Is the media too deferential toward the church?

October 22, 2014


* * *

I thank Arthur McCaffrey,  George Bouchey, Sharon Harrington, and Barbara Dorris for this link

* * *

Is the media too deferential toward the church?


Updated: October 17, 2014 – 1:07 PM

If anything, there has been too much fear of appearing to be presumptuous with regard to “internal matters.”

If consistency is a virtue, then the Star Tribune Editorial Board should be full of grace: It has now called twice for the resignation of Archbishop John Nienstedt — first last July, then again this week in conjunction with the procedural settlement between abuse victims, their lawyers and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul andMinneapolis. Charles Rogers, an attorney negotiator for the archdiocese, described the landmark accord as a “global settlement,” with both economic and noneconomic portions. Reversing the national trend, the innovative policies and procedures (the noneconomic part) were settled before the wrangling over cash takes place, with the hope that goodwill created by the former would optimize outcomes for victims.

That July editorial (“To heal church, Nienstedt must go”) went out on a limb, with editors worried that some might think it “presumptuous for a secular news organization to advise a church about internal matters.” This time around, the Editorial Board was less apologetic — emboldened, no doubt, by a critique from 12 apostle-professors at the University of St. Thomas who had publicly lambasted Nienstedt last month for his failed leadership (even though they stopped short of demanding his resignation).

These editorials have performed a brave public service, despite the editors’ initial misgivings about possible backlash for meddling in the “internal matters” of a religious institution — even though the “matters” in question could not be more public in both their causes and effects. Namely, church employees committing criminal acts against children, while their managers obstruct justice by covering up the crimes and enabling further terrorization of victims. To be worried about “presumptuousness” in this context is a wee bit like the FBI worrying about intruding on the internal workings of organized crime.

Yet backlash there will be. Like most newspapers taking stances on sports, religion or politics, the Star Tribune will find itself in the position of “damned if you do/damned if you don’t.” It will take its licks from two sources: from church defenders leveling accusations of “Catholic-bashing” and from people like me accusing the media of being too soft and deferential on Catholic criminality.

Before I indulge myself, let me first make a couple of comments about the former position. Based on extensive perusal of “reader comments” to articles, journalists, newspapers, blogs, etc., dealing with priest pedophilia, I can predict with racetrack accuracy the basic criticism the Star Tribune will hear.

First will be the accusations of bias in editorial positions. Back on my home turf of Boston, ground zero of the eruption of clergy abuse news in 2001-02, our own Cardinal Bernard Law tried the same stalling tactic by calling the accusations a “media conspiracy,” until a judge ordered his archdiocese to produce all the incriminating documents.

Next, Catholic apologists will insist on the 4 percent solution — they will produce the ubiquitous canard from the 2004 John Jay College investigative report (p. 27) to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that approximately 4 percent (range: 2.5 percent to 7 percent) of U.S. priests have been accused of child abuse. Even Pope Francis and his advisers have quoted these actuarial statistics frequently! So, our apologetic friends claim, this is small potatoes compared with the higher frequency of abuse in other professions and other institutions involved with children — so why are you, Star Tribune and others, so one-sidedly fixated on the Catholic problem? There is only one answer to this squeamish moral relativism, and it comes from William Sloane Coffin, chaplain at Yale during the Vietnam War and a staunch antiwar activist. When his detractors accused him of ignoring all the bad stuff done by the other side, Sloane famously replied: “You can’t use other people’s dirt as soap with which to wash your own hands clean.”

And now to my pet peeve — that American newspapers, the judiciary and government officials are just too damned deferential when it comes to dealing with religious powerhouses, seemingly hobbled in their oversight of malpractice by the constitutional separation of church and state.

Deference is something that the Catholic Church has profited from throughout its long history, with civilians tipping their caps and giving the church the benefit of the doubt in situations of dubious propriety. Deference denotes privilege, special treatment; it provides a carpet under which things can be swept. Deference does not like presumption. It prefers that people know their place, that they do not question the established order. Even in a democratic society, many institutions, both secular and religious, demand deference as a means of deflecting close scrutiny of their operations. At times, even with alarm bells ringing, civil authorities and the justice system have given the benefit of the doubt to local dioceses laboring under the delusion that they could police themselves. As is well-known now across many states, it has required court orders, driven by victims’ lawsuits, to break through the defenses of deference in order to compel many reluctant cardinals and archbishops to provide personnel records and documents for criminal clergy.

No one has been more aware of the pitfalls of a culture of deference than the brave prime minister of Ireland, Enda Kenny. After receiving the findings of a government inquiry (the Cloyne report) into a history of abuse and coverup in a rural Irish diocese, Kenny stood up in the Irish parliament on July 20, 2011, to make a famous and now historic speech in which he excoriated both the Irish Catholic Church and the Vatican for flouting child protection laws by ignoring “mandatory reporting” of abuse to civil authorities. Using language sadly familiar to Minnesotans, Kenny declared that church authorities, aided and abetted by a “dysfunctional” Vatican, had for decades deemed themselves to be unaccountable, above the law, contemptuous of it even. He claimed that the Cloyne report “excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism — the narcissism — that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day.”

With wonderful Irish oratory, Kenny eloquently addressed the problematic tradition of clericalism and a culture of deference that had made Irishmen subservient to a Roman Church, “where the swish of a soutane smothered conscience and humanity and the swing of a thurible ruled the Irish-Catholic world.” But the illicit, illegal and criminal practices of that church would no longer be tolerated in 21st-century Ireland: “The age of deference is over.”

Kenny’s cry is a challenge to the Star Tribune and other news media, and Minnesotans should be grateful that the newspaper’s recent editorials have risen to that challenge. Unfortunately, however, in America, there is no catalyzing public advocate at the national level like Ireland’s Kenny willing to plead the cause of victims and publicly criticize the Catholic Church in the civic arena. Quite the contrary, in fact. We see our Supreme Court justices hobnobbing with Catholic bishops at the annual “Red Mass” dinner in Washington, while our president yuks it up with Cardinal Timothy Dolan at the annual Al Smith dinner in New York. At the very least, these public displays of bonhomie convey the impression that the Catholic Church, despite its recent history, still has access to the highest powers in the land. Meanwhile, abuse victims wonder why their leaders are fraternizing with the enemy. Justice and discretion do not seem to be served.

In the absence of a prestigious champion at a high-enough level, responsibility devolves to the fourth branch of our democratic government — a free press — to advocate relentlessly for honesty, transparency and accountability from our most entrenched institutions. I am optimistic that the insidious practice of deference in public affairs, if properly identified and exposed by the media, would soon be recognized as alien to the American way of life, since it implies a relationship of inequality and unfair advantage. So, if it is not too “presumptuous” of me to tell the editors of a secular news organization how to run their business, we still have a critical need for more editorials that tell the truth honestly, unabashedly and, above all, unapologetically, without fear or favor or deference to special interests. Speaking truth to power is what newspapers do best.

Arthur McCaffrey is a retired Harvard psychologist. He is a Boston Globe contributor who for the last 10 years has been writing about Catholic activism in metro Boston. He can be reached at arthurmccaffrey@yahoo.com.


Pope prepares to purge conservative cardinal AMERICAN RAYMOND BURKE in push to reform Vatican

October 20, 2014


* * *


* * *

Pope prepares to purge conservative cardinal in push to reform Vatican

American cardinal Raymond Burke, a strong opponent Pope Francis’ tolerant attitude towards gay rights, is to be removed from his post

Cardinal Raymond L. Burke Photo: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

By Nick Squires, Rome

4:13PM BST 18 Oct 2014

Pope Francis is about to demote an arch-conservative cardinal who has been bitterly opposed to his reformist agenda and his call for greater acceptance of gays and divorcees in the Catholic Church.

The sidelining of American cardinal Raymond Burke comes against a backdrop of acute differences of opinion among nearly 200 bishops and cardinals who for the last two weeks have been discussing issues relating to the family at a synod, or assembly, at the Vatican.

The move suggests that the Pope, who has upset many within the Catholic Church with his call for a more flexible and “merciful” approach towards gay people and divorcees, is determined to purge the Vatican of some of his more trenchant critics.

Cardinal Burke, who has strongly criticised Pope Francis’s more open attitude towards homosexuals, is currently head of the Vatican’s highest court of canon law.

But he said he is preparing to be given a new, much lower profile role as the patron of the Sovereign Military Order of the Knights of Malta, a Catholic charity based in Rome that traces its origins back to the Crusades.

Related Articles

Vatican calls for Catholic Church to welcome gays in ‘earthquake’ shift

13 Oct 2014

Vatican call for Church to welcome gay people did not go ‘far enough’ – Cardinal Vincent Nichols

19 Oct 2014

We had no idea Pope Francis would be such a rock star, say cardinals

09 Oct 2014

Pope Francis opens synod that could define his papacy

05 Oct 2014http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/03077/raymond_burke_3077440b.jpg“I very much have enjoyed and have been happy to give this service, so it is a disappointment to leave it,” the cardinal, whose official title is Prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, told Buzzfeed.

He said he had not yet received formal notice from the Pope of the demotion.

He and other conservatives were highly critical of an interim document released on Monday, halfway through the synod, which suggested that the Church should be “welcoming to homosexual persons” and open to lifting the ban on remarried divorcees from receiving Communion.

He has accused Pope Francis of harming the Church by allowing such free-ranging debate on key issues facing ordinary Catholics.

Cardinal Burke maintains the hardline, traditional Catholic approach that homosexuals are “intrinsically disordered” and that the act of gay sex is a sin.

He has gone further, saying that homosexual acts are “wrong and evil”.

The bishops, archbishops and cardinals involved in the synod voted on Saturday evening on whether to accept a final document from the two-week meeting, in which language about acceptance of homosexuality and remarried divorcees was watered down on the urging of conservatives, particularly bishops from Africa and the US.

The synod has revealed acute dissent within the uppermost ranks of the Catholic hierarchy between progressives and traditionalists.

The bishops scrapped their landmark welcome to gays, showing deep divisions at the end of the two-week meeting.

They failed to approve even a watered-down section on ministering to gays that stripped away the welcoming tone contained in a draft document earlier in the week.

Two other paragraphs concerning the other controversial issue at the synod – whether divorced and civilly remarried Catholics can receive communion – also failed to pass.

There will be more debate on both issues at a second synod to be held next October.

This month’s synod has revealed acute dissent within the uppermost ranks of the Catholic hierarchy between progressives and traditionalists.

“You have some people, like Burke, who are very upset by what has been discussed at the synod,” Father Tom Reese, a Jesuit priest and veteran Vatican analyst, told The Telegraph on Saturday.

“There is a large body of bishops who think the language being expressed is too accommodating and fear that it will result in ordinary people thinking that it doesn’t matter whether you are divorced or shacked up with someone or whatever. They certainly don’t want that to be the message.”

While Cardinal Burke and others are appalled by Francis’s agenda, saying that it attacks the sanctity of marriage and the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, other bishops are in favour of aligning the Church more with the challenges faced by modern Catholics.

Asked during a Vatican press conference for clarification on whether the Church welcomed gays or still regarded them as sinners, an Indian cardinal said the Church should embrace homosexuals with compassion and understanding.

“Yes, I would certainly say they are part of the Church,” said Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the Archbishop of Mumbai.

“I have met gays in Mumbai and I have told them they are very welcome, that we wish to care for them.”


Catholics bishops: No agreement on gays and lesbians

October 19, 2014


* * *

Catholics bishops: No agreement on gays and lesbians

By Delia Gallagher and Daniel Burke, CNN

updated 7:14 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014


Lack of consensus reveals deep divisions in the church

An interim report had praised gay relationships

Gay rights groups called revised report “disappointing”

Rome (CNN) — Catholic bishops ended a tense, two-week summit in Rome on Saturday without agreeing on how to minister to gays and lesbians or whether divorced and remarried Catholics should receive Holy Communion.

An interim report issued on Monday, and greeted with great fanfare from liberal Catholics, was heavily revised by Saturday. Sections were removed that had praised the “gifts” gays and lesbians offer the church, as well as the “precious support” same-sex partners give to one other.

Even the revised sections, though, failed to garner a two-thirds consensus from the nearly 200 bishops meeting here, revealing deep divisions in the highest levels of the Catholic Church.

The bishops were summoned by Pope Francis to figure out how present the church’s teachings on sexuality and family life, which is seen as outdated in many parts of the world, according to polls.

But more difficult issues, especially homosexuality, eluded agreement, and led to an unusual amount of public bickering by bishops. CNN Vatican analyst John Allen compared the summit to a soap opera.

Part of the problem may have been built into the process.

The synod released the interim report, offering a “snapshot,” in the words of a church spokesman, halfway through the closed-door meetings. That report contained a strikingly tolerant tone toward gays and lesbians, earning widespread praise from gay rights groups.

But some bishops, mainly conservatives, complained that the interim report did not accurately portray the synod’s discussions.

“Boy, does this ever need some revisions,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who attended the summit, told CBS News on Wednesday.

By Saturday, those revisions were evident.

The unprecedented welcome to gays and lesbians and recognition of their “gifts”? Gone.

The acknowledgment that same-sex couples offer each other “precious support?” Arrivederci.

The more tolerant take on cohabitating couples and openness toward remarried Catholics receiving Holy Communion? Nowhere in sight.

Instead, the final report says the bishops will “study” the divorce and Communion issue. On same-sex couples, the bishops said there is “no foundation” for comparing gay unions to “God’s design of matrimony and the family.”

“Nonetheless, men and women with homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and delicacy,” the bishops said.

The bishops backed the revised paragraph about gays and lesbians by a vote of 118-62, short of the two-thirds majority needed to be considered a consensus by Vatican rules. Pope Francis, though, decided to release the entire report, even the unapproved sections, the Vatican said.

In any case, the document is still a “work in progress” according to a Vatican spokesman. It is part of the preparations for a second synod to be held next October. Francis will have the final word when he releases his own interpretation of the bishops’ two meetings in light of Catholic teaching.

For his part, the Pope addressed the bishops Saturday as their summit concluded and urged them to take a middle road between “hostile rigidity” and a “false sense of mercy.”

“Dear brothers and sisters, now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas,” the Pope said, “and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront.”

Francis’ speech was followed by a four-minute ovation, according to a Vatican spokesmen.

Gay and lesbian groups in the United States, however, called the bishops’ report “very disappointing.”

“This result shows that there is still much to be examined and explored on LGBT issues in the Church,” said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry.

“Let’s hope and pray that at next year’s synod, the bishops will invite lesbian and gay people and couples to give their personal testimonies, so that the bishops can learn firsthand about their experiences of faith and love.”

Vatican proposes ‘stunning’ shift

By Thomas Gumbleton: Like Malala, we need to reach out and enter the kingdom of God

October 16, 2014


* * *

Like Malala, we need to reach out and enter the kingdom of God

Thomas Gumbleton  |  Oct. 16, 2014

The Peace Pulpit

You are aware, I’m sure, of the Nobel Peace Prize that was awarded this past Friday. It was a joint award, two people got it, but most extraordinary, part of it, is the teenage girl from Pakistan — 17 years old, the youngest Nobel laureate since the prize began to be given out in 1901. The paper wrote about her, and the article that I read, it started with, “Who is Malala [Yousafzai]?” And some of us may wonder that, but in this instance, it wasn’t just trying to find out, out of curiosity, who Malala is.

You are aware, I’m sure, of the Nobel Peace Prize that was awarded this past Friday. It was a joint award, two people got it, but most extraordinary, part of it, is the teenage girl from Pakistan — 17 years old, the youngest Nobel laureate since the prize began to be given out in 1901. The paper wrote about her, and the article that I read, it started with, “Who is Malala [Yousafzai]?” And some of us may wonder that, but in this instance, it wasn’t just trying to find out, out of curiosity, who Malala is.

As you may remember, she survived. She was taken to England to get out of danger and to get the best medical care, and the doctors were able to save her life. They placed a titanium plate in her head and now, two years later, she is back in school and has, over the time since that incident and since her recovery, continued her advocacy. She has met with President [Barack] Obama, with the queen of England, and even addressed the United Nations. Now she’s the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.These were Taliban killers who came on the crowded bus in northwestern Pakistan two years ago, and when they found out who Malala was, which of the kids [were] being taken to school, they shot her, put a bullet into her head. Malala had been speaking out as an impassioned advocate for the education of girls. She was determined that she herself would get an education, and she found it evil, unjust, that in that country, there was this extremist group, the Taliban, who were trying to prevent girls from being educated.
And part of her amazing work has been her resistance and speaking out against the terrible conflict in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere. The head of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, said about her: “With her courage and determination, Malala has shown what terrorists fear most: a young girl with a book.” When she spoke to President Obama, she urged him to stop sending drones dropping bombs over her country and other countries in the Middle East—the bombs that destroy women and children as we attempt to take out someone we have determined is against us, our enemy.

She became even a national news media figure, speaking over and over again about the need for peace, and that is why she ultimately was threatened and the attempt to kill her was made. When she received the prize, she said, “This award is for all those children who are voiceless, whose voices need to be heard. I speak for them and I stand up for them.”

Now, you may wonder how this connects with today’s Scriptures. But I think there’s a very powerful connection, if we take a few moments now to reflect on the Scriptures of today, but connecting them with those of the past. Jesus is speaking to the religious leaders and to us about the reign of God, called the kingdom of heaven most of the time in Matthew’s Gospel. But it isn’t, and that sort of misleads us about what Jesus is talking—what he’s talking about, because we then think of the kingdom of heaven as a place, something that comes at the end time.

But at the very beginning of his public life, Jesus said, “The reign of God is at hand,” and the kingdom of heaven is what he means by the reign of God. It’s at hand, ready to break forth now. We can enter into it now. What does that mean, the reign of God? Well, Scripture scholars speak about it as the dynamic ruling or rule of God’s saving love. It’s God’s love throughout all of creation, and that is the guiding force behind creation. And the invitation is to enter into this dynamic rule of God’s love, bring ourselves into line with the love of God that is being poured forth upon all of creation, upon us.

Or it’s also described as the community of human persons embracing God’s love, made present especially in Jesus. So when we embrace and try to follow the way of love shown to us in Jesus, we’re entering into the reign of God. And the first lesson today gives us a sense of what the reign of God is as it’s happening in what will eventually be this culmination of the reign of God.

Isaiah says, “On this mountain, Yahweh … will prepare for all peoples a feast of rich food, choice wines. On this mountain, God will destroy the pall cast over all peoples, this very shroud spread over all nations, and death will be no more. God will wipe away the tears from all cheeks and eyes. God will take away the humiliation of God’s people. On that day, you will say, ‘This is our God. We have waited for God to save us. Let us be glad and rejoice in God’s saving love.’ For on this mountain, the loving hand of God rests.”

It’s an image of the fullness of creation as God continues to bring that creation into fuller development, and it’s the reality is a fullness of life for all of creation, for every creature. Joy, love, peace—everything that makes us fully human, energizes us, fills us with goodness and love. This is the reign of God, and Jesus has been preaching this throughout his life. And now it seems, in a way, that urgently he’s inviting us to enter into the reign of God.

In the Gospel today, he describes it as his wedding feast, but notice what happens. There are those who have been invited, and we can easily think of the chosen people, of ourselves, that have this special invitation to enter into the reign of God. And as we do that, we join in God’s work of transforming our world into that fullness of God’s reign. And we might think that because we’re a church that has evolved from the first community of disciples of Jesus, that it’s automatic—we’re going to enter into the reign of God.

But the powerful lesson that Jesus teaches those religious leaders, and teaches us, is that those who were first called, including ourselves, are like the ones in the Gospel that, when they’re invited, pay no attention—go away, some to their fields, some to their work, even seize the messengers and kill them. They reject the reign of God, even though they’re the first invited.

And so then in the story, the king sends his servants out again: “Bring in everybody.” Everybody is invited to the reign of God, and not just because the others have rejected it, but because that’s God’s intention from the beginning. All of creation will come into this fullness of God’s love as we begin to place ourselves under the dynamic rule of that love.

And isn’t what happened with this young woman, teenager Malala, a really good example of how this parable of Jesus is being carried out? Here is a Muslim young woman who understands that we must reject violence, that bringing education to people, especially to girls who are deprived of it. In other words, what Jesus declares in the parable about the last judgment: “Those who hunger and thirst for justice will be filled.” That’s actually from the Sermon on the Mount: “Those who hunger and thirst for justice will be satisfied.” They will have entered into the reign of God.

The peacemakers—they are entering into the reign of God, those who give up violence. Here we, as a nation, are still killing, preparing to and doing more bombing in the Middle East instead of finding ways through diplomacy, through sharing the gifts that we have: educational gifts, medical care. We go to war. Others are working for peace in ways that seem to follow what Jesus is asking, who are left behind.

It’s a powerful thing to reflect on, and that’s where the last part of today’s Gospel, I think, is so important. When Jesus said, “The reign of God is at hand,” he added, “Change your lives.” If we really wish to begin to experience the reign of God even now, and begin to move toward a fullness of experiencing that reign of God, change your lives. Begin to follow the ways of Jesus—the way of love, the way of justice, the way of peace.

The person that came into the feast without the festal garment could have had a garment. The practice in that culture was that, and especially when you think people were being invited immediately from the streets to come in, they provided the festal garment. Obviously, had he refused to accept one. In one of Paul’s letters, he urges us, “Clothe yourself in Christ, put on Christ.” In other words, change your life, follow the way of Jesus.

And I hope that, as we hear those Scriptures today and see the example of someone who in a sense came in from the highways and the byways to the reign of God, I hope we will begin to look seriously at how we do, or have tried to, change our lives, and really take seriously what I mentioned a couple weeks ago, the program that Pope Francis laid out at the first World Youth Day that he attended.

“Here is your program,” he told the young people. “The Sermon on the Mount and the sermon in Matthew 25, the last judgment. There’s your program. Heal the brokenhearted. Set the downtrodden free. Reach out to the poor. Work for peace. Hunger and thirst for justice. Visit those in prison. Give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty.”

In other words, share what we have. Follow the way of Jesus. That is what these Scripture lessons are urging upon us today. And surely each of us, as we begin to look at our lives, we can find ways in our personal life, in our life in our community and our parish life, in our life of our nation and in our participation in the world of nations. And as we look at that, find ways that we need to change our lives.

Malala, others like her, are reaching out, entering into the reign of God. We’ve been invited. I hope we respond to the invitation, and in a spirit of prayerfulness, we truly try to change our lives and put on Christ Jesus.

[Homily given at St. Philomena Catholic Church in Detroit. The transcripts of Bishop Gumbleton’s homilies are posted weekly to NCRonline.org. Sign up here to receive an email alert when the latest homily is posted.]


By Leonardo Boff: A sickness called fundamentalism

October 16, 2014

Received by email from George Bouchey.

* * *

Thank you, George.

* * *

By Leonardo Boff


Earthcharter Commission

A sickness called fundamentalism

12/10/2014 [OCTOBER 10, 2014]



Everything healthy may become ill. Religion, contrary to what critics such as Freud, Marx, Dawkins and others contend, is part of a healthy reality: the search by the human being for the Ultimate Reality, that gives final meaning to history and the universe. That search is legitimate and is found in the oldest expressions of the homo sapiens/demens, but it also has unhealthy expressions. One of them, the most frequent now, is religious fundamentalism, that is also found where a unique form of thinking reigns in politics.

Fundamentalism is not a doctrine in itself, but an attitude and a form of living a doctrine. The fundamentalist attitude appears when the truths of its church or its group are understood as the only legitimate ones, to the exclusion of all others, which are deemed erroneous and therefore to have no right to exist. Those who imagine that their point of view is the only valid one are condemned to be intolerant. This closed attitude leads to contempt, discrimination, and to religious or political violence.

The niche of fundamentalism is historically found in the Northamerican Protestantism of the late XIX century, when modernity emerged not only in technology, but also in democratic forms of political coexistence and the liberalization of customs. In this context a strong reaction arose within the Protestant tradition, loyal to the ideals of the «founding fathers», all derived from the rigors of the Protestant ethic. The term fundamentalism is linked to a collection of books published by Princeton University for Presbyterians under the title, Fundamentals: A Testimony of Truth, 1909-1915.

This collection proposes an antidote to modernization: a rigorous, dogmatic Christianity founded on a literal reading of the Bible, considered infallible and unequivocal in each and every word, because it was considered to be the Word of God. They opposed all exegetic-critical interpretation of the Bible and the application of its message to the present context.

Since then, this fundamentalist tendency has been present in Northamerican society and politics. It gained religious expression in the so-called «electronic Churches», that use modern means of tele-communication, covering the country from coast to coast, and that have similar churches in Brazil and elsewhere in Latin-America. They combat liberal Christians, those who practice a scientific interpretation of the Bible, accept the contemporary feminist and gay movements, and defend the decriminalization of abortion. All that is interpreted by fundamentalists as the work of Satan.

The political side assimilated the religious, marrying it to the political ideology of «manifest destiny», created after the United States confiscated territory from Mexico. According to that ideology, it is the divine destiny of Northamericans to bring to all peoples, clarity, the values of private property, the free market, democracy and rights, as John Adams, the second President of the United States, asserted. According to the popular and political version, Northamericans are «the new chosen people» that will bring everyone to the «Land of Emmanuel, seat of that new and singular Kingdom that will be given to the Saints of the Highest». K. Amstrong, In the Name of God, (En nombre de Dios, Companhia das Letras, São Paulo 2001).

That political-religious amalgam has led to the arrogance and one sided vision of international relations found in Northamerican foreign policy, that is still prevalent under Barack Obama.

We find a similar type of fundamentalism in extremely conservative Catholic groups, that still claim that «there is no salvation outside of the Church». They are eager to convert the greatest number of people possible, to save them from hell. Some evangelical groups, especially in sectors of the charismatic churches with their TV programs, engage in fundamentalist disparagement, particularly with regard to the Afro-Brazilian religions, because they consider their celebrations to be the work of Satan. This results in frequent exorcisms and even invasions of terreiros to «purify them» from the Exu.

Fundamentalism in both Catholic and some evangelical groups is most visible in the moral questions: they are inflexible on the issues of abortion, same sex unions, and women’s struggles for freedom in decision making. They foster true ideological wars in the social networks and the means of mass communication against all who discuss such questions, even though they are part of the agenda of all open societies.

Sadly, we have a candidate to the presidency of Brazil, Marina Silva, who adheres to a type of fundamentalism, namely, Biblicism. She maintains a literal reading of the Bible, as if the solution to all problems could be found there. As Pope Francis put it so well, rather than a warehouse of truths, the Bible is an inspiring source for beneficial human initiatives. The Bible must be held in our brains to illuminate reality, not in front of the eyes, to obscure it.

The Brazilian State is lay and pluralist. It welcomes all religions without adhering to any. According to the Brazilian Constitution, no given religion may impose its points of view on the whole nation. An authority can have religious convictions, but must govern through the laws, not through these convictions. There are four Gospels, not just one. They coexist through the diversity of interpretations they give to the message of Jesus of Nazareth. It is an example of the richness of diversity. God is the eternal coexistence of Three Divine Beings, that through love form one single God. Diversity is fecund.

Free translation from the Spanish by
Servicios Koinonia, http://www.servicioskoinonia.org.




Landmark settlement closes suit against St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese

October 14, 2014


* * *

This link appears on the 10.14.2014 edition of the NSAC News.

* * *

Click on the above link to see an excellent video. [Frank]

* * *


Landmark settlement closes suit against St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese

Article by: JEAN HOPFENSPERGER and CHAO XIONG , Star Tribune staff writers

Updated: October 14, 2014 – 10:18 AM

Church required to overhaul how it deals with child abuse claims

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis will be required to overhaul its reporting of clergy sex abuse, how reports are investigated and how it responds to abuse victims under the terms of a historic legal settlement detailed Monday.

The deal, announced at an emotional news conference that brought church officials and sex abuse victims together for the first time on a public platform, followed a tumultuous year of scandal for the Catholic church in Minnesota.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but the centerpiece of the settlement is a 17-point “child protection plan.” It requires the archdiocese to report any child abuse claim to law enforcement and refrain from conducting its own investigation until law enforcement finishes its own. It also prevents the archdiocese from assigning accused priests to active ministry.

“We’ve forged a new way and that new way is an action plan that not only protects kids in the future but honors the pain and sorrow and the grief of survivors in the past,” victims’ attorney Jeff Anderson said at the news conference in downtown St. Paul.

Archbishop John Nienstedt was in Kenya, but issued a written statement. “Today we take a significant step closer to achieving the goals we set nearly a year ago to protect children, to help survivors heal, and to restore trust with our clergy and faithful,” wrote Nienstedt. “I am grateful to all those on both sides of the courtroom aisle who have worked so diligently to bring about this agreement.”

The settlement also includes a process for making public the names and church files of priests accused of abuse that are currently sealed, something that the archdiocese had long opposed.

The news conference came hours after Ramsey District Judge John Van de North filed an order for dismissal of the case in the wake of the settlement.

The lawsuit had forced the archdiocese to publicly reveal the names of clergy accused of child sex abuse as well as church documents revealing how it handled the cases.

‘Era of cooperation’

Joining Anderson and attorney Mike Finnegan at the microphone were Vicar General Charles Lachowitzer, Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens, the archdiocese’s point person on abuse Tim O’Malley and two survivors of sexual abuse.

Al Michaud, who had been abused as a boy in Edina in the 1970s, told the packed news conference that he hoped the plan would allow victims to step forward without being “shamed, judged or dismissed.”

He encouraged other victims to come forward, saying “this is a new era of cooperation.

“Today is a day that I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I’d see,” said Michaud.

The most emotional moment occurred when about 20 survivors of clergy sex abuse, now grown men, walked to the front of the room to meet Cozzens and Lachowitzer. As the church leaders looked each in the eye and shook hands or embraced, eyes often welled with tears.

“Sixteen years!” whispered one man, of how long he’d been waiting for such an act of contrition.

Case against Adamson

The lawsuit that led to this unprecedented moment of unity represented one of the most significant challenges to the archdiocese in decades. It was filed on behalf of a man, identified as “John Doe 1,” who said he was abused by the former priest Tom Adamson at a St. Paul Park church in the 1970s.

Adamson had been accused of molesting boys in the Winona Diocese before being transferred to the archdiocese.

The lawsuit accused the church of negligence in supervising and retaining Adamson, as well as creating a “public nuisance” by moving sex offenders without notifying parishioners and others in their new assignments.

“John Doe 1” did not make a public appearance Monday. However, a letter he wrote to Lachowitzer was released, in which he credited the vicar general with moving the “clergy abuse mountain.” Doe met with diocese officials recently.

“I knew one day there might be an apology to me from a member of clergy, but I believed this would be meaningless,” he wrote. “ You should know that the sincerity I felt on Wednesday afternoon from yourself, Charlie Rogers, and Tim O’Malley surprised me and gave me great hope for the future. Thank you.”

The financial impact of this case, and others pending, on the archdiocese is unclear. Lachowitzer said that the church will be examining its options, including bankruptcy, for addressing the lawsuits.

“But we need to look at what is best for resolution and restitution,” he said.

Anderson said it was the first time in more than 30 years of filing lawsuits against the Catholic Church across the country that he has entered into a child protection agreement with the church.

He expects the new spirit of cooperation to extend to other lawsuits filed over the past year against the church.

A trial had been scheduled for Nov. 3 in the case was the first filed under the Minnesota Child Victims Act, which allowed older child abuse cases to be heard in civil court. It gave victims three years to file suit for sexual abuse that occurred in the past.

In recent months the archdiocese has assembled a new team to address allegations of abuse. Michael Campion, former state commissioner of public safety, will join that team next week, O’Malley said.


Haselberger responds

Jennifer Haselberger, a former canon lawyer at the archdiocese who became a whistleblower on the church’s handling of clergy abuse, called the settlement “a tremendous victory for those concerned with the safety and well-being of children and vulnerable adults.”

But Haselberger had reservations about archdiocese follow-through.

“This isn’t the first time the church has promised to follow protocol on child protection,” said Haselberger, noting the archdiocese had not followed the protocols forged by U.S. bishops in 2002.

“This settlement is a heartbreaking acknowledgment of how far the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has strayed from its mission,” she said. “It should never take action from the civil courts to compel a Catholic diocese to act in the public good.”

Bishop John Quinn of the Diocese of Winona issued a statement saying the diocese was “committed to a series of child protection protocols which will further help to ensure the safety of all of God’s children.”

Those provisions were not the same as those agreed to by the archdiocese. The Winona Diocese was referring to its current child protection policies, which are reaffirmed under the agreement, said Quinn.

All had something to lose

Charles Reid, a professor of civil and canon law at the University of St. Thomas, said he was initially surprised at the settlement because the archdiocese attorneys and Anderson did not have a positive working relationship that would spur mediation.

On the other hand, a settlement makes sense, he said.

“This would be a high-profile trial, and everybody had something to lose,” said Reid. “The archdiocese could face a potentially larger settlement, more intrusive rules governing transparency, less public trust.”

Anderson, meanwhile, could have lost the case. Or his 17-point plan could have faced allegations that it infringed upon religious expression.

“He sidesteps all the risks,” said Reid, “and gets the results he wants.”

But the deal does not include a comprehensive financial settlement, said Reid, and the archdiocese has left open the option of declaring bankruptcy.

“That’s something to remain alert to,” Reid said.

Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511


Synod Report from Call to Action: Promising Start on the Journey for Change

October 13, 2014

Received by email.

* * *

I’m from extremely skeptical about any major changes in the Roman Catholic Church. I remember well the hopes for real reform from Vatican II. Those hopes were crushed by powerful conservative cardinals in the curia. I bet the same thing will happen again. [Frank].

* * *

Synod Report: Promising Start on the Journey for Change


Immediate Release: October 13, 2014


Call To Action is encouraged by the report from the Synod meetings in Rome.  The statement by the Bishops make clear that they have not ignored the voices of Catholic families around the world who have cried out for a more pastoral Church.


No changes in policy were proposed, but the change in tone reflects the breath of air that Pope Francis has brought to Rome and which has inspired so many to hope for change.


The document lays out what Catholics have long known: that families have intrinsic value and exemplify love even when they don’t fit the rigid definitions of the hierarchy. We know that single mothers, civilly married couples, LGBT families and other diverse unions bring important gifts to our Church. It is refreshing to see our leaders acknowledge that reality.


While Catholic families are eager to be heard and listened to, and while tone and language are important, diverse families are also looking for substantive and real change which reflects the full dignity and gifts they bring to the church.


“The Spirit was clearly at work in the Synod,” said Call To Action Executive Director Jim FitzGerald, “We pray that this positive shift in tone and language will also mean changes in hurtful and dated policies.”


The document urges pastors to continue to listen to families in preparation for next Synod on the Family in October 2015. We hope our leaders take this time to continue to learn about the many ways diverse families are responding in love and faith to the challenges and joys facing them today.


Catholics will continue to walk together in building a more welcoming and inclusive Church. This report is a hopeful and promising start on the journey for real change and true inclusion. Let us, together, continue to pray for the renewed Church we know is possible.





Ellen Euclide, Director of Programs

773.404.0004 ext. 261



Call To Action is a national organization working for equality and justice in the Catholic Church today. CTA educates, inspires and activates Catholics to act for justice and build inclusive communities through a lens of anti-racism and anti-oppression principles. For more information about CTA, visit us online at: www.cta-usa.org