NCR Today

'Let's not let anyone think we're soft'


Someone must've been afraid of making Catholics happy. It's the only explanation that makes sense.

I imagine a meeting deep inside the Vatican, far beyond the reach of tourists and their modern world. A dozen aged bureaucrats of the Curia gather around an ornate oak table, lit by candles placed in wrought-iron fixtures overhead.

They are, just one more time, reviewing the new rules for disciplining priests who have sexually abused minors. It's not perfect, they all realize, but it is good. At this moment in time, it's the best they can do -- given the internal politics and the inbred resistance to any change.

They are pleased they have called pedophilia a "grave crime," and have added it to a list that includes heresy and schism. One functionary rolls his eyes at that last bit: schism. Some cardinal from Avignon, he recalls, always shoves that in every Church document he can -- still trying to prove local loyalty all these centuries later. No matter. Whatever. Everyone in the room is satisfied.

International Catholic ogranizations speak out against new Vatican women's ordination edict


The Vatican July 15 issued a clarification of its canonical norms for how dioceses should handle clergy sex abuse cases. As part of the announced canon norm chages, Vatican officials added that the "attempted ordination of a woman" has now been added to the list of "delicta graviora," or most serious crimes in church law, alongside the sexual abuse of minors.

Today, 27 international Catholic organizations issued the following joint statement in response:

We, the undersigned, express our solidarity with Catholics who continue to seek equality, including those who practice feminist ministries and those who are ordained. We know these women and men to be firm in their faith and courageous in their work as they seek an inclusive and accountable church, undeterred by threats of excommunication or other canonical penalties. In addition, we stand with our brother priests and bishops who are also being threatened by this new policy for their support of women's equality in the church. Furthermore, we take great offense that good faith struggles for gender equality could be misunderstood as a sacrilege and placed on par with the sexual abuse of children. In 1976, the Vatican's own Pontifical Biblical Commission concluded there is no valid scriptural reason for denying ordination to women. Therefore, we welcome such efforts to expand the scope and variety of ministry and we celebrate women's faithfulness despite huge institutional obstacles.

More on Australia: Catholics in cyberspace


After requesting information on whether there was much coverage in Australia of the lively meeting of that country's National Conference of Priests, I received a note from Desmond Farmer with the following:
Just to let you know that there is a lot of interest here in Australia and on the website below (of which you are probably aware) there is a discussion thread entitled 'Our priests at work'

Here is the latest conference report:

The Catholica site is an especially interesting venture, an example of a Catholic community organized in cyberspace but that also occupies real space and time. It's members get together in homes for discussion and socializing. Brian Coyne is the driving force behind the effort. Read the "About Us" section.

Steps for immigration reform cannot be delayed


President Obama very recently gave a major address on the need for comprehensive immigration reform at American University. While he reiterated his personal commitment to such reform especially in light of the events in Arizona where SB 1070 that makes illegal immigration a state crime and provides permission for local police to do immigration inquires has forced the issue of undocumented immigration back into the political limelight.

'Virtual preaching' transforms Sunday sermons


Protestant pastors always seem to be ahead of Catholics when it comes to the use of technology. Here's another example.

Pastor Ed Young Sr., is part of a new generation of pastors who can be in two places at one time. They are using technology -- high-def videos, and even holograms -- to beam their Sunday morning sermons to remote "satellite" churches that belong to their congregation.

High-def sermons: good theology and good business?

Rise and fall of Mel Gibson


The still-unfolding tale of Mel Gibson’s fall from Hollywood grace is a modern spin on an old story-telling archetype: the hero, puffed up by hubris, is felled by the very thing that brought him greatness in the first place.

Before “Passion of the Christ,” Gibson was just another Hollywood genius, starring in and then directing box-office blockbusters. His characters – from “Mad Max” through “Lethal Weapon” and “Braveheart” – always danced on the edge of madness, only to pull themselves in at the last possible moment.

No mincing of words when Australia's priests meet


I have no idea what is meant by the blogger's final line: "You wouldn't be dead for quids," but I certainly understood a great deal that went before in this report from a meeting of Australia's National Council of Priests. The priests are rather unrestrained in their calls for reform and in their critique of the church's handling of any number of issues.
One of the speakers was Fr. Donald Cozzens, writer in residence at John Carroll University in Cleveland, who's written extensively on the clerical culture and its problems.
There's an earlier entry about the conference and more on Cozzens' presentation here.

Wis. priest pleads in embezzlement case


"A Catholic priest accused of embezzling about $200,000 from two Crawford County parishes and the Diocese of La Crosse entered an Alford plea to reduced charges Wednesday.

The Rev. Robert Chukwu, 59, made the plea in Crawford County Circuit Court to three counts of misdemeanor theft and entered an 18-month deferred prosecution agreement, said Jim Birnbaum, attorney for the La Crosse Diocese. The plea means Chukwu admits no wrongdoing but concedes a jury likely would have found him guilty."

Grafting Thin Skin on Thick Skin


The Vatican's document lumping child sex abuse with the ordination of women as "grave crimes" strikes me as preposterous on its face and I understand the outrage it's triggered.

On the other hand, I can imagine how it makes gut-level sense to the command post in Rome. Both of these activities pose enormous threats to the church's efforts to preserve its corporate identity.

We've already seen how devastating the sex abuse scandals has been on the church, and it's not over by a long shot. The new "norms" won't end that. The thick-skinned forces absorb the hits and march on without major adjustments.

But the ordination of women reveal the thin-skinned side and constitutes a backhanded compliment. The pope's entourage is entirely justified in viewing this movement as a threat of even bigger proportions in the long run. Women in the priesthood could cause untold havoc with the established order.


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In This Issue

February 24-March 9, 2017