Joan Chittister writing in NCR (24 April 2013):

“The BBC just called, an incident that in itself may well be a measure of the larger import of the situation. It’s a strange moment in history: Suddenly everyone in the world, it seems, wants to know what is happening to the nuns and what they can do next. “Next,” of course, means what they can do now that the Vatican is back to questioning both their intelligence and their faith.

“In fact, what self-respecting journalist could possibly skip the story? After thousands of years of life-giving service to the church at poverty level — building its schools, its orphanages, its hospitals, its missionary outposts, its soup kitchens, its homes for the indigent, its catechetical centers — the nuns are told the problem with their work is that it has been “tainted by radical feminism”? And that by a group of men whose chance of knowing what the term “radical feminism” even means is obviously close to zero.

“So what is going on? Especially at what seems to be a moment of the great change in the church of the autocrats and monarchs to the church of the Jesus who walked among the people and loved them?

“Well, for one thing, what’s going on is the same thing that’s been going on for more than 1,500 years: Nuns everywhere are working with the people, hearing their stories, attempting to meet their needs, having a presence in their lives, simply intent on being the caring face of a merciful church — their ministers in the midst of confusion. Not their dogmatizers, not their judges, only witnesses to the Gospel of unconditional love.

“At another level, what is going on now is a mysterious work in progress. This so-called “evaluation” of the life of women religious and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in the United States is a process begun long before this papacy and so, perhaps, difficult to stop midstream.”

I remember what Gloria Steinem said some years ago: “This is no simple reform. It really is a revolution. Sex and race because they are easy and visible differences have been the primary ways of organizing human beings into superior and inferior groups and into the cheap labour in which this system still depends. We are talking about a society in which there will be no roles other than those chosen or those earned. We are really talking about humanism.”

And so we move forward. Regardless what some church authorities say, there really is no turning back. And no need to turn back………and I am convinced that the Holy Spirit leads the movement. Obviously because SHE knows better.

Civil Discourse in an Era of Catholic Polarization

In our Catholic tradition, there has long been a variety of theologies. From the earliest years of the church in fact, we had a Petrine theology, a Pauline theology, and the four theologies of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Occasionally, however, polarization sets in. Civil discourse breaks down, Christian charity disappears, and church people seem better at fighting each other than celebrating and living their common bonds of faith, hope, and charity.

That is where we are today. LCWR’s difficulties with Rome make an excellent case study. Another good case study is the way many a high placed American ecclesiastic demonizes Barack Obama and his policies. History will judge whether Obama is or was a good president. But it is cruel and immoral to demonize him and either his supporters or his opponents.

The same goes for the Pope. Another excellent contemporary case study. He is not my favorite Pope. I find his theology narrow-focused and archaic in a disturbingly unhealthy way. Nevertheless he has a a right to hold and express his theology. Others in the church have an equal right (responsibility) to hold and express a different and more contemporary theology. Disagreement with papal theology does not make one a Catholic heretic.

Nevertheless: Polarization in today’s church is an ecclesiastical infirmity of major proportions. People hide behind their favorite stereotypes and arrogantly condemn and assail their enemies. Like medieval knights fighting dragons. In the process they demean the other. In the process they demean themselves.

Such heated exchanges are painful for the actors. They are painful for the observers as well. I still remember an exchange, that got out of hand, between my friend, Joe, a somewhat rigid and very macho Catholic businessman and my friend, Ellen, a rather assertive sociology instructor who belonged to a community of progressive women religious. Both were participants in a seminar I had organized on “women in the church today.” It started out fine. There were keen observations, expressions of concern, and occasional laughter.

It became tense when someone in the group asked why women could not be Catholic priests. Joe, well-known and influential in the diocese, bristled and said the Lord did not want women to be priests. Ellen bristled and said she was certain the Lord did want women priests and had called her to ordained ministry. The fight was on.

At one point red-faced Joe yelled at Ellen: “why don’t you just jump on your broom and fly back to your feminist convent?” She locked her jaw and hissed: “well isn’t this nice….just what we need… another arrogant, narrow-minded talking penis!” I stood up and as calmly as I could (well I do have Quaker roots) announced it was time for a coffee break and took the two “friends” for a long walk in the backyard…..

Most of us do have strong viewpoints. When our buttons get pushed, it is not always easy to come up with something other than a polarizing response.

Nevertheless, as I scan the contemporary church scene, it is obvious we are well beyond the eleventh hour in the Catholic Church. Red danger lights are flashing. We have to move beyond the liberal/conservative — preVatican II/postVatican II — pro-life/pro-choice –feminist/sexist polarizations that demean and destroy all of us.

We need to develop the habit and the skills for critical and respectful dialogue.

I have been following the work of a young American theologian who, I believe, understands exactly what we need: Charles C. Camosy, assistant professor of Christian ethics at Fordham University in New York City and author of an insightful book about polarization: Peter Singer and Christian Ethics: Beyond Polarization.

Charles proposes five practices for moving beyond the polarization which currently dominates so much of contemporary church (and contemporary political) discourse:

(1) Humility. We are finite, flawed beings and are prone to making serious mistakes. We need to enter into discussions and arguments with this at the very front of our minds — not only in being comfortable with someone challenging our point of view, but also reserving the right to change our mind when our argument is shown to be problematic.

(2) Solidarity with our conversation partner. This involves active listening, presuming that one has something to learn, and (if possible) getting to know the other personally beyond an abstraction. Never reduce the other to what you suspect are “secret personal motivations.” Instead, give your partner the courtesy of carefully responding to the actual idea or argument that he or she is offering for your consideration.

(3) Avoiding binary thinking. The issues that are seriously debated in our public sphere are almost always too complex to fit into simplistic categories like liberal/conservative, religious/secular, open/close-minded, pro-life/pro-choice, etc. Furthermore, it sets up a framework in which taking one side automatically defines one against “the other side” — thus further limiting serious and open engagement.

(4) Avoiding fence-building and dismissive words and phrases. It might feel good to score these rhetorical points, but doing so is one of the major contributors to our polarized discourse. Let us simply stop using words and phrases like: radical feminist, war on women, neocon, limousine liberal, prude, heretic, tree-hugger, anti-science, anti-life, and so on. Instead, use language that engages and draws the other into a fruitful engage of ideas.

(5) Leading with what you are for. Not only is this the best way to make a convincing case for the view you currently hold, but this practice often reveals that we are actually after very similar things and simply need to be able to talk in an open and coherent way about the best plan for getting there.

Charles C. Camosy can be reached at camosy@fordham.edu.


Frightening Climate Change

Pondering the US heatwave 2012, a good friend in Michigan just sent me a frightening article about climate change, written by Mark Bittman, an opinion columnist for the New York Times.

“The climate has changed,” Bittman writes, “and the only remaining questions may well be: a) how bad will things get, and b) how long will it be before we wake up to it.”

While thinking about people “waking up to how bad things really are,” another email popped on my screen. This one about Sister Pat Farrell, President of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the Vice President of the Sisters of St. Francis in Dubuque, Iowa. Sister Pat had been interviewed by Terry Gross on her NPR program “Fresh Air.”

A few months ago, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as you recall, said Sister Pat’s LCWR was undermining Roman Catholic teachings on homosexuality and birth control and promoting “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.” It also reprimanded the sisters for hosting speakers who “often contradict or ignore” church teachings and for making public statements that “disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.”

In April, the Vatican announced that three American bishops (one archbishop and two bishops) would be sent to oversee the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (now representing 80 percent of Catholic sisters in the United States) to get the sisters to shape up and conform. Or else…

Climate change in the Catholic Church. How bad will things have to get before people wake up?

Sister Pat: “The question is, ‘Can you be Catholic and have a questioning mind?’ That’s what we’re asking. … I think one of our deepest hopes is that in the way we manage the balancing beam in the position we’re in, if we can make any headways in helping to create a safe and respectful environment where church leaders along with rank-and-file members can raise questions openly and search for truth freely, with very complex and swiftly changing issues in our day, that would be our hope. But the climate is not there. And this mandate coming from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith putting us in a position of being under the control of certain bishops, that is not a dialogue. If anything, it appears to be shutting down dialogue.”

Doing my own version of multi-tasking, I jumped back to Mark Bittman’s article while listening to Sister Pat.

Mark Bittman: “Some people respond well to ‘Big trouble is coming and we must do something immediately,’ but others are overwhelmed and just turn off….But feelings of helplessness are practically un-American: we have the opportunity to demand principled and independent leadership, if we will only try.”

Then I heard Sister Pat ever more clearly…

“As I read that document, the concern is the issues we tend to be more silent about, when the bishops are speaking out very clearly about some things. There are issues about which we think there’s a need for a genuine dialogue, and there doesn’t seem to be a climate of that in the church right now.”

And she continues, with observations about sexuality: “We have been, in good faith, raising concerns about some of the church’s teachings on sexuality. The problem being that the teaching and interpretation of the faith can’t remain static and really needs to be reformulated, rethought in light of the world we live in.

“And new questions and new realities [need to be addressed] as they arise. And if those issues become points of conflict, it’s because Women Religious stand in very close proximity to people at the margins, to people with very painful, difficult situations in their lives. That is our gift to the church. Our gift to the church is to be with those who have been made poorer, with those on the margins. Questions there are much less black and white because human realities are much less black and white. That’s where we spend our days.”

“A bishop, for instance, can’t be on the street working with the homeless. He has other tasks. But we can be. So if there is a climate of open and trusting and adequate dialogue among us, we can bring together some of those conversations, and that’s what I hope we can help develop in a deeper way.”

Catholic Climate change and heated issues?

Sister Pat on right-to-life: “I think the criticism of what we’re not talking about seems to me to be unfair. Because [Women] Religious have clearly given our lives to supporting life, to supporting the dignity of human persons. Our works are very much pro-life. We would question, however, any policy that is more pro-fetus than actually pro-life. If the rights of the unborn trump all of the rights of all of those who are already born, that is a distortion, too — if there’s such an emphasis on that. However, we have sisters who work in right-to-life issues. We also have many, many ministries that support life….

And the Vatican concern about LCWR’s “radical feminism”?

Sister Pat Farrell again: “Sincerely, what I hear in the phrasing … is fear — a fear of women’s positions in the church. Now, that’s just my interpretation. I have no idea what was in the mind of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, when they wrote that.

“But women theologians around the world have been seriously looking at the question of: How have the church’s interpretations of how we talk about God, interpret Scripture, organize life in the church — how have they been tainted by a culture that minimizes the value and the place of women?”

In his article, Mark Bittman warns: “We may look back upon this year as the one in which climate change began to wreak serious havoc, yet we hear almost no conversation about changing policy or behavior.”

John Greenleaf commented: “All serious conversation — and action — about changing
policy and behavior begins with you and me!”


And here is a picture of Sister Pat, whom the CDF so greatly fears……..


Struggling to Stay Catholic

Up to now I have decided to stay. It is an important part of my identity.

I do understand the concerns and frustrations. Nearly everyone in my close family has now left the Catholic Church. The American Catholic exodus is gathering momentum. Dioceses are closing parishes across the country.

“A necessary purification,” one of my US archbishop friends told me. “You just DON’T understand,” I replied…….

John Chuchman caught my attention a few days ago. I suspect many resonate with him.

Turning Point

I have struggled so long
not wanting to be possessed
by my anger
with what the corrupt hierarchs have been doing
to my Church.

Though I have come to realize
that the church of the hierarchs
is not my Church,
and that WE as The Body of Christ are Church,
institutional church
was too much of my past
for me
just to leave quietly.

Well, God knows,
as do many hundreds of others,
that I have not expressed my grief and my anger

But it dawned on me last night,
that if I died this moment,
too many people would recall me
only as rabble-rouser,
not really my most important gift.

Those who do know me well
know I am a man in and of Love,
know that I believe God is Love,
know that I trust that
when we live in Love, We live in God,
and God is us.
That is how I wish to be remembered.

I think I better
just move on
and let the hierarchs
have the church of their making
while focusing my efforts
on helping Grievers and their Caregivers
and on Spiritual Growth and Nurturing,
on Love.

John Chuchman



Dear Friends,


From now until the Fourth of July I will be on the road: a bit of vacation, time for my own spiritual reflection, and time to do some professional research.

As I pack my bags, I encourage you to remember the Peter Principle. It has great significance in our contemporary church.

The Peter Principle we devoutly recall is a belief that in an organization, like the church, the organization’s leaders will eventually be promoted beyond their level of ability. The principle is commonly phrased, “employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence.”

The Peter Principle was formulated by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull in their 1969 book “The Peter Principle,” a humorous treatise, which also introduced the “salutary science of hierarchiology.”

Hierarchiology certainly resonates with our contemporary Catholic scene…..

According to the science of hierarchiology, leaders are promoted as long as they work loyally and obediently. (In our hierarchy we know of course that the big leaders are rewarded with red dresses. It is hard to ask in our hierarchy “who wears the pants in this church?”) Eventually the obedient leaders — we used to call them sycophants — are promoted to a position at which they are no longer competent (they have exceeded their “level of incompetence”), and there they remain, being unable to earn any further promotions.

In time, every leadership post tends to be occupied by a leader who is incompetent to carry out his duties.

Institutional self-worship and self-justification take over. Leaders look for scape-goats and side issues to shift public attention away from their own incompetence and negligence.

A common refrain from incompetent leaders is: “They are taking away our freedom…They are persecuting us.”

A some point a reformation occurs……

We need a Fourth of July in the Catholic Church……..


And unless something really extraordinary happens….like Cardinal Tim Dolan publicly endorses the US presidential candidacy of Barack Obama…Or Pope Benedict appoints members of LCWR to the College of Cardinals, I will be silent throughout the month of June.

Peace be with you!
John W. Greenleaf

PS My email will be working for urgent thoughts….jwgreenleaf@gmail.com


A Prayer and a Thought for Pentecost 2012

Come Holy Spirit!

Give us the wisdom, strength, and courage of Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli!

Shortly after becoming Pope John XXIII in 1958, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli announced he would call for a second Vatican Council. Immediate reactions were mixed. Leading people in the Curia Romana were negative. Even Giovanni Montini, who later became Pope Paul VI. Montini remarked to a friend: “This holy old boy doesn’t realize what a hornet’s nest he’s stirring up.”
John realized very well of course exactly what he was doing……

Pope John’s frequent habit of sneaking out of the Vatican late at night to walk the streets of the city of Rome earned him the nickname “Johnny Walker.”

Very different from his current successor whose nicknames are “God’s rottweiler,” “the Enforcer,” and the “Panzer Pope.”

Pope John was an action man. Fifty years ago he was losing patience with the narrow-minded bureaucratic ecclesiastics at the Vatican. “The time has come,” he told the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Cicognani, ” to put an end to this nonsense.”

“Either the Biblical Commission will bestir itself, do some proper work….and make a useful contribution to the needs of the present time,” John said, or “it would be better to abolish it….”

Pope John was angry at the backward, literalistic views of the Biblical Commission and its attacks against Cardinal Agustin Bea, Rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute, where progressive approaches to biblical scholarship were favored.


Come Holy Spirit!

Help us put an end to contemporary church nonsense!

Come Holy Spirit!

Bless those who question, search, and challenge!

Come Holy Spirit!

Fill us with the faith and courage that animated Pope John!

Come Holy Spirit!

Renew and reform your church!


CRISIS and HOPE for the Catholic Church

Tony Coady, Roman Catholic and Professorial Fellow in Applied Philosophy at Melbourne University, is currently Leverhulme Visiting Professor at the University of Oxford Uehiro Centre for Applied Ethics.

(Here are excerpts from his 18 May 2012 article in Practical Ethics, University of Oxford.)

The Vatican Response

The Vatican response to the spread of critical questioning from within has been to exercise what power it has to suppress ruthlessly any signs of dissent, even the mildest. Since the laity is these days largely immune to ecclesiastically imposed sanctions, the primary focus for the exercise of brutal power has been on the clergy (with occasional less effective forays against politicians).

Numerous Irish priests, including Fr. Tony Flannery and Fr. Brian Darcy have been disciplined recently for speaking and writing about contentious issues that the Vatican regards as closed. The Congregation for the Doctrine and the Faith (formerly known as The Inquisition, or more fully and pompously as The Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition) has been prominent in these suppressions of the priests, several of whom belong to Ireland’s 850-strong Association of Catholic Priests. The ACP held a meeting in Dublin on May 7, this year, to discuss changes to the Church and it was attended by over 1000 people. The ACP also recently commissioned a survey of Irish Catholics which found that 90% would support the introduction of married priests. The survey also found that 77% of Irish Catholics want women to be ordained, while more than 60% disagreed with Church teaching that gay relationships were immoral.
Several recent examples serve as models to demonstrate the Vatican’s modus operandi.

An Australian Case

The first is the case of Bishop Morris in the Australian diocese of Toowoomba. Bishop Morris had been subjected to a campaign of hostility from Vatican episcopal bureaucrats since he was reported by some conservative people in his diocese for a supposed inclination to downplay personal confession in favor of the general form of confession involved in what is called the Third Rite of Reconciliation. A pastoral letter in 2006 in which the bishop discussed some of the problems facing the church with diminishing clerical vocations and an ageing clergy proved the final straw. In that letter, he argued that the church should be open to discussion of such possibilities as ordaining women, ordaining married men, welcoming back former priests and recognizing the validity of Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church orders.

This was particularly offensive to the Vatican since Pope John Paul II had prohibited even the very discussion of the issue of women priests. The Vatican appointed Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver (now Philadelphia, JG) to investigate the matter and after speaking with various laity, bishops and priests in Australia he made a secret report to Vatican authorities as a result of which Bishop Morris was forced to take early retirement.

Bishop Morris has openly stated that in his conversations with various authorities, including Pope Benedict, he was never told what specific charges had been made against him and hence given no right to defend himself. Nor did he ever see the Chaput report.

Alarmingly, Bishop Morris revealed that in the Pope’s final letter to him Benedict had claimed that ” Pope John Paul II had said irrevocably and infallibly that women cannot be ordained.”

The very idea that a disciplinary rule could be subject to infallible decree is nonsensical, and if the Pope and his associates think that the prohibition on the ordination of women is a matter of faith or doctrine they are surely deluded. To the best of my knowledge this is the first time that the previous Pope’s edict has been treated thus. The comment should probably be viewed as a piece of rhetorical exaggeration from an embattled leader.

Those Troublesome Nuns

As is commonly the case in organizations dominated by men, the Church’s top officials are especially apprehensive about the thoughts and conduct of the women in the ranks, especially the nuns. …. significant is the recent Vatican move against the United States Leadership Conference of Women Religious (USLCWR).

Since the liberalizing winds of Vatican II, the various orders of nuns have been in the forefront of new thinking and fresh policies in religious life. The Vatican had been investigating the feisty American ladies for some time and the result is that their major organization has now been placed under the guidance and oversight of, guess what, a MAN, the Archbishop of Seattle.

The Vatican apparently found fault with the Conference’s fidelity in promoting church teaching particularly on life issues. As another Australian Jesuit Andy Hamilton pointed , this move, though so far much milder, has echoes of the way the Church’s male leadership tried in the early 17th century to smash Mary Ward and her plans for a new congregation of religious women who would depart from the enclosure within a convent and who, adopting the Jesuit rule, would engage in pastoral work and teaching on an international basis without the supervision of men. Her congregation was suppressed and she was imprisoned for a short time.

The papal bull that suppressed the congregation expresses beautifully an attitude to women by church rulers remnants of which linger today. It said:

“Free from the laws of enclosure they wander about at will, and under the guise of promoting the salvation of souls have been accustomed to attempt and employ themselves at many other works which are most unsuitable to their weak sex and character, to female modesty, and particularly to maidenly reserve — works which men of eminence in the science of sacred letters, of experience of affairs of innocence of life undertake with much difficulty.”

It concluded, “we totally and completely suppress and extinguish them, subject them to perpetual abolition and remove them entirely from the Holy Church of God… And we wish and command all Christian faithful to consider them and think of them as suppressed, extinct, rooted out, destroyed and abolished.”

In spite of all this, Mary Ward’s sisters continue today and the picture of the role of nuns expressed by that papal rhetoric is, one would hope, merely comical and embarrassing even to Pope Benedict and his assistants…..

Church and Structures issues

(Today’s) Church structures steeped in a lost world of monarchical, absolutist sovereignty, secretive processes and male domination will have to be renovated to make them more consistent with the profound insights of the ideals of liberal democratic governance, even if those ideals are frequently betrayed and ignored in practice in the democracies that openly profess them

It is understandable that those who believe that the current image and structure of the Church is somehow divinely ordained are reluctant to embark on such a journey. Less laudably, resistance to serious change is supported by anxiety about loss of power and about decline in the influence of the institutional offices and structures within which the lives of so many bishops, clergy and religious have been given meaning.

These latter factors, of course, were also prominent in the disgraceful reaction of the institutional church for so long to the sex abuse offences of clergy and religious. But the abuse scandal has shown that closing ranks, cover-ups, and stubborn resistance to admitting mistakes and failure are poor substitutes for facing facts and for changing attitudes.

In the era of Pope Benedict XVI (and for that matter his predecessor) the hope for such turbulent renovation may seem very dim. I would certainly not be confident of an early transition, but there are several factors that make for a small degree of optimism.

One is the great decline in vocations to the priesthood and religious in the industrialized world indicating that, outside the poorer, largely pre-modern regions of the world, the incumbent image makes little appeal.

Another is the battering that the idealized “holy Mother Church” has received from the treachery of the sex abuse scandals; this betrayal of trust, though not directly connected with doctrinal matters, did show up the degree of hypocrisy associated with much of the public clerical stance on sexual matters (some of the worst abusers were loud in their denunciation of condoms and in promotion of “family values”).

In fact, the insensitivity and confusion of the hierarchy’s attitudes to clerical child abuse was highlighted by the recent Vatican document revising canonical rules for dealing with the matter. The revised list of rules also treated attempts to ordain women priests as “a grave crime” suggesting that it was somehow in the same category as brutal raping of a child.

Vatican spokesmen denied this implication, describing the attempt at female ordinations as “a sacramental crime” rather than “an egregious violation of moral law”, but the damage had already been done (See “Vatican Revises Church Law on Sex Abuse”, National Catholic Reporter, July 15, 2010).

A third concerns the fact that not only are very many laypeople who still describe themselves as Catholic alienated from or indifferent to official teachings on the morality of sex, abortion, euthanasia, the role of women and much else to do with personal morality, but a great number of theologically literate clergy and laity are impatient with the rigidity of what one theologian has called “Vatican theology.”

Rome wasn’t built in a day and it won’t be reformed in a day, but massive, top-down political structures have a way of unexpectedly collapsing under the weight of their own incapacity to adapt to changed environmental forces, as we saw with the demise of the Soviet Union. – Tony Coady

……… And let us not forget Gandhi’s advice to reformers:

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

It is up to us as we hear in the Ascension account in Acts of Apostles: “You Galileans, why are you standing there staring up into the sky?” It is time to stop staring off into space…..It is time to get busy.

Or as my old hero Desiderius Erasmus said:

If you keep thinking about what you want to do or what you hope will happen, you don’t do it, and it won’t happen.



There is a sinister spirit pontificating in contemporary Roman Catholic leadership. It is a kind of religious fundamentalism; and it is unwelcome, unhealthy, and unacceptable.

In the name of orthodoxy, today’s Catholic fundamentalists condemn and denigrate believers who study, ask questions, and call for a serious discussion. Increasingly silent about about sexual abuse in the church, and about past and present episcopal complicity in sexual abuse, they shout instead about the evils of questioning celibacy for ordained ministers, respecting the nature and dignity of gay men and women, and asking why women cannot be ordained.

Men in Renaissance robes who loudly proclaim “respect or life” are working overtime to squeeze every bit of life out of their church. People who challenge their authoritarian crack-down are labeled “disobedient,” or “anti-Catholic,” or “in grave sin.” Priests are silenced and removed from leadership positions and theologians are condemned, often without any genuine discussion about their research and thought. There is a major Catholic exodus from the church and our bishops applaud it as a necessary institutional purification.

We are not living in the middle ages. Every man and every woman has dignity and rights: to be, to enquire, to think, and to express one’s thoughts.

And every Roman Catholic man and every Roman Catholic woman has rights stated and guaranteed in Roman Catholic Church law.

Here a few significant Catholic rights (and the number of the canon in church law that affirms it):

Basic Rights

All Catholics have the right to follow their informed consciences in all matters. (C. 748.1)

Officers of the Church have the right to teach on matters both of private and public morality only after wide consultation with the faithful prior to the formulation of the teaching.4 (C. 212, C. 747, C. 749, C. 752, C. 774.1)

Decision-making and Dissent

All Catholics have the right to a voice in all decisions that affect them, including the choosing of their leaders. (C. 212:3)

All Catholics have the right to have their leaders accountable to them. (C. 492, C. 1287.2)

All Catholics have the right to form voluntary associations to pursue Catholic aims including the right to worship together; such associations have the right to decide on their own rules of governance. (C. 215, C. 299, C. 300, C. 305, C. 309)

All Catholics have the right to express publicly their dissent in regard to decisions made by Church authorities. (C. 212:3, C. 218, C. 753)

Due Process

All Catholics have the right to be dealt with according to commonly accepted norms of fair administrative and judicial procedures without undue delay. (C. 221:1,2,3, C. 223, 1,2)

All Catholics have the right to redress of grievances through regular procedures of law. (C. 221:1,2,3, C. 223:1,2)

All Catholics have the right not to have their good reputations impugned or their privacy violated. (C. 220)

Ministries and Spirituality

All Catholics have the right to receive from the Church those ministries which are needed for the living of a fully Christian life, including:

a) Instruction in the Catholic tradition and the presentation of moral teaching in a way that promotes the helpfulness and relevance of Christian values to contemporary life. (C.229:1,2)

b) Worship which reflects the joys and concerns of the gathered community and instructs and inspires it.

c) Pastoral counseling that applies with love and effectiveness the Christian heritage to persons in particular situations. (C. 213, C. 217)

Catholic teachers of theology have a right to responsible academic freedom. The acceptability of their teaching is to be judged in dialogue with their peers, keeping in mind the legitimacy of responsible dissent and pluralism of belief. (C. 212:1, C. 218, C. 750, C. 752, C. 754, C. 279:1, C. 810, C. 812)

Social and Cultural Rights

All Catholics have the right to freedom in political matters. (C. 227)

All Catholics have the right to follow their informed consciences in working for justice and peace in the world. (C. 225:2)

All employees of the Church have the right to decent working conditions and just wages. They also have the right not to have their employment terminated without due process. (C. 231:2)

For a more complete explanation of Catholic rights and responsibilities, please consult:


Advent 2011: Reform Manifesto

In the United States, on this first weekend in Advent, Catholics are confronted with a changed Eucharistic liturgy. It has been imposed on them by a church leadership day-dreaming about the 1950s. One cannot call this changed liturgy a translation. It is Latinized English gobbledygook masquerading a reactionary and regressive ecclesiology.

Across the North Atlantic, in little Belgium, Catholics on this first weekend in Advent, have issued a pointed, earnest, and urgent Church Reform Manifesto. We have had enough fumbling around in the church, the Belgians are saying.

Last week, four Belgian priests launched the Manifesto. Today five thousand publicly active Belgians have joined the movement. Close to five hundred are now joining each day.

An English translation of the Manifesto appears below.

Happy Advent: There is Hope


Believers Speak Out

Parishes without a priest, Eucharist at inappropriate hours, worship without communion: that really should not be! What is delaying the needed Church reform? We, Flemish believers, ask our bishops to the break impasse in which we are locked. We do this in solidarity with fellow believers in Austria, Ireland, and many other countries, with all who insist reform on vital for Church reform.

We simply do not understand why the leadership in our local communities (e.g. parishes) is not entrusted to men or women, married or unmarried, professionals or volunteers, who already have the necessary training. We need dedicated pastors!

We do not understand why these our fellow believers cannot preside at Sunday liturgical celebrations. In every active community we need liturgical ministers!

We do not understand why, in communities where no priest is available, a Word service cannot also include a Communion service.

We do not understand why skilled laypeople and well-formed religious educators cannot preach. We need the Word of God!

We do not understand why those believers who, with very good will, have remarried after a divorce must be denied Communion. They should be welcomed as worthy believers. Fortunately there are some places where this is happening.

We also demand that, as quickly as possible, both married men and women be admitted to the priesthood. We, people of faith, desperately need them now!


The Vatican is Upset — Perhaps We Should be Upset Because of the Vatican…..

Waltzing on thin ice……

Patsy McGarry writing in the Irish Times (July 28, 2011) offers some well-phrased reflections about the Vatican’s reactions to sexual abuse in Ireland and the Murphy and Cloyne reports.

Frankly the current Vatican administration, orchestrated by the Bavarian pontiff, shows very little interest in transparency. Fortunately the Vatican cannot control the media. The truth will indeed come out. The bishop of Rome wears fancy slippers but he is waltzing on thin ice…..

McGarry’s observations:

In 2008, Bishop John Magee of Cloyne and Msgr Denis O’Callaghan lied to the church’s child protection watchdog about abuse there.

This formidable desire to hide the truth on the part of senior clergy in Ireland by lies, damn lies and mental reservation was not rooted in any peculiar aversion on their part. It rested entirely on what they understood was required of them by Rome.

Yet in his March 2010 pastoral letter to Irish Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI told the bishops that “some of you and your predecessors failed, at times grievously”, when it came to child protection. Not a word about Rome’s role in any of this.

Not a word about Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos who was responsible for the 1997 letter to the Irish bishops dismissing their 1996 Framework Document as “merely a study document”. Which letter, the Cloyne report said, “gave comfort and support” to those who “dissented from the stated official Irish church policy” on child protection.

In 1999, when the Irish bishops were visiting Rome they were reminded by a Vatican official they were “bishops first, not policemen” when it came to reporting clerical child sex abuse. But apologists for Rome insist all changed in May 2001 when then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger sent two letters to every Catholic bishop in the world. In Latin. One insisted that both be kept secret. The other directed that all clerical child sex abuse allegations “with a semblance of truth” be sent to the congregation and it would decide whether they be dealt with at diocesan or Vatican level.

Yet, as current chancellor of Dublin’s archdiocese Msgr John Dolan told the Murphy commission, this policy “was subsequently modified as Rome was unable to deal with the vast numbers of referrals”. The Cloyne report continues: “The position now, he [Msgr Dolan] said, is that all cases brought to the attention of the archdiocese before April 2001 and which were outside prescription . . . were not going to be dealt with by the CDF. It was up to the bishop to apply disciplinary measures to the management of those priests.”

In effect, the Irish bishops were back where they were before 2001. As Murphy reported: “Victims have expressed disappointment that neither the Framework Document nor its successor, Our Children, Our Church (2005), received recognition from Rome, thus leaving both documents without legal status under canon law.”

This, Murphy found, “was in direct contrast to the approach adopted by the Holy See to the request of the American Conference of Bishops”. The truth is Rome tied the hands of those Irish bishops and religious superiors who wanted to address the abuse issue properly.

Yet, Rome did not even acknowledge correspondence from the Murphy commission in September 2006. Instead it complained the commission did not use proper channels. So, in February 2007, the Murphy commission wrote to then papal nuncio to Ireland Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto requesting he forward “all documents in his possession relevant to
the commission”. He did not reply.

So, in early 2009, it wrote to current nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, (in situ since April 2008), enclosing a draft of its report for comment. He did not reply.

The nunciature in Dublin has been the conduit for truthful clerical child abuse reports to Rome, while Archbishop Leanza was personally involved in talks which led to Bishop Magee standing aside at Cloyne in February 2009.

So, the Murphy commission asked him to “submit to it any information which you have about the matters under investigation”. He felt “unable to assist” it “in this matter”.