In a wide-ranging interview with a German publication, Pope Francis seemingly downplayed tensions when asked about American Cardinal Raymond Burke, telling the interviewer “I do not see Cardinal Burke as an enemy,” Crux reported.
The pope’s answer, however, was not as telling as the interviewer’s question itself. (After all, what is the pope supposed to say? That his critic is the worst?)
Some background: Burke had been seen as a subtle Francis detractor for years. That all changed last year when he and other cardinals made public a request to have the pope clarify himself on Amoris Laetitia — the document that sought to soften the Church’s stance on Communion for divorced Catholics. He then suggested if the Holy Father failed to respond, the bishops would take it upon themselves to issue a formal correction, which set off an ugly and very public battle in the Church hierarchy. The cardinal was also widely blamed for the messy Knights of Malta affair.
As the interviewer’s question about Burke — presented directly to Pope Francis — makes clear, the American cardinal is now globally recognized as the chief Francis critic among disgruntled conservatives in the upper ranks of the Catholic Church.
While there have been reports of tensions in the Vatican to some of Francis’s reforms throughout his papacy, no senior prelate has been as vocal — and perhaps unrelenting — as Burke.
With the Holy Father being asked about Burke, there’s no pretending that the Wisconsin native is not a significant player in this papacy as de facto opposition leader.
Pope Francis is open to considering letting married men enter the priesthood, according to excerpts of an interview with a German media outlet, Crux reported.
The pope seemed to have a strong comprehension of the global priest shortage, calling dwindling vocations numbers an “enormous problem” for the Catholic Church.
In the interview, the Holy Father seemed to rule out making priestly celibacy optional. Instead, the conversation centers around viri probati, or tested married men.
While the question put to Francis specifically referred to ordaining viri probati as deacons, many theologians and some bishops have also suggested they could be considered for priestly service.
The issue of married priests is certainly complicated. Contrary to popular belief, the Church does not have a blanket ban on married priests. There are more than 20 autonomous Eastern churches that allow priests to marry but are in full communion with the pope in Rome. Married Protestant ministers who enter the Catholic Church are also allowed to serve while married, Crux notes.
The news out of Rome last week that an Irish laywoman who had been a victim of abuse quit the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors generated a good deal of headlines in the Catholic press.
Over at Crux, editor John Allen argued that Marie Collins’s exit from the pope’s commission on sex abuse might have been a blessing in disguise:
The reality is that naming survivors as members puts them in an extremely awkward spot, trapped between their loyalties to the Vatican and to fellow survivors.
In an extraordinary editorial published by the site on b, Collins took Allen to task for analysis that she said was “patronizing.”
The article seems to imply that because I was sexually abused by a priest in childhood I am incapable of independent thought or action, that I must always be looking over my shoulder concerned how my words or actions might be seen by survivors outside the commission. It also stated that I was put in a “politically untenable spot.”
If Allen knew me and my record in working for child protection over twenty years, he would know I have always kept completely clear of “politics,” both Church and survivor politics. I have concerned myself solely with bringing better understanding of the effects of abuse on a victim’s life and better protection of the vulnerable.
Read more at Crux
Eight years ago, the University of Notre Dame drew massive backlash after bestowing an honorary degree on President Obama and inviting the new commander in chief to speak at graduation.
Conservative critics went nuts and charged that the Catholic university was wrong to honor a politician who supported abortion rights.
With President Trump drawing fanatic protests on the reg since he was sworn in, Notre Dame has carefully bypassed a controversy by inviting Vice President Pence to speak at graduation and to receive an honorary degree.
After Obama received the honor, there was no way the university could pass up some sort of hat-tip to the new administration without looking partisan. But Trump would have drawn widespread condemnation from many progressive Catholics — and the ceremony would have certainly been marred by protests.
Pence will probably still draw critics (doesn’t every political figure at graduation?), but it’s a choice that makes sense. He was the state’s governor before heading to Washington in January and was raised Catholic. Pence is also a staunch ally of the Church when it comes to abortion and even spoke at the March for Life this year.
Perhaps most importantly, the vice president is regarded by all sides as a statesman, ensuring that the backlash to a Trump administration graduation speaker will be kept to a minimum.
This is Notre Dame doing its best to keep it’s head down.
Cardinal Blase Cupich told Chicago priests this week that they should turn away federal immigration officers if they turn up at the parish without a warrant unless there’s imminent danger, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The directive comes at a time when President Trump’s immigration policies have generated fear of a coming crackdown on illegal immigration. Immigration advocates are bracing for increased deportations.
Church’s have been considered sensitive places and immigration officials had been directed not to arrest illegal immigrants there unless there is an imminent risk, the Tribune reported. But that policy could change, and churches are starting to take a closer look at their options.
Many Christian churches are getting involved in the sanctuary movement, where a congregation houses an illegal immigrant or family that is at risk of deportation and essentially dares federal officials to raid their church.
In some ways, the cardinal’s move sparks speculation that Catholic parishes and schools — at least in Chicago — could become a sanctuary for illegal immigrants in the same way. Cupich is considered an ally of Pope Francis, who has encouraged every parish in Europe to host a migrant family. So having Chicago parishes host immigrants wouldn’t be much of a stretch.
But there are other practical reasons for the directive. The Catholic Church has just spent years fighting the Obama administration over the issue of religious freedom. Regardless of which administration rules Washington, Church officials are likely unhappy with the prospect of the federal government stepping beyond this symbolic red line and raiding churches.
The Archdiocese of Mexico is out with a scathing editorial that blasts the country’s leaders for failing to take a stronger stand against President Trump’s immigration policies.
The editorial — which appeared in an archdiocese publication — said Trump’s order amounted to “not only the application of an inhuman legalism but a true act of terror,” Fox News reported.
— “Our undocumented brothers are afraid, their children suffer a real psychosis, while the Mexican authorities are not able to act, they only make statements and promises; their reactions are lukewarm, they also show fear, and worse, submission.”
— “We do not see firmness in the defense of our sovereignty; we do not see dignity in dealing with our northern neighbor; we do not see effective strategies to help our compatriots; we do not see ability or intelligence in those responsible for dealing with this humanitarian crisis.”
The editorial shows a remarkably different response from the Mexican Catholic Church compared to the U.S. Church. While both American and Mexican bishops are on the same side — firmly standing with migrants — bishops in the United States actually benefit from Trump’s support on other issues such as religious freedom, abortion and contraception.
So they are less inclined to use incendiary language, for practical reasons.
Ash Wednesday is here, and the debate continues over whether Catholics should post selfies to show off their ashes — or #AshTag — on Facebook and Snapchat.
In many ways, the AshTag selfie debate centers on New Evangelization — and how the Church can reach younger, digital savvy Catholics who have stopped going to church. In fact, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has encouraged the faithful in the past to take an AshTag selfie and tweet it.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of a Lenten season that is a natural time for many fallen-away Catholics to reconnect with their faith. Oddly enough, it remains one of the only days on the calendar where the Catholic tribe readily — and proudly — identifies itself in such a public way. And the idea is that younger Catholics could help encourage their siblings, friends and peers to start going to Mass again. After all, there’s strength in numbers. Posting a selfie is a simple way to Evangelize for Catholics who are uncomfortable with the idea.
To many Catholics, however, the act of posting an AshTag selfie seems to go directly against the Gospel message for the day:
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Take care not to perform righteous deeds
in order that people may see them;
otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.” …
“When you fast,
do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.
They neglect their appearance,
so that they may appear to others to be fasting.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.”
Adding a new dimension to this year’s debate, Pope Francis last week suggested that hypocritical Catholics might as well be atheists.
Pope Francis has quietly reduced sanctions against some pedophile priests, the Associated Press reported, in what appears to be an instance of the Holy Father practicing what he preaches when it comes to mercy.
But one priest who received clemency from the pontiff was later convicted by an Italian court for his sex crimes against children as young as 12, AP reported over the weekend.
A Vatican spokesman told AP that abusive priests are permanently removed from ministry, but not necessarily defrocked. In the case of the Italian priest, it appears that Pope Francis rejected the order that he be defrocked. Instead, the priest was barred from celebrating Mass publically and being around children, among other restrictions. He is now facing a second Church trial after new evidence emerged.
While most Catholics would likely want to see abusive priests permanently defrocked, many cannon lawyers argue that it’s better to keep them under the control of the Church where they can be supervised and kept away from children, as opposed to releasing them into the general public, AP reported.
But the latest report will surely raise questions about Francis’ handling of the priest sex abuse scandal. Perhaps this graph from AP is most telling:
Victim advocates have long questioned Francis’s commitment to continuing Benedict’s tough line, given he had no experience dealing with abusive priests or their victims in his native Argentina. While Francis counts Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley as his top adviser on abuse, he has also surrounded himself with cardinal advisers who botched handling abuse cases in their archdioceses.
Pope Francis has once again railed against those Catholics in name only who pretend to be holy but live a double life, suggesting that it’s better to be an atheist than a hypocrite.
During a homily at his residence, the pope improvised a bit.
From Vatican radio:
“But what is scandal? Scandal is saying one thing and doing another; it is a double life, a double life. A totally double life: ‘I am very Catholic, I always go to Mass, I belong to this association and that one; but my life is not Christian, I don’t pay my workers a just wage, I exploit people, I am dirty in my business, I launder money…’ A double life.
“And so many Christians are like this, and these people scandalize others.
“How many times have we heard – all of us, around the neighborhood and elsewhere – ‘but to be a Catholic like that, it’s better to be an atheist.’”
The Holy Father also turned heads in 2013 when he was widely interpreted to have said that atheists could gain access to heaven, though Church experts disagreed with that interpretation of his words, CNN noted.
“We must meet one another doing good,” the pope said. To those who say: ” ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ ” the pope said, “But do good: We will meet one another there.”
One of the pope’s more poignant moments during a 2015 visit to the United States came when he addressed the crowds from the Speakers Balcony on Capitol hill, extending an olive branch to non-believers when he asked the crowd to pray for him.
“And I ask you all please to pray for me. And if there are among you any who do not believe or cannot pray, I ask you to please send good wishes my way.”
Cardinal Joseph Zen is out with some more eyebrow-raising criticism of Pope Francis’ efforts to strike a deal with Beijing, telling an interviewer that the pontiff was being “really naive.”
“He doesn’t know the Chinese communists,” the former bishop of Hong Kong told LifeSiteNews. “But unfortunately the people around him are not good at all. They have very wrong ideas. And I’m afraid that they may sell out our underground Church. That would be very sad.”
Francis has made talks with the Chinese government a priority of his papacy, with the Vatican aiming to reach an agreement with Beijing over the appointment of bishops. Catholics, of course, believe the pope must approve such appointments, but Chinese authorities — who run the state-sanctioned Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association — prefer to control that themselves.
If a deal is struck and Rome begins to warm to the state-sanctioned church, there are real fears over what will happen to China’s underground Catholic community, which is estimated to number millions of followers. As the Catholic Herald points out, bishops who remain loyal to the Vatican and operate underground often face persecution and imprisonment.
In the past, Cardinal Zen has said that any such deal with Beijing would be “betraying Jesus Christ.” He has also said that “fake bishops” from the state-sanctioned version of Catholicism would destroy the Church.
Always the pragmatic, Pope Francis appears to believe that an agreement is the best way to move forward. But critics question what incentive the officially atheist government has for allowing an outside institution a stronger foothold in it’s tightly regulated society.