Pope Benedict Appoints Apostolic Inspectors for the Church in Ireland

The visit is part of an investigation aimed at restoring and renewing the quality of Catholic life in Ireland.

An Apostolic Visitation, which was first signaled by Pope Benedict in a pastoral letter to the Catholics of Ireland in March,

will now take place during the Autumn of 2010.


The panel of nine “Apostolic Visitors” includes four archbishops of Irish descent, namely Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, retired Archbishop of Westminster;  Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston;  Archbishop Timothy Michael Dolan, Archbishop of New York; Archbishop Thomas Christopher Collins,  Archbishop of Toronto; and Archbishop Terrence Thoimas Prendergast SJ, Archbishop of Ottawa.

The Visitation will begin in the four Metropolitan Archdioceses of Ireland (Armagh, Dublin, Cashel and Emly, and Tuam) and will then be extended to some other dioceses.

In its desire to promote the process of renewal of houses of formation for the future priests of the Church in Ireland, the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education will coordinate the visitation of all Irish seminaries, including the Pontifical Irish College in Rome.

The Vatican-appointed examiner for the Irish seminaries is New York’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan, former rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome. Dolan has often bragged that when rector at NAC he rescued the place from the last vestiges of 1970s liberal theology.

Last week, in a lecture at St. Patrick’s College in Maynooth, Ireland, Archbishop Dolan gave a hint of his approach during the autumn visitation/examinations. On the matter of Church teaching he strongly proclaimed in his own very special rhetorical style: “To those who claim the problem is that, as a matter of fact, Church teaching is too holy, too aloof, too distant, too out of touch, I say the problem is hardly Church teaching but lack of fidelity to it.” 

Pope Benedict is particularly fond of Archbishop Dolan’s “Let’s get back to the basics” approach,  because he is convinced that Dolan (future cardinal archbishop of New York)  embodies exactly the type of dynamic orthodoxy that will help revive the Church in the United States.

Others would argue that Dolan, like Benedict, is caught in a 1950s time warp and their episcopal limousines only go in reverse.

What do the Apostolic Visitors hope to accomplish?

We can now piece together some highlights from various announcements and news reports:

(1)   Pope Benedict XVI wants his men to clamp down on liberal secular opinion in Ireland and launch an intensive drive to re-impose traditional respect for the Irish clergy. (Frankly I never thought one could impose respect for another. People – and clergy are people – either earn respect by their words and deeds or they don’t. )

(2)   The nine-member team led by two cardinals will be instructed by the Vatican to restore a traditional sense of reverence among ordinary Catholics for their priests. (See my note above.)

(3)   Irish priests will be told not to question in public the official teaching of the church about birth control and recognizing divorced Catholics, living with new partners, and welcoming them to Eucharist.

(4)   Irish theologians will be ordered to teach “traditional doctrine.” No doubt Apostolic Visitor Dolan will help to vigorously implement this policy.

(5)   Irish lay people will be strongly encouraged to attend Sunday Eucharist faithfully and  go to private confession regularly.

(6)   A major thrust of the Vatican investigation will be to counteract “materialistic and secularist attitudes,” which Pope Benedict believes have led many Irish Catholics to ignore church discipline and become lax in following devotional practices such as going on pilgrimages and doing penance.

 So there we have it. And it all makes good Vatican sense.

When all is said and (somewhat) done, pedophilia in Ireland is really the fault of Irish Catholics who have become too materialistic, too secular, too lax, and too disobedient to Holy Mother the Church.

When the going gets tough, the Church gets tough…

The Agenda for American Catholics

Catholic and American

The Work We Need to Do

A few months ago I had lunch with a  couple bishop friends. We chatted and laughed about all sorts of things — well we are old friends — but then  the discussion turned serious. I told my friends that they and their colleagues in the US episcopacy have just about no credibility. That went over hard. We then had a brief discussion about the “important issues” confronting the Catholic Church in the United States. My bishop friends stressed what they saw as the big three. Anyone care to guess?

Yup………. abortion/euthanasia, birth control and same-sex marriage.

I then presented my list. And they looked at me bug-eyed. One friend chuckled and said, “My goodness! You and I sure live in DIFFERENT worlds!” I replied: “It’s the same world. I guess we just wear different glasses….”

In any event, I think this is the work we have to do, if we will have any Catholic credibility in our American society:

As Catholics — lay and ordained, men and women, gay and straight, young and old — we need to explore together how we can resolve major problems connected with:

  • Loss of credibility and loss of confidence in our bishops
  • Rescuing the American Catholic Church fromVatican domination
  • The role and ministry of women in the church
  • Institutional fundamentalism and cultism rooted in control, fear, and anti-intellectualism
  • Homosexuality
  • Divorce and re-marriage and active sacramental life in the church
  • Clerical celibacy
  • Declining numbers of priests
  • Major financial problems which impact all church life
  • Ministerial burnout
  • Catechetics and religious education with increased Catholic illiteracy
  • Spin-off from Pedophilia among priests and religious
  • Uncritical American Catholic citizenship






It’s Time to Relativize the Papacy

High on the list of reforms for the contemporary Roman Catholic Church must be a theologically-based reform of the Roman papacy.

Basic Principles for Papal Reform


1. The historic Jesus did not establish the papacy. When imperial Roma collapsed, the imperial papacy took its place.

2. The imperial papacy has flourished because an exaggerated self-serving and self-propagating authoritarianism replaced servant ministry as the key  institutional virtue.

3. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have consistently pushed and maneuvered to reinforce the imperial papacy:

      a. The anti-communist Polish Pope replaced communist authoritarianism with authoritarian Catholicism and appointed Joseph Ratzinger to enforce  the  party line.

      b. The post-Nazi German Pope abolished Vatican II collegiality with Rome-centerd (Pio Nono) nineteenth century papal imperialism.

4. Bishops should not be held accountable to the Pope. They should be held accountable to their people.

Now we need to get the word out and launch the reform.




U.S. Military Archbishop tells Congress: DO NOT repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy


Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services (right in photo below)  has urged Congress not to repeal the policy banning gays from openly serving in the military.



In the June 1 statement, the archbishop reiterated church teaching on homosexuality as defined by the Catechism of the Catholic Church. According to the catechism, “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” but homosexuals must be “accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” 

He said a repeal of the law — which prohibits homosexual activity in the military but eliminates sexual orientation as grounds for dismissal — might have “a negative effect on the role of the chaplain not only in the pulpit, but also in the classroom, in the barracks and in the office.” 

The archbishop, noting that gays already serve in the military, questioned if the repeal would “authorize these individuals to engage in activities considered immoral not only by the Catholic Church, but also by many other religious groups” and if it would cause changes in living conditions. 

The archbishop likened the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy with the ways that alcoholics have benefited from Alcoholics Anonymous. “Like homosexuality, there is rarely a cure,” he said. “There is a control through a process, which is guarded by absolute secrecy.”

 The same old episcopal rhetoric…….

Reader Reactions about Straight/Gay Catholic Schizophrenia

Reactions to yesterday’s post have been strong and abundant. Most readers resonate with my concerns about the straight/gay schizophrenia in the Church of Rome. A couple readers in private emails accused me of nasty anti-Catholicism and “disrespect for the successors of the Apostles.”

First of all I am really not anti-Catholic. The church has been my nourishment for nearly seven decades. I greatly value the Catholic tradition because it is so wonderfully incarnational and sacramental.

The Catholic tradition says we experience and commune with the Divine in, with, and through our bodies. All the more reason why we should have a healthy and happy sense of our own sexuality: at all levels in the church.

Am I disrespectful? Can’t imagine why. Healthy criticism is well….healthy and necessary. Jesus was particularly good at it as well. When Peter the Rock (whom many consider the very first Pope!) was particularly troublesome for Jesus, he had no problem calling him “Satan” and told him to get out of the way. I certainly would not call the hierarchy “Satan” but would like to tell some of them where to go.

Official Roman Catholic leadership needs to get with it. I don’t mind helping them.

Now again my main criticism: Our Catholic leadership suffers from a severe case of arrested sexual development. They wrap themselves in purple and crimson late medieval ball gowns and make pronouncements about sex, sexuality, and gender that are ignorant and dangerous.  

The Church of Jesus Christ deserves something much better!

John Greenleaf

PS We are ALL successors of the Apostles!


The Great Catholic (Self) Deception: Publicly Straight + Privately Gay

Rome demands straight behavior and gay bishops, priests, and seminarians retreat into queer schizophrenia.


“I am suggesting that the reality of bishops’  sexual orientation/behavior and the need to hide it is a significant element in clerical culture and structure that keeps us from facing basic facts about how that culture operates and affects millions of people”. — Richard Sipe

Vatican regulations:

The push is on once again to purge gays from Roman Catholic seminaries. In 2005, the Vatican issued guidelines that would strictly limit the admission of gay men to Catholic seminaries. The guidelines, which supported existing rules that had been widely ignored, were clear and direct. Men who actively “practice homosexuality” should be barred from priestly formation. Seminary rectors were ordered to reject candidates who “show profoundly deep-rooted homosexual tendencies or support the so-called gay culture.”

The Vatican followed up in 2008 with a clarification. “It is not enough to be sure that he is capable of abstaining from genital activity,” ruled the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education, which issued the initial guidelines. “It is also necessary to evaluate his sexual orientation.”  

The hierarchical church just doesn’t’ like gays.

In January, the Catholic bishops of Uganda argued against the death penalty for homosexuals but reminded their people that “Homosexuals have the need of conversion and repentance, “ because “homosexual acts are immoral and are violations of divine and natural law.”

In February,  Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, reiterated a condemnation of  “New Ways Ministry” with its a gay-positive advocacy for lesbian and gay Catholics.

In April, during his visit to Chile,  Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, conflated pedophilia with homosexuality.

In May, in Fatima, Pope Benedict stressed that gay marriage is one of the most “insidious and dangerous” threats facing the world today.

The Pope’s Christmas address to the Roman Curia two years ago was even clearer: “saving humanity from homosexuality,” the Pope told the church’s central governing body, was just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.  

Today, US Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska, continues to reiterate that “homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity… intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life…. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

Nevertheless, the Catholic reality is increasingly gay.

As Fr. Donald Cozzens has often observed, and several studies have confirmed, about 50% of today’s priests and seminarians are gay. Most recent studies suggest in fact that today’s seminaries, and seminary rectors, are probably closer to 80% gay.


In some seminaries in fact, I hear, straight students feel so estranged from seminary life that administrators are offering discussion groups to help them understand gay culture.

If current trends continue, the priesthood of the twenty-first century will likely be perceived as a predominately gay profession.

Gay bishops?

If 50% of Catholic priests are gay, I suspect that more than a couple bishops are gay. Bishops of course try to carefully cover their tracks, especially if they want to advance in the hierarchy. Some, on occasion however, are rather reckless.

A couple years ago when on vacation in Europe I ran into a prominent, incognito-traveling, American archbishop who was having a grand time in Paris with his “nephew.” He nearly had cardiac arrest one morning at the hotel breakfast buffet when I greeted him with a loud “Good Morning Archbishop!”

Then there is the strange case of the homophobic US bishop who was appointed as a “apostolic visitor” to look for signs of homosexuality in US seminaries, when they were all scrutinized in 2005. One of my friends was rector of an examined seminary. A week before the examiner bishop arrived to do his scrutiny, the rector got a phone call from his own bishop. “Be careful,” he told the rector. “Keep all young seminarians away from the apostolic visitor because he is fond of young men and well known for his hands-on-approach.”

To be or not to be?

Being gay is not the issue. Being honest is.

Church leadership has much to learn about human sexuality.

 First of all, however, church leadership has to learn what it means to be honest.

Is Obama the Moses America Needs or Wants?


Like the historic Moses, Barack Obama is a champion of freedom. Now some fear that, like the Hebrew Moses, Obama may be as well a prophet of disappointment. After leading the Israelites for 40 years, Moses was denied entry to the Promised Land. The story of the current American Moses is still being played out.

From the Pilgrims to the Founding Fathers, from the American Civil War to the civil rights movement, Americans have turned to Moses figures in periods of crisis because the Moses narrative offers a road map for hope in troubled times.

The Moses image was so pervasive in the early American colonies that, on July 4, 1776, after signing the Declaration of Independence, the American Colonial Congress asked Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams to propose a seal for the United States. Their recommendation was a seal showing Moses, leading the Israelites through the Red Sea as the water overwhelms the pharaoh. In their eyes, Moses was America’s true Founding Father.

Hollywood film producer Cecil B. DeMille turned Moses into a symbol of American power during the Cold War. The 1956 epic The Ten Commandments opened with DeMille appearing onscreen. “The theme of this picture is whether men ought to be ruled by God’s law or whether they are to be ruled by the whims of a dictator,” he said. “The same battle continues throughout the world today.” To drive home his point, DeMille cast mostly Americans as Israelites and Europeans as Egyptians! And in the film’s final shot, Charlton Heston adopts the pose of the Statue of Liberty and quotes the line from the third book of Moses — Leviticus — inscribed on the Liberty Bell: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”

Barack Obama is the first U.S. President to hold a Passover Seder in the White House. This is no accident: the story of Moses is, above all, a narrative of hope.

Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt: former U.S. presidential Moses figures. And Now Barack Obama. But President Obama needs to pay close attention to the entire Moses story……The Bible outlines at least a dozen rebellions in which his people attempted to overthrow Moses.

Moses learned that the strongest leaders face the harshest criticism; but they hold fast against their opponents. This may be Obama’s biggest challenge.