Archives For: Pope Francis

Pope Francis Celebrates Weddings During Sunday Mass

This fall, we’ll begin to see the impact of the new bishop of Rome on the church with the opening of the October Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, focusing on the family and evangelizing in the modern world. There isn’t much chance of a change in doctrine on many of these issues – the ban on divorced Catholics re-marrying in church and receiving communion, the disapproval of cohabitation before marriage, the ban on contraception, and certainly the aversion to same-sex commitment and love. But Francis has already shown that he is prepared to take a non-linear approach to these questions – and he keeps surprising.

What Francis seems to be saying is that in all these questions, while the doctrine will not change, the call to mercy should be paramount. In other words, in individual cases, the decision to marry a couple who have been living together or have experienced one or more divorces should be left to a merciful pastor, not a rigid and distant dogma. How to get this point across? As so often, Francis uses his own actions, rather than words:

The Holy Father presided over the wedding of 20 couples Sunday in St. Peter’s Basilica. From a distance, the group seemed fairly typical: the couples ranged from ages 25 to 56 and were all from the Diocese of Rome. But the underlying storyline is far more telling: one bride was already a mother, some of the couples had already been living together, and others had previously been married.

This is what our beloved Joe Biden would call a BFD. Priests who might have married similar couples in the past could be subject to discipline from Rome. Now, the bishop of Rome himself is presiding over them. Elizabeth Dias explains why this matters:

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“Forgive Me”—Father

Jul 8 2014 @ 1:40pm

Sara Miller Llana contextualizes Pope Francis’s meetings with victims of clerical sex abuse yesterday, during which he begged their forgiveness for the church’s failure to protect them or respond to reports of abuse:

It’s taken almost a year and a half for him to meet with victims themselves, compared to his predecessor Pope Benedict, who was much less popular but met with victims on many trips around the world. This meeting – with victims from Ireland, Britain, and Pope Francis Attends Celebration Of The Lord's Passion in the Vatican BasilicaGermany – has also come under fire from victims’ groups in his native Argentina, who were excluded from this first encounter. And he raised a storm of criticism this year when he defended the church’s actions in general in the scandal. “The Catholic Church is maybe the only institution to have moved with transparency and responsibility,” Francis said. “No one else has done more. Yet the church is the only one to be attacked.” This is the first time a pope has received victims inside the Vatican.

Despite the criticism, Marco Politi, a veteran Vatican observer in Rome and author of the new book “Francis Among the Wolves,” says he believes the pope is continuing the work of his predecessor and forging a new, structural response. He created a commission on sexual abuse, which includes women as well as a former victim, and has taken action to back up his stated goal of zero tolerance. Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, a Polish bishop recalled from the Dominican Republic last September on claims of sexual abuse, was recently defrocked.

The apology isn’t cutting it for some survivor-activists, who claim the pope isn’t doing enough to protect kids:

Even though [Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP)], now 25 years old, is the most widely recognized global support group for clerical victims with more than 18,000 members, no one from their leadership was invited to meet with Francis. Ahead of the meeting [SNAP outreach director Barbara] Blaine, who was raped by her parish priest as a teenager, posed a number of topics she would like to discuss with Francis, if only she were given a chance. First, she says she would like to tell the pope, “Stop talking about the crisis as though it’s past tense, and stop delaying while your abuse panels discusses details. You know the right thing to do. You don’t need a report.”

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“I Am A Sinner”

Mar 31 2014 @ 11:41am

And what better way to prove it than by a public confession?

You can see the moment he suddenly decided to confess himself; it seems completely spontaneous. Again, all you can say is that this is a brilliant example of “preaching the Gospel” while saying nothing. How can you better show that the Bishop of Rome is just like you and me, a sinner in need of reconciliation with others and with God than seeking the sacrament yourself? How can you better encourage use of this sacrament than revealing yourself in need of it?

The knots that kept us from the essentials of faith are being untied. And yes, that music in the background is Allegri’s Miserere.

An Acid Test For Francis, Ctd

Mar 24 2014 @ 2:21pm

Barbie Latza Nadeau is optimistic about Pope Francis’ appointees to a new commission designed to deal with sex abuse in the Catholic Church:

The more surprising members of the group are the female members. Marie Collins is a married Irish woman who was raped at the age of 13 by a priest. She is an activist for child safety within the Catholic Church and has been vocal about how she was snubbed by her local parish and told to “protect the priest’s good name” when she accused him.

The eight-person commission includes four women and five lay people, a development Collins described as “encouraging.” Still, the committee’s mandate remains unclear: its first responsibilities are “determining the commission’s structure, outlining its duties, and putting forward names of other candidates who might join its work.” John Allen has a cautious analysis:

[N]aming people to a commission is not, in itself, reform. It remains to be seen if this group can successfully ride herd on forces in the church still in denial, or help the pope hold bishops and other Catholic leaders accountable if they drop the ball.

If the commission turns out to be a dud, Saturday’s announcement won’t be enough to save the pope from the disillusionment that will ensure. For now, however, the lineup card revealed by the pope not only amounts to a clear statement of seriousness about the abuse issue, but it also shows a deft political touch.

The Acid Test For Francis, Ctd

Mar 5 2014 @ 4:44pm

And he fails:

Speaking about the horrific abuse of children by priests, Francis said “the cases of abuse are terrible because they leave very deep wounds”. Benedict XVI “was very courageous and opened a road, and the Church has done a lot on this route, perhaps more than all others”, he stated. He noted that the statistics reveal the tremendous violence against children, but also that the vast majority of abuse takes place in the milieu of the family and those close to them. The Church is the only public institution to have moved “with transparency and responsibility”, he said; no one else has done as much as it, “but the Church is the only one to be attacked”.

This is more of the institutional defensiveness that has proven so devastating to the church’s moral authority and a bad omen for more thoroughgoing accountability and reform. Here’s hoping that he will leave this attitude behind and lead further down the road of “transparency and responsibility” he believes Benedict opened.

Previous Dish on the subject here.

Francis On Civil Unions

Mar 5 2014 @ 1:21pm


The knots begin to be untied:

On the question of marriage and civil unions, the Pope reaffirmed that “marriage is between a man and a woman”. States seek to justify civil unions “to regularize different situations of living together”, pushed by the need to regularize the economic aspects between people, such as, for example, to ensure health care, he said. “We have to look at the different cases and evaluate them in their variety”.

On this, as on contraception, the Pope is not calling for a change in doctrine about the sacrament of marriage. What he is clearly saying, I think, is that you don’t have to change doctrine to respect the civil society’s and secular state’s decision to accommodate gay couples and families within its existing arrangements for heterosexual households. This was his position in the internal church struggle in Argentina, reflecting his understandable concern that a Benedict-style counter-revolution against gay couples would not only be counter to the spirit of the Gospels, but deeply divisive for the church as a whole and damaging to its broader goal of evangelization. A 21st Century bishop of Rome might well accede to civil unions for gay couples and “not judge” the sincere consciences of gay couples seeking civil protections and rights under the law. That would end a misguided cultural war against an entire younger generation in the West, while not abandoning core doctrinal teachings on the family.

It’s a pragmatic and humane position – whereas Benedict’s was both a loser among most Western Catholics and clearly inhumane, and even callous, at times. I expect to see it nudged forward at the Synods this year and next.

Read On


Another day, another breath of fresh air from Pope Francis:

In a nearly 3,000-word text to the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, Francis tells the office they should not look for bishops based on any “preferences, likes, or trends” and likewise should not seek prelates who are mainly concerned with doctrinal matters.

The church, writes Francis, does not need “guardians of doctrine” but those who “appeal to the world to charm it with the beauty of love [and] to seduce it with the freedom bestowed by the Gospel … The church does not need apologists of its causes nor crusaders of its battles, but sowers humble and confident of the truth, who … trust of its power,” the pontiff continues.

Who did Francis succeed? A theologian who policed orthodoxy as meticulously as he chose his slippers.

(Photo: The hand of Pope Francis is pictured as he waves during his general audience in St Peter’s square at the Vatican on February 26, 2014 . By Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images.)

Quote For The Day

Feb 26 2014 @ 1:30pm

“Pope Francis has described gay people as ‘socially wounded’ because ‘they feel like the church has always condemned them.’ Catholics must examine how we contribute, perhaps even inadvertently, to a culture of fear and shame. In a field hospital after battle, a basic responsibility of the caregivers is to ‘do no harm.’ The church must oppose violence against gay persons and should strongly advocate for the decriminalization of homosexuality. No one should be subject to a criminal penalty simply for being gay. If laws like these do not constitute the ‘unjust discrimination’ against gay people that the church rightly denounces, then what possibly could?” – America, the Jesuit magazine, on the wave of legislation in Africa, re-criminalizing homosexuality and anything to do with it.

The Pope Emeritus In White

Feb 26 2014 @ 12:19pm

Pope Francis Appoints 19 New Cardinals at St. Peter's Basilica

Around the anniversary of Pope Benedict’s almost unprecedented resignation as Pope, there has been a predictable uptick in speculation about what actually happened and why. If he was forced out by scandal, then his resignation would not have been valid. So in response to some pointed questions from La Stampa, Benedict has gone public. Money quote:

There is absolutely no doubt regarding the validity of my resignation from the Petrine ministry. The only condition for the validity of my resignation is the complete freedom of my decision. Speculations regarding its validity are simply absurd.

His rationale was declining health and energy in the face of huge problems – from the Vatican Bank to factionalism in the Curia to the resilient stain of the child-abuse scandal. We may never know the full story – but if we were able to read the report of three cardinals on corruption in the Church, we might get a better sense. It says something about the church’s dysfunction that such critical details about its governance are deemed too sensitive to be revealed to the people of God in the pews, who largely finance it. Maybe Francis might contemplate some sunlight there. It might presumably strengthen his hand against the Curia – or prompt sabotage and revenge.

I’m inclined to believe Benedict on this. It’s plausible, if not completely convincing. But here’s a statement in the letter I do find a little odd:

I continue to wear the white cassock and kept the name Benedict for purely practical reasons. At the moment of my resignation there were no other clothes available. In any case, I wear the white cassock in a visibly different way to how the Pope wears it. This is another case of completely unfounded speculations being made.

So your vestments are like musical chairs: you have to keep the ones you’re wearing at the time of your resignation?

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Quote For The Day III

Feb 20 2014 @ 3:21pm

“The pastoral practice of the Church must begin from the premise that cohabitation and civil marriage outside the church have become the norm. In developing a pastoral orientation, it is perhaps important to recall that the only time in the gospels that Jesus clearly encounters someone in a situation of cohabitation outside of marriage (the Samaritan woman at the well) he does not focus on it. Instead, he respectfully deals with the woman and turns her into a missionary,” – part of the response of Japan’s Catholics to Pope Francis’ questionnaire on family life.

According to the Japanese bishops, Humanae Vitae, the encyclical barring artificial contraception, is barely known among Japanese Catholics, let alone followed.