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Richard Sipe on the John Jay report

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A. W. Richard Sipe, a clinical mental health counselor who earlier spent 18 years as a Benedictine monk and priest, has been a long time critic of the way our church has handled the sex abuse scandal. His credentials for knowledge of the subject are solid. He has spend some 25 years studying the celibate/sexual behavior of the clergy population and is considered one of the leading experts in the field.

An ocassional contributor to NCR, I take his opinions seriously, as do many others who have followed this tragic story. So his views on the John Jay report, released yesterday, should be considered as significant. In an email I received from him, this is what he writes:

This is an important study because it outlines the geography of the Catholic Church’s problems with human sexuality as they impact its clergy. It shows how the church wants to be perceived: A preponderance of the data comes from church records.


  • It points to the areas about the priesthood that still need exploration.

Which letter would you send to the pope?

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About two weeks back, Phyllis Zagano, one of our NCRonline columnists, published a public letter to Pope Benedict XVI.

You may remember it. The headline read: Your Holiness, it is time for women deacons.

Zagano, who is a professor and a senior research associate-in-residence at Hofstra University, urged the pope to "make a decision" about whether women deacons will be allowed to serve the church.

Now, another professor has also written a public letter to the pope.

Daniel G. Van Slyke's headline? Your Holiness, It Is Time for a Theologian Who Is Not Clamoring for Women Deacons to Write an Open Letter to You.

Van Slyke, who is an associate professor at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, writes:

The State Department's socially conscious Catholic

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This week on Interfaith Voices, I discovered that a socially conscious Catholic is the State Department’s point person on Human Trafficking. He is Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca, who freely talks about his youth: sewing doves on burlap for peace marches and growing up with those 1970’s guitar masses.

He is fluent in Vatican II teaching, and passionate about ending contemporary slavery, usually called “human trafficking.” I was grateful that someone like him holds that office.

But the lead interview this week is also stellar. Joseph Grieboski of the Institute for Religion and Public Policy offers an incisive analysis of the repression of Christianity in China. Turns out, the government even edits the Bible to take out some of those pesky passages where the “meek will inherit the earth” and the mighty are tossed down from their thrones!

Grieboski linked religious repression to the Chinese business climate, which he believes can be affected adversely by a continuation of current policies. It’s the first time I’ve heard anyone tie those two realities together.

UK moves ahead on new nuclear weapons subs

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The government of the United Kingdom is moving forward with plans to build new nuclear weapons armed submarines, the BBC reports today.

Approximately $4.8 million has already been appropriated for the program, and, if plans don't change in the interim, the country should have its first new nuclear armed vessel in 2028, said UK Defense Secretary Liam Fox.

The decision to move forward with the burgeoning of the UK's nuclear deterrent comes almost exactly one month after Edinburgh, Scotland Cardinal Keith O'Brien, head of the Scottish bishops' conference, called the country's nuclear weapons program "shameful."

Speaking during a 200-strong protest outside Faslane Naval Base, which is about 25 miles west of the city of Glasgow and is where the UK's trident submarines are based, O'Brien said April 16 that "it is not courageous of Britain to have these dreadful weapons of mass destruction. It is shameful to have them."

Getting Rich Doing Good

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In TIME Magazine's May 23, 2011, issue, there's an interesting story about a new investment vehicle called "social impact bonds."

According to TIME:

"Social-impact bond (SIB), a new investment product created by Social Finance, a London private-equity firm that backs social entrepreneurs. Funded by private investors (including charities), SIBs -- which are also gaining traction among U.S. investors and policymakers -- aim to finance long-term preventive programs run by nonprofit groups to tackle tough social issues that cost taxpayers money. But investors can also gain a financial return. How? Governments pay for a program's success. If an SIB-funded program mitigates a problem by meeting measurable targets, that saves the government money, and a portion of the savings is used to repay the bondholders with interest. But the bonds are not government backed: if the social project fails to meet its targets, investors are out of pocket, and the government doesn't pay a penny."

Exclusion from the Church

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Below is a press release from the University of Dayton.

Note that NCR columnist Phyllis Zagano will be featured on a panel Friday, May 20 at 7:30 p.m. The session is titled "Women, Ministry, and Exclusion." The event will also mark the launch of her new book Women & Catholicism (Palgrave-Macmillan)

Here's a link to the conference: "Ecclesiology and Exclusion"

Religious scholars from around the world will come to the University May 18-22 to explore issues of exclusion in Christian faith traditions.

Ecclesiology and Exclusion Conference

May 13, 2011 - Three discussions of often-debated topics in Christian faith traditions — migration, the role of women and racial justice — will be open to the public as part of an international conference at the University of Dayton May 18-22.

Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University doubly honored

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The Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University and faculty member Jesuit Father Eduardo Fernandez will be honored by the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians (ACHTUS).

One award, the ACHTUS award, goes to an organization or institution singled out for contributions to theology in keeping with the mission of the academy; the other, the Virgilio Elizondro award, named after Notre Dame professor of pastoral and Hispanic theology and Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara board member, is given to a person singled out “for distinguished achievement in theology, in keeping with the mission of the academy.

The awards will be given out at the ACHTUS’s annual colloquium next month in San Jose, CA.

Child Abuse as A Sign of the Times

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The Sixties did it.

The John Jay College report on child sexual abuse by priests nails it. Don't put the chief blame on the church -- nothing wrong with its teachings on sexuality or celibacy.

It's the demon Sixties with its ravenous demand for freedom. Blacks, women, college students, war protesters cut loose against the old restraints. Vatican II chimed in, wittingly or not, or borrowed from it, espousing such things as letting fresh breezes blow through the church and encouraging a participatory, more democratic Catholicism.

To many church authorities, the "revolution" that mattered most was about sex. Cramped minds imagined orgies and impulsive free love that assaulted church teachings.

"Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests 1950-2010" plies the looking glass at the huge scandal that has erupted and identified that old conservative whipping boy as a major culprit.

Initial thoughts on the new sex abuse report

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I am just absorbing the news articles outlining the results of the long-awaited study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice regarding the causes and contexts of clergy sexual abuse. Both David Gibson of Religion News Service and Laurie Goodstein of The New York Times have detailed pieces on the study, which will be released today.

My first thought is how incredibly valuable this study will be to help us understand what caused the scourge of clergy sexual abuse, both in understanding what creates an abusive priest and what kind of culture protects him.

The RNS piece states: “The ‘situational’ nature of the abuse by clergy is comparable to that of police officers who brutalize people, the authors write. The stress of the work, the perils of isolation and a lack of oversight are factors that contribute to ‘deviant behavior.’”

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