedicated to Pope St. John Paul II, where he will listen to the many challenges facing young people in a country suffering from one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe. The papal plane is scheduled to leave Sarajevo at 8pm and arrive back in Rome at around 9:20 on Saturday evening.


Marian Shrine Not on Itinerary

Although Medjugorje is just a 15-minute helicopter flight away, a short excursion to the pilgrimage site is not on the itinerary, nor is it likely to be even mentioned. Cardinal Puljic told reporters last month that the Pope’s visit has nothing to do with the Marian shrine.

The results of a commission of investigation into Medjugorje are currently being studied by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which will then be forwarded to the Pope.

Father Lombardi said last week that he didn’t expect the Pope to make any references to Medjugorje, but added that Francis is “free to talk about what he wants.”

Instead, the papal spokesman said interreligious dialogue “will be a central aspect of the visit.”

Two Curial cardinals will be accompanying the Pope: French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and the Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Father Lombardi said the Pope will probably give a short airborne press conference on the way back to Rome, but as it’s a short flight, the conversation “will be brief.”

Security is also expected to be tight for the visit, although Cardinal Puljic downplayed concerns, saying there is “no reason to be afraid.”

In his video message, the Pope asked for prayers for the visit, so it “may produce the desired fruits for the Christian community and the entire society.”


Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent

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Priest’s Appointment to Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace Draws Concern



Dominican Father Timothy Radcliffe

The recent appointment of Dominican Father Timothy Radcliffe as a consultor to the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace has been welcomed by his supporters, who say he is ideally suited to such a role.

But critics are deeply concerned about the appointment, given the English priest’s previous doctrinal statements, especially on sexual ethics and holy Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried, which they say go against Church teaching.

Father Radcliffe, 69, who was master of the Dominican Order from 1992 to 2001, was appointed on May 16 to advise the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace on issues due to his expertise in that area. He currently serves as a director of the social justice-focused Las Casas Institute of Blackfriars at Oxford University.

Vatican consultors, appointed to five-year terms, are generally called upon to share their expertise with various dicasteries, but they do not have any final say in determining Vatican policy.

In comments to the Register May 19, Father Radcliffe said he is “very happy” to do anything he could to “support Pope Francis,” adding that justice and peace are “at the heart” of the Holy Father’s ministry, and so it is “an honor to have a small part in promoting this.”

He said he did not yet know what his duties would be, but hoped he could bring “a fairly wide experience of the Church, especially of places where there is or has been suffering and crisis.”

During the past year, Father Radcliffe said he had spent “much time” in Iraq and Algeria and noted that the “political and humanitarian crisis in the Middle East is dramatic and a major priority for the Pope.”

Until last year, Father Radcliffe served as a trustee for CAFOD, the official Catholic aid agency of England and Wales. CAFOD’s director, Chris Bain, told the Register that “pretty much all of Father Timothy’s recent writing incorporates justice issues, as he sees this as a core part of the Church’s mission.”

Bishop William Kenney also knows Father Radcliffe well and said he has wide experience, a “truly worldwide view,” and a “deep knowledge of the Church’s social teaching and of the situation on the ground.” Bishop Kenney, who is auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Birmingham, England, said he was “delighted with the news” of the appointment and felt the English Dominican is in many ways “ideally suited” to his new appointment.

Bain said Father Radcliffe — who is thought to know Pope Francis well — believes that to be truly catholic, in the sense of “universal,” the faithful need to “engage all people of goodwill and embrace all people in need” as “equally loved by God.”


Comments on Homosexuality

But critics say Father Radcliffe’s perspective on universal love goes too far — and that in particular his comments on homosexuality run contrary to Church teaching. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that homosexual acts are “of grave depravity,” “intrinsically disordered” and “contrary to the natural law,” as they “close the sexual act to the gift of life.” For this reason, the Church has strongly opposed any promotion of such lifestyles.

In 2005, as the Vatican debated whether men with same-sex attraction should be admitted to seminaries, following the clerical sex-abuse scandals, Father Radcliffe said the inclination should not bar men from the priesthood, but that those who oppose their candidacy should be.

In a talk in Los Angeles in 2006, Father Radcliffe called for the Church to “accompany [homosexuals] as they discern what this means, letting our images be stretched open. This means watching Brokeback Mountain [a movie about a homosexual relationship], reading gay novels, living with our gay friends and listening with them as they listen to the Lord.”

In 2012, in support of same-sex civil unions, he wrote in The Tablet that homosexual relationships should be “cherished and supported” and that the “God of love can be present in every true love.” And Father Radcliffe has often celebrated Masses for homosexual Catholics — the so-called “Soho Masses” — in London.

And, writing in an Anglican journal in 2013, he said when considering same-sex relationships, “we cannot begin with the question of whether it is permitted or forbidden! We must ask what it means and how far it is Eucharistic. Certainly it can be generous, vulnerable, tender, mutual and nonviolent. So in many ways, I think it can be expressive of Christ’s self-gift.”

He said homosexual relationships can be “expressive of mutual fidelity, a covenantal relationship in which two people bind themselves to each other forever.” But he also went on to say that “gay marriage” is not equivalent to marriage, as it is not “inherently unitive.”

The English Dominican has also voiced his support for relaxing restrictions on holy Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried, writing in America magazine in 2013 that he had two “profound hopes”: that a “way will be found to welcome divorced-and-remarried people back to Communion” and that women will be allowed to preach at Mass.

John Smeaton, executive director of Britain’s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said he was “surprised” by the news of Father Radcliffe’s appointment, which he considered “particularly inappropriate,” given his views relating to human sexuality.

He referred to a televised talk on July 10, 2009, at a Catholic parish in Mashpee, Mass., in which Father Radcliffe said: “It’s not that sexual ethics are particularly important. I don’t think they are.”

“Father Radcliffe’s frank admission is completely opposed to the position set out in Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Charity and Truth),” Smeaton told the Register. “Pope Benedict taught us that the Church’s teaching on the unitive and procreative meaning of human sexuality placed the married couple at the foundation of society.”

Quoting St. John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Value and Inviolability of Human Life), Smeaton added, “The Church forcefully maintains this link between life ethics and social ethics, fully aware that ‘a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized.’”


Father Radcliffe Responds

Defending his remarks, Father Radcliffe told the Register that he has “always strongly opposed ‘gay marriage,’ and so there cannot be any cause for alarm there.” He said Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, the former archbishop of Westminster, began the Soho Masses, and Father Radcliffe presided at them from “time to time, with the blessing of the cardinal.”

Added Father Radcliffe, “It is important to welcome gay people, but this is not to reject the Church’s teaching in any way.”

Regarding reception of Communion, Father Radcliffe said, “Like many cardinals and bishops, I believe that the Church needs to think again about her discipline on the admission of the divorced and remarried to Communion. This is in no way to reject the indissolubility of marriage, but it is to welcome people whose marriages have fallen apart.”

“Anyone who actually reads what I have written on any of these issues will discover that nothing that I say contradicts the teaching of the Church, and all is fully in accordance with the teaching of Pope Francis,” he said.

Bishop Kenney said he was not sure where the criticisms of Father Radcliffe were coming from and also urged reading his lectures and writings. He said that, as far as he was concerned, he had “seen nothing which Father Timothy has written which has been unorthodox” and that, “like many of us, he is trying to do what Pope Francis and Pope Benedict have asked us to do: namely, to show mercy and welcome to all people.”

Asked about Pope Francis’ view of mercy and whether he would like to see more emphasis on justice and repentance, Father Radcliffe said: “Mercy and justice are inseparable. ‘Mercy and truth have met each other: Justice and peace have kissed’ (Psalm 85:10).

“Mercy without justice would lead to chaos; justice without mercy would lead to harsh condemnation. Jesus is full of ‘grace and truth,’ according to the prologue to St. John’s Gospel. Grace without truth would be vacuous, and truth without grace would be terrible.”

Father Radcliffe has also spoken up in support of the German bishops’ desire to admit the divorced and remarried to Communion, a contentious suggestion that has been opposed by the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, as it was by Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II.

Last year, EWTN chose not to televise Ireland’s Divine Mercy Conference, as it customarily does, because Father Radcliffe had been chosen as a keynote speaker at the event. And in 2011, Father Radcliffe was scheduled to speak at the general assembly of Caritas International, a confederation of worldwide Catholic charities. The Vatican intervened to prohibit his address, and he was replaced by Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the pontifical household.

In light of Father Radcliffe’s appointment, it is worth noting the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1986 letter to bishops on the pastoral care of homosexual persons, which warned that, in the face of “enormous pressure” on the Church to “accept the homosexual condition as though it were not disordered and to condone homosexual activity,” the Church’s ministers “must ensure that homosexual persons in their care will not be misled by this point of view, so profoundly opposed to the teaching of the Church.”

“The risk is great,” the letter added, and there are “many who seek to create confusion regarding the Church’s position and then to use that confusion to their own advantage.”



Catholic News Agency contributed to this report.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

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After Ireland, Gay Agenda Eyes Catholic Church


(Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images)

A supporter holds a sign reading ‘Thank You – You’re All Invited to the Wedding’ as he celebrates outside Dublin Castle following the result of the same-sex marriage referendum in Dublin on May 23, 2015.

Evidence is coming to light of concerted and covert attempts to coax the Catholic Church into accepting homosexual relationships, principally using an upcoming church synod on the family to achieve it.

A group of influential church figures, mainly from Germany and northern Europe, appear intent on making the meeting about same-sex relationships, while cloaking their agenda in vague and abstruse language.

They speak of “enriching” the “biblical and theological foundations” of the synod (code for ignoring traditional church teaching), creating a “new theology of love” (an abstract concept aimed at legitimizing extramarital unions), and finding a “nonhostile” language to convey church doctrine (a watering down of Catholic teaching).

They are publicly distancing themselves from endorsing same-sex “marriage,” but at the same time supporting church recognition of homosexual relationships and acts — sins that used to “cry to heaven for vengeance” until the church began softening its language 50 years ago.

The published aim of the October Synod on the Family, called by Pope Francis and to be attended by over 400 bishops and experts, is to look at how to better pastorally apply the church’s teaching on marriage and the family. But like last year’s synod on the family, it is already in danger of being derailed by powerful lobbies, some of whom are running the synod itself.

On Monday, 50 participants, including nine bishops and over 20 liberal theologians, attended a secretive “study-day” at Rome’s prestigious Gregorian Jesuit university. None of those attending opposed church recognition of same-sex relationships when it was explicitly proposed by one of the speakers.

The meeting took place at the invitation of the heads of the German, Swiss and French bishops’ conferences. Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops and one of nine cardinals advising the Pope on church and Vatican reform, gave the meeting’s closing address.

Professor Manfred Spieker, a German church expert, wrote on the website Kathnet that the meeting was “divisive” and an abuse of the presidents’ offices, given that only those bishops sympathetic to the homosexual agenda were invited. He spoke scathingly of the event, saying it undermined the purpose and intent of the upcoming synod, and promoted views that have “schismatic potential.”

The study-day took place just days after a referendum in Ireland to allow same-sex marriage, leading some to believe the timing was not coincidental.

German Cardinal Walter Kasper, whose controversial theology Pope Francis admires, told Corriere della Sera May 27 that the Irish vote means the church needs to address the question of same-sex couples more fully, and that what was a “marginal topic” at the last Synod on the Family in October 2014, has now become “central.”

The church, he said, has been too silent about this issue for too long and, in later comments, said the church needs to “disarm” her language to try to make contact with the secular world. The church, he believes, needs to honor long-lasting same-sex relationships.

Such sentiments are roundly rejected by faithful Catholics who view this kind of approach as surrendering to secular values and sowing confusion.

But the church homosexual lobby, driven by ideology more than the well-being of souls of homosexuals themselves, is unlikely to be deterred.

One of the tools it is using to achieve its goal is the media. The major German publishing house, Herder, is to publish a large book in September — just a month before the synod — by a group of Catholic academics pushing the homosexual agenda.

Called “Who Am I to Judge?” after the Pope’s misquoted remark on the issue, it calls for more acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle on the grounds that condemning homosexuality no longer meets with a “positive response” among the faithful.

Although Pope Francis has warned of a homosexual lobby in the church, it remains unclear how serious he is in confronting it. A significant number of church leaders and academics and some of his closest advisers are pushing the agenda, but his silence and inaction in the face of such dissent is causing increasing distress among many faithful Catholics.

Church historian Roberto de Mattei observed that during the Irish referendum the Pope kept a “sepulchral silence” and, despite its gravity, chose instead to often rail against other evils such as “corruption, trafficking in arms and slaves, and the vanity of power and money.”

De Mattei and others feel that if the Pope, given his popularity, had strongly urged the Irish people to vote no a week or so before the ballot, it could have swung the result by as much as 10 percent, possibly enough to have led to a no vote.

By not doing so, they argue, not only was the Irish vote lost, but church divisions are being left to fester and deepen, driven by a wealthy and powerful German church that has all but lost its faith.

Last week, church figures in Germany publicly rebuked Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Pope’s deputy, for saying the Irish referendum result was a “defeat for humanity.” Meanwhile, media pressure is beginning to be exerted on those few German bishops who are resisting the homosexual lobby.

Arguably a positive element to all of this is that the homosexual lobby is being exposed as they look to the synod for their salvation. But the potential damage they will cause the church and souls in the meantime could be beyond measure.

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Secret Study-Day Invitation and Program


Father Eberhard Schockenhoff

The Register has obtained a copy of the invitation and program for last Monday’s closed-door study-day held at the Pontifical Gregorian University, a translation of which appears below.

Of particular note is the prominence of Father Eberhard Schockenhoff in the discussions, as well as the other speakers chosen. Father Schockenhoff’s previous controversial statements on homosexual relations are listed here. Some passages that are likely to cause concern are included in the text at the end of the program, highlighted in bold below.

Also of note is that sympathetic journalists were invited, and had their expenses paid as well as the other participants, so they could be supplied with “background”. That can only mean that the organisers wished to have the agenda publicised in the months leading up to the synod. Given the likely opposition and unease the subject matter would provoke among the faithful, this would surely go against the Pope’s desire for a “protected space” so that such polemics would not go beyond the confines of the synod.

But even if it were kept within the synod, what is alarming many is that, according to a piece written by Marco Ansaldo in La Repubblica, excerpts of which I include below, nobody present, including the bishops and one of the Pope’s closest advisers, opposed Church recognition of same-sex relationships after a priest theologian explicitly advocated it. Furthermore, this took place after a paragraph on the “positive aspects” of same-sex relationships, written into the last synod’s interim report by Archbishop Bruno Forte, was rejected by the synod fathers.

The article of Ansaldo, the only Italian journalist invited to the meeting, contains a number of aspects of Monday’s study day that have not yet been widely publicised.


Bishops’ Conference of France – German Bishops’ Conference – Swiss Bishops’ Conference

[Letter of Invitation]



The Holy Father has initiated an invitation to the XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which will take place from 4 to 25 October in Rome, and which will have as its announced topic “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World.”

Already the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of last year [October 2014] offered manifold opportunities to discern future-oriented paths of theological reflection and of pastoral practice unto the promotion of marriage and the family.

The Lineamenta of the this year’s Synod [in 2015] again has contained a questionnaire which has now received answers from all over the world. Further reflections now seem to us to be helpful.

In preparation of the Synod, we – the Presidents of the French, German, and Swiss Bishops’ Conferences – host a theological Day of Study  together. It will pick up on the impulses which have come out of the present opinion-forming responses, and which refer to the theological-anthropological aspects of human biography and love and to the exegesis of the message of the New Testament which relates to this topic.

Cordially we invite you personally to participate in this Day of Study. It will take place on

Monday, 25th May, 2015, from 9.00 am. until 16.00 pm.

At the Pontificia Università Gregoriana, Sala Gonzaga,

Piazza della Pilotta, 4

00187 Rome

You will find enclosed the preliminary program, as well as a content-related summary of the three topics to be discussed.

The Day of Study brings together participants of the Synod, high-ranking Curial members, theologians from our [three] countries, as well as journalists. The number of participants shall not exceed more than about 50 persons. In the interest of a free debate it is to be a closed event, which has for the participating journalists the character of a background conversation.

It would give us much joy if you could make possible your participation. You will also find enclosed an application form. We ask for your application in this form, to be received not later than 4 May 2015. We will gladly cover the travel and lodging costs. A list of nearby hotels is also enclosed.

In case of further questions […]

We remain with very cordial greetings and the best wishes and blessings for this Season of Easter, yours


Mgr. Georges Pontier                                                                                Mgr. Markus Büchel

Reinhard Cardinal Marx

Day of Study Concerning the Synod of Bishops

“The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World.”

A Conjoint Initiative of the Presidents of the French, German, and Swiss Bishops’ Conferences


Monday, 25 May, 2015 – Rome, Gregorian University, Sala Gonzaga


08.00                      Occasion for Participation at the Holy Mass

Jesuit Chapel, Gregorian University

09.00-09.30            Welcome and Introduction into the Conference

(P. Prof. Dr. Hans Zollner, SJ, Archbishop Georges Pontier)

The Words of Jesus concerning Marriage and Divorce

– Reflections upon a Catholic Hermeneutic of the Bibel

09.30-09.50            Short Presentation (Prof. Dr. Anne-Marie Pelletier)

09.50-10.10            Short Presentation (Prof. Dr. Thomas Söding)

10.10-10.40            Discussion with the Participants

– Coffee Break –

Sexuality as Expression of Love

– Reflections upon a Theology of Love

11.10-11.30            Short Presentation (Prof. Dr. Eberhard Schockenhoff)

11.30-11.50            Short Presentation (Prof. Dr. François-Xavier Amherdt)

11.50-12.20            Discussion with the Participants

– Lunch Break with Snack –

The Gift of One’s Own Life

– Reflections upon a Theology of the Biography

13.30-13.50            Short Presentation (P. Prof. Dr. Alain Thomasset SJ)

13.50-14.10            Short Presentation (Prof. Dr. Eva-Maria Faber)

14.10-14.40            Discussion with the Participants

14.40-15.40            Final Overall Discussion

15.40-16.00            Closing Remarks (Cardinal Reinhard Marx)


Moderation: Dr. Francine Charoy / P. Bernd Hagenkord SJ


Concerning the Main Topics of the Conference


The Words of Jesus Concerning Marriage and Divorce: Reflections upon a Catholic Hermeneutic of the Bible

The words of Jesus concerning marriage and divorce have to be interpreted in the context of his entire proclamation and of the tradition of the Church. According to the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation in the Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum (No 8), the understanding of tradition is the cause for progress in history, namely, because of the study and the considerations of the faithful, their own understanding of spiritual things, and because of the teaching of the Magisterium. What is the meaning of the spiritual experiences of the faithful for the hermeneutic of Scripture and Tradition? What significance lies in the experiences of the faithful in marriage and in the family, with respect to the understanding of the words of Jesus concerning marriage and divorce and their concretization in the context of the contemporary life realities?

Sexuality as Expression of Love: Reflections upon a Theology of Love

The Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar doctrinal developments have promoted a personal understanding of sexuality which considers sexual relationships as expressions of marital love. However, love between a man and a woman exists also outside of a canonically valid marriage. What significance can sexuality have in such relationships? A newly developed theology of love is therefore necessary which can build upon the tradition of the moral-theological capacity to differentiate, and which includes new insights from anthropology and sociology. Part of this would be a personal understanding of sexuality which is not concentrated upon sexual acts or their consummations [compare to Schockenhoff’s comments on homosexual acts mentioned in my previous article], but rather looks at the connection between Eros and Agape. How can these different forms of love be assessed moral-theologically, and in a differentiated way? What is the “added value” of the sacramental marriage in comparison to other forms of living? The Law of Graduality, as it has been discussed at the last Synod, or the reference to the teaching of the“logoi spermatikoi,” as made by the Relatio, can both – is it not so? – be starting points for a further development of the Church’s teaching on marriage?

The Gift of One’s Own Life: Reflections upon a Theology of the Biography

Socially, in a highly complex and pluralistic society, the individual has a greater responsibility for one’s own way of life. Often, it does not follow traditional patterns any more. The personal concepts of life and the conscientious decisions of the individual [now] play a greater role; biographical developments [sic] are part of the planning of life. To this fact, the pastoral practice concerning marriage and the family has to respond. What kind of new role could the proclamation of the Gospels and the formation of conscience play when the faithful in their relationships and in their sexual life do not live up to the demands of the Gospels? Concerning those people who have failed with their life designs, how can the Church accompany them with regard to pastoral care as well as, possibly, with regard to the liturgy? How can the Church proclaim convincingly the presence of God in such failures?

La Repubblica on Study-Day

Marco Ansaldo’s piece is entitled: “Bishops in the Wake of the Irish Referendum: ‘The Bond Between Gays Is of Value to the Church’. The subheading is: “Bishops and theologians gather behind closed doors at Rome’s Gregorian University ‘to recognize couples if their relationships are stable’.”

He begins by quoting one of the participants: “What can we say to a young man who doesn’t find his place within the parameters of the Church? How should we implement the practice of eros? Here we are faced with problems with which we must contend. Otherwise people will eventually go away.”

He then adds: “The quiet alarm, launched by a priest and professor mid-way into the proceedings, shakes the rectangle of tables seating the 50 people who met at the Gregorian University in Rome for a study-day organized for the Synod of Bishops set for next autumn. “Marriage and Divorce,” and “Sexuality as an Expression of Love” are the titles under discussion. They are burning topics of great relevance on the heels of the ‘Yes’ referendum on gay marriage in Ireland.”

After listing some of the participants, he then explains that media present were required not to attribute authorship of the statements to the speakers. He then adds:

And the discussion was very broad and free. Touching also on the subject of gay unions, recalling the Irish vote. “The matter is not a topic of the Synod,” a German priest and theologian points out, “but nonetheless, it is a cultural matter. If there is a strong relationship between two persons of the same sex that leads to a recognition, this must also become a bond for the Church.” He then adds: “Personally, I say that this union should be recognized, even if not as a marriage. If the Church does not recognize it, this doesn’t imply a discrimination, but that it means to reaffirm the principle of the family constituted by one man and one woman.”

An innovative position. No one present opposes it. In fact, the conversation widens. “It’s clear,” a French bishop says, “that we are experiencing a new pastoral reality.” And, on the subject of the divorced and remarried, a professor continues: “With the increasing lifespan, the frontier of faithfulness also shifts. But the discipline of the Church today is far from being stationary. After a failure, an abandonment, one can commit oneself in a new life with another person. These problems come to us from those involved in teaching, as well as from the faithful. Applause, and it continues on.

Ansaldo then quotes one German bishop who comments: “The dogmatists say the teaching of the Church is fixed. Instead, a development exists. And we need a development on sexuality. Even though we don’t need to concentrate only on this.” He adds that a priest, who is also a professor, admits:  “Since we live as singles, celibacy for us priests makes it difficult to speak to others about their life as a couple.”

The Italian journalist points out that no one uses the word “parresìa” — frankness —a key word of Francis’ pontificate, but the discussion at the table of the Gregorian “unfolds entirely under its shadow.”

He quotes a Swiss priest and professor who makes rather sexually explicit remarks, and another Swiss participant cites Sigmund Freud and Erich Fromm, saying: “The importance of the sexual drive represents the basis for a lasting relationship.” The participant goes on to say that the lack of sexuality “has something in common with hunger and thirst. The question that characterizes it is: “Do you want to have sex?” But this does not mean desiring the other, if the other does not want. The question should be: “Do you desire me?”. This is how the sexual desire for the other can be joined to love.”

He ends the article with the words:

“The discussion is intense and touches on the Sacraments, Baptism, the complicated issue of Communion for the divorced and remarried. “How can we deny it, as if it were a punishment, to people who have failed and found a new partner with whom to start a new life?”.

Then there’s an opportunity to speak about the pain of the children of those who are separated: “In confessions we hear many accounts of adolescents who blame themselves for their parents’ divorce. But sometimes the separation is also a good thing.”

Words that seem revolutionary if uttered by men in clerical garb, through an initiative taking place in the heart of Rome and sponsored by the Episcopal Conferences of France, Germany and Switzerland. They are bishops considered by many to be avant-garde. It will be up to those of them who take part at the next Synod, like Cardinal Marx who concluded the proceedings, to carry such liberal reflections all the way to the Pope.

One of the participants in last October’s Synod says: “I wish there had been a similar discussion at the Vatican. There still isn’t that freedom to speak that we have had here today. But we have the hope that all of this, now, will help.”

Read more:

List of Participants Who Attended Gregorian ‘Shadow Council’



Pontifical Gregorian University

Monday’s unannounced study-day at the Pontifical Gregorian University, organized by the heads of the Swiss, French and German bishops’ conferences, was attended by at least nine bishops from those countries.

We publish their names below along with most of those who were also present.

The meeting, which aimed to explore various “pastoral innovations” ahead of the Synod on the Family in October, and reflect on a new “theology of love” that critics say would pave the way for Church recognition of same-sex relationships, was not advertised, even at the Gregorian.

The Austrian Catholic internet site reported Wednesday that they had learned, via episcopal sources, that many bishops “not sympathetic” to the issues discussed were “neither informed nor invited to the meeting.”

“Also only a certain ‘elite’ among media representatives were invited,” it added. “Many other journalists from Catholic media from German-speaking countries were not even told about it.”

Matthias Kopp, the long-serving spokesman for the German bishops’ conference who was present at the meeting, told me Wednesday that “high-ranking curial officials” were also invited to the meeting but were unable to make it due to the Ordinary Council of the Synod of Bishops attended by Pope Francis on the same day. Kopp said the study-day was planned before they knew of the synod meeting.

Some of the journalists there reported on the event (Izoard and Ansaldo) and Father Hagenkord of Vatican Radio was a moderator, but that raises the question about the role of the other media representatives present who haven’t so far reported on it. Part of the reason may have been because everyone was instructed not to attribute authorship of the statements to the speakers under a kind of Chatham House Rule. But another possible reason may have been because they are to help further the agenda of the reformers before, during and after the upcoming synod.

Another question the study-day raises is who financed it? If, as Cardinal Marx told me, he was there in a private capacity, does that mean German Church tax revenue wasn’t used to finance the meeting? It’s unlikely that faithful German Catholics would want their taxes spent on a study-day aimed at Church recognition of same-sex relationships — the new so-called “theology of love”.

Rome Study Day of the presidents of the Swiss, French and German Bishops’ Conferences in Rome on the theme of the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops:





Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop of Munich and Freising

Archbishop Georges Pontier, president of the French Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop of Marseille

Bishop Markus Büchel, president of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference, Bishop of St. Gallen

Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück, Germany

Bishop Heiner Koch of Dresden-Meißen, Germany

Bishop Felix Gmür of Basel, Switzerland

Bishop Jean-Marie Lovey of Sitten, Switzerland

Bishop Bruno Ann-Marie Feillet of Reims, France

Bishop Jean-Luc Brunin of Le Havre, France




Father Hans Langendörfer SJ, secretary general, German Bishops Conference

Father Hans Zollner SJ, professor of psychology, vice-rector, Pontifical Gregorian University

Father Achim Buckenmaier, professor of dogmatic theology in the “Akademie für die Theologie des Volkes Gottes” Institute of the Pontifical Lateran University, Rome; consultor to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization

Father Andreas R. Batlogg SJ, professor of philosophy and theology, chief editor Stimmen der Zeit

Father Alain Thomasset SJ, professor of moral theology at Centre Sèvres, France

Father Humberto Miguel Yañez SJ, dean of moral theology, Pontifical Gregorian University

Father Eberhard Schockenhoff, professor of moral theology at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Germany

Father Philippe Bordeyne, professor of theology, Institut Catholique de Paris


Professor Thomas Söding, professor of biblical theology at Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany

Professor Werner G. Jeanrond, theologian, Master of St Benet’s Hall, Oxford, England

Professor François Xavier Amherdt, theologian, University of Fribourg, Switzerland

Professor Erwin Dirscherl, dogmatic theologian, University of Regensburg, Germany

Professor Monique Baujard, director, Service National Famille et Société at the French bishops’ conference

Professor Eva Maria Faber, dogmatic and fundamental theologian and rector of Chur Theological College, Switzerland

Professor Thierry Collaud, theologian, University of Fribourg, Switzerland

Professor Francine Charoy, professor of moral theology, Institut Catholique de Paris

Professor Anne-Marie Pelletier, biblicist at the European Institute of Science of Religions (IESR)




Msgr. Markus Graulich SDB, prelate auditor of the tribunal of the Roman Rota

Marco Impagliazzo, President of Sant’Egidio lay community




Simon Hehli, journalist, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

Tilmann Kleinjung, ARD television correspondent

Michael Bewerunge, ZDF television correspondent

Jörg Bremer, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Vatican and Italy correspondent

Frédéric Mounier, correspondent, La Croix, Catholic daily, France

Marco Ansaldo, journalist, La Repubblica (Italian daily)

Antoine-Marie Izoard, director, I-Media French Catholic news agency, Rome

Father Bernd Hagenkord SJ, director of Vatican Radio (German edition)

Read more:

Bishop Vasa Co-Authors Handbook on Family to Counter Confusion Over Church Teaching 


The Roman Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa

Bishop Robert Vasa

ROME — A handbook of 100 questions and answers explaining the Church’s doctrine on marriage and the family has been launched with the aim of clearing up confusion ahead of the October Synod of Bishops on the Family.

The booklet’s authors — Archbishop Aldo de Cillo Pagotto of Paraíba, Brazil, Bishop Robert Vasa of Santa Rosa, Calif., and Bishop Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary of Astana, Kazakhstan — describe the publication as a “vade mecum [handbook] on the family.”

Said Bishop Vasa, “There is nothing new or revolutionary in this book. We just simply felt that, in light of the upcoming synod on the family, it was time to reiterate those things the Church has clearly and consistently taught.”

“We want to call attention to the truth of certain doctrines, many of which were raised at last year’s Extraordinary Synod [of Bishops] on the Family,” philosophy professor Tommaso Scandroglio told the Register at a Tuesday launch of the booklet in Rome.

Scandroglio, who presented the booklet entitled “Preferential Option for the Family — 100 Questions and Answers Relating to the Synod,” said it was “important to show the pastoral solutions we can apply as principles in our day.”

The authors write that they wish to address relevant fundamental issues on marriage and the family.

“The pastoral needs of the moment also require us to be entirely clear on crucial and delicate points debated in the latest synod, whose interpretation was partially distorted by some theological schools with overwhelming support from the mass media,” the bishops write in the introduction.

“It, therefore, seems appropriate to reiterate some fundamental doctrinal truths and pastoral requirements essential to the problem of the family, whose real situation is quite different from the one they would have us believe.”


Countering the ‘Anti-Family Offensive’

They add that the publication is designed “primarily” to serve as a guide not only for “bishops, priests, religious, catechists” and individual lay faithful in positions of responsibility and leadership, but also any laity concerned about attacks on the family who are “wishing to counter the reckless and powerful anti-family offensive of the mass media.”

The booklet, available in several languages, is divided into 13 chapters, with simple questions and answers. It begins by explaining the synod of bishops and its authority and preparation for the upcoming synod. It then goes on to answer questions on the Church’s relationship with the family, the sexual revolution, moral teaching and pastoral practice.

It discusses personal conscience and the magisterium, the nature and purpose of marriage, declarations of nullity, divorce and separation and Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried. It also covers homosexuality and same-sex unions, applications of mercy to the family situation and the role of supernatural grace in the commitment of family chastity.



The answers to each of the questions “continually recall doctrine of the Catholic Church on these matters,” Scandroglio said.

One chapter is given to analyzing some key words used at the last synod — what it calls “talismanic words” — that carried “strong emotional content” and therefore were perceived as “entirely flexible and changeable.”

Words such as “hurt persons,” “mercy,” “welcome,” “tenderness” and “deepening” have an “elasticity,” the authors write, that make them “susceptible to being used for propaganda purposes and abused for ideological ends.”

When these words are used, they continue, it can “push the faithful to replace a moral judgment with a sentimental one or a substantial judgment with a formal one, coming to regard as good, or at least tolerable, what at first was considered bad.” The booklet then goes to explain in more detail what this means for each of the words mentioned.


Cardinal Medina

In his preface, Cardinal Jorge Medina Estévez, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship, underlines that most objective observers would agree that the family finds itself in a “real and profound crisis.”

“Facing this reality, it would not be a wise attitude to ignore or minimize this crisis,” he writes, adding that the Church must “evaluate its scope and magnitude and strive to find ways to overcome it.”

“This is the goal pursued, with realism and hope, by this booklet,” he says, and he later stresses that what is most important when facing the crisis of the family is conversion of heart, something that presupposes a “radical purification of thought.”

The Tradition, Faith and Property (TFP) movement is backing the publication of the booklet, which is being sent to all of the world’s bishops.

Those involved in the booklet project, including spokesman Scandroglio, are also promoting the “Filial Appeal” on the future of the family — a petition to the Holy Father calling for more clarity on the Church’s teaching in this area. The petition has gained more than 250,000 signatures, including those of four cardinals, 23 bishops and archbishops, academics and public figures, and will be presented to Pope Francis before the October synod.

Speaking at the launch of the booklet, John Smeaton, chief executive of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said it is a “wonderful publication” that addresses the “confusion of ordinary Catholics, formed in the faith but overwhelmed by the cultural whims of the sexual revolution.”

“It provides us with a language with which to speak to young people about marriage, faithfulness, chastity and salvation,” he said. “It gives us a sense of the power of God, of his grace, which brings true human happiness.” By contrast, he added, the sexual revolution has been orchestrated by powerful lobbies “in order to destroy families and destroy happiness.”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.




Copies of the ‘Preferential Option for the Family’ booklet can be obtained by emailing or calling +39 366-9971856.

Read more:

Confidential Meeting Seeks to Sway Synod to Accept Same-Sex Unions



Cardinal Reinhard Marx

ROME — A one-day study meeting — open only to a select group of individuals — took place at the Pontifical Gregorian University on Monday with the aim of urging “pastoral innovations” at the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the Family in October.

Around 50 participants, including bishops, theologians and media representatives, took part in the gathering, at the invitation of the presidents of the bishops’ conferences of Germany, Switzerland and France — Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Bishop Markus Büchel and Archbishop Georges Pontier.

One of the key topics discussed at the closed-door meeting was how the Church could better welcome those in stable same-sex unions, and reportedly “no one” opposed such unions being recognized as valid by the Church.

Participants also spoke of the need to “develop” the Church’s teaching on human sexuality and called not for a theology of the body, as famously taught by St. John Paul II, but the development of a “theology of love.”

One Swiss priest discussed the “importance of the human sex drive,” while another participant, talking about holy Communion for remarried divorcees, asked: “How can we deny it, as though it were a punishment for the people who have failed and found a new partner with whom to start a new life?”

Marco Ansaldo, a reporter for the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica, who was present at the meeting, said the words seemed “revolutionary, uttered by clergymen.”

French biblicist and Ratzinger Prize-winner Anne-Marie Pelletier praised the dialogue that took place between theologians and bishops as a “real sign of the times.” Accordingto La Stampa, another Italian daily newspaper, Pelletier said the Church needs to enter into “a dynamic of mutual listening,” in which the magisterium continues to guide consciences, but she believes it can only effectively do so if it “echoes the words of the baptized.”

The meeting took the “risk of the new, in fidelity with Christ,” she claimed. The article also quoted a participant as saying the synod would be a “failure” if it simply continued to affirm what the Church has always taught.

The closed-door meeting, masterminded by the German bishops’ conference under the leadership of Cardinal Marx, was first proposed at the annual meeting of the heads of the three bishops’ conferences, held in January in Marseille, France.

The study day took place just days after the people of Ireland voted in a referendum in support of same-sex “marriage” and on the same day as the Ordinary Council of the Synod of Bishops met in Rome. Some observers did not see the timing as a coincidence.

The synod council has been drawing up the instrumentum laboris (working document) for the October synod on the family. Integrated into the document will be the responses of a questionnaire sent to laity around the world. Those responses, particularly from Switzerland and Germany, appeared to be overwhelmingly in favor of the Church adapting her teachings to the secular world.


Why the Lack of Publicity?

No one would say why the study day was held in confidence. So secret was the meeting that even prominent Jesuits at the Gregorian were completely unaware of it. The Register learned about it when Jean-Marie Guénois was the first to report the information in a story in Le Figaro.

Speaking to the Register as he left the meeting, Cardinal Marx insisted the study day wasn’t secret. But he became irritated when pressed about why it wasn’t advertised, saying he had simply come to Rome in a “private capacity” and that he had every right to do so. Close to Pope Francis and part of his nine-member council of cardinals, the cardinal is known to be especially eager to reform the Church’s approach to homosexuals. During his Pentecost homily last Sunday, Cardinal Marx called for a “welcoming culture” in the Church for homosexuals, saying it’s “not the differences that count, but what unites us.”

Cardinal Marx is also not alone, among those attending the meeting, in pushing for radical changes to the Church’s life. The head of the Swiss bishops, Bishop Büchel of St. Gallen, has spoken openly in favor of women’s ordination, saying in 2011 that the Church should “pray that the Holy Spirit enables us to read the signs of the times.” Archbishop Pontier, head of the French bishops, is also known to have heterodox leanings.

The meeting’s organizers were unwilling to disclose the names of everyone who took part, but the Register has obtained a full list of participants. They included Jesuit Father Hans Langendörfer, general secretary of the German bishops’ conference, who has been the leading figure behind the recent reform of German Church labor laws to controversially allow remarried divorcees and homosexual couples to work in Church institutions.


Father Schockenhoff

Among the specialists present was Father Eberhard Schockenhoff, a moral theologian. Faithful German Catholics are particularly disturbed about the rise to prominence of Father Schockenhoff, who is understood to be the “mastermind” behind much of the challenge to settled Church teachings among the German episcopate and, by implication, at the synod on the family itself.

Father Eberhard Schockenhof


A prominent critic of Humanae Vitae (The Regulation of Birth), as well as a strong supporter of homosexual clergy and those pushing for reform in the area of sexual ethics, Father Schockenhoff is known to be the leading adviser of the German bishops in the run-up to the synod.

In 2010, he gave an interview in which he praised the permanence and solidarity shown in some same-sex relationships as “ethically valuable.” He urged that any assessment of homosexual acts “must take a back seat” on the grounds that the faithful are becoming “increasingly distant from the Church’s sexual morality,” which appears “unrealistic and hostile to them.” The Pope and the bishops should “take this seriously and not dismiss it as laxity,” he said.

Father Schockenhoff has also gone on record saying that moral theology must be “liberated from the natural law” and that conscience should be based on the “life experience of the faithful.”

He has also insisted that the indissolubility of marriage is “not seriously called into question” by admitting remarried divorcees to holy Communion, writing a book to push his thesis in 2011 entitled “Opportunities for Reconciliation?: The Church and the Divorced and Remarried.”  He has further proposed that the term the “official Church” should be done away with because of a growing gap between the institutional Church and the Church of the faithful.

Also present were Marco Impagliazzo, president of the Sant’Egidio lay community; Jesuit Father Andreas Batlogg, professor of philosophy and theology and chief editor of the liberal periodical Stimmen der Zeit (Voices of the Time) — the journal has devoted its June issue to same-sex relationships and the synod — and Salesian Msgr. Markus Graulich, prelate auditor of the tribunal of the Roman Rota, one of very few Curial officials to attend. Some of those participating, such as Msgr. Graulich, took part in the previous synod.


Media Participation

Also noted were the large number of media representatives. Journalists from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, German broadcasters ZDF and ARD, the Italian daily La Repubblica and French-Catholic media La Croix and I-Media were also present. Their presence was “striking,” said one observer, who predicted they will be used to promote the agenda of the subject matter under discussion in the weeks leading up to the synod.

Monday’s meeting is just the latest attempt to subtly steer the upcoming synod in a direction opposed by many faithful Catholics. A statement on the study day released by the German bishops’ conference May 26 said there was a “reflection on biblical hermeneutics” — widely seen as code words for understanding the Bible differently from Tradition — and the need for a “reflection on a theology of love.”

Critics say this, too, is undermining Church teaching. By replacing the theology of the body with a “theology of love,” it creates an abstract interpretation that separates sex from procreation, thereby allowing forms of extramarital unions and same-sex attractions based simply on emotions rather than biological reality. Gone, say critics, is the Catholic view of marriage, which should be open to procreation.

The statement, which conspicuously failed to mention sin, ended by saying that “further discussion on the future of marriage and family is necessary and possible” and that it would be “enriched by a further, intensive theological reflection.”

This, too, is code for wanting a change in teaching, giving the impression that the doctrine in these areas is open to change. But for the Catholic Church, it is a settled issue.

“Imagine if the Church accepted homosexual relationships,” said one source speaking on condition of anonymity. “Ultimately, that is what these people want.”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

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