Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Yale Prof's View of Catholic Church

Fascinating view of the Church from a Yale history prof.  This was published in the New York Times.  
February 26, 2013

Which Catholic Church?

Being about the only professor at a liberal, tolerant, cosmopolitan Western university who is known to be a practicing Catholic — baptized at the age of two weeks — I have been asked frequently in recent times about what I think will happen to the church in the light of Pope Benedict’s resignation. Will it split further, between conservatives and liberals? Will there be an African pope? When will there ever be female priests, then bishops? What about declining attendance of the European congregations (as opposed to the surging populations in the southern world)?
I sigh. When I turn to my daily newspapers, I sigh further, at the stereotyping, the false assumptions, the hostility in some quarters, the focus upon protocol rather than substance, the obsession with fiscal laxities at the Vatican rather than the proclaimed mission of Christ. Much of this criticism is boringly predictable; I may be wrong, but I suspect it might be hard to find a month, for example, when New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd does not launch an attack upon the papacy and the Catholic Church. And when the College of Cardinals announces the successor to Benedict, there will be fervid speculation about the new pope’s attitude toward divorce, abortion, the Jews, secularism in Italy, and so on.
That is one view of the Catholic Church, the church of hierarchy, tradition, formalism, its bursts of reform soon restrained by a return to conservatism. It is the church so familiar to the minds of secularists, pagans and anti-Catholics everywhere. It is the church of the 19th-century popes. It is the church of infallibility, incense, candles, and of Latin masses. Pushing it further, it is the church of financial corruption and sexual abuse. It is the church of stereotype, which is not wise.
In the early 1790s, as Europe reeled under the shock of the French Revolution, the great English politician and philosopher Edmund Burke warned against condemning an entire nation, a France of about 30 million souls, for the troubles and wars. Shouldn’t we be wary of condemning a church of roughly 1 billion believers?
On Wednesday last week, I went, as I usually do, to work in the lunchtime soup kitchen of the St. Thomas More Catholic chaplaincy at Yale University in downtown New Haven, Connecticut, founded almost 30 years ago to meet the needs of the poor and hungry. Among our customers, there was the usual group of permanent down-and-outs, meth addicts, drinkers, druggies, and dignified older ladies and gentlemen who had recently lost their jobs and decided to take our food so they could spend their pittances on energy bills. There was a father with four young kids; the local schools had closed because of a blizzard, so they could not get their free school lunches. To talk with our clients is sometimes a revelation. Just a few weeks ago, I talked with a young man (never seen before or since) who wanted to discuss the poems of Shelley and Keats — plus Eliot’s “Four Quartets”!
The helpers at the soup kitchen are all volunteers; they would never expect to be remunerated. Not everyone is Catholic, but most are. They are the parishioners who live around Yale and come in for Sunday Mass and collegiality. They are the Yale students who also work in the downtown evening soup kitchen, or in the men’s overflow night shelter. A number of them are going off to Guatemala in mid-March to help rebuild a village still hurting from the civil wars. They welcome guest speakers and participate in theological discussion groups. This is not a dead or decaying church. It is vibrant and pulsing, rejoicing also in the beauty of the services (especially the sung Masses) and the sheer intellectualism of the homilies. It is our Catholic Church. Nobody is leaving it. What happens in Rome is, well, distant.
A few Sundays ago, the Gospel featured that very familiar tale of “the Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:25-37). A man going to Jericho from Jerusalem was assaulted by robbers, then left to die in the ditch. A priest came by, and rode on. A Levite came by, and did not stop. But the despised Samaritan stopped, took the unknown victim to an inn and paid for all that he needed. Note that the benefactor did not assist a family member, or a college friend, or a favored charity. That’s simply not enough. “Even the pagans do that!” scoffed Jesus in another address.
The litmus test is whether you help the unknown, the desperate-looking person at the soup kitchen, the beggar on the street. At the end of his striking homily upon this passage, the remarkable Catholic chaplain at Yale told us bluntly: “This is the test. Do you love your unknown neighbor as yourself? Do you love your dirty, hairy, smelly, dispossessed neighbor as yourself, and will you reach out to help?” Loving your God, and loving your known and unknown neighbors as yourself, is the core. Everything else, said Father Bob, “is footnotes.” Wow. The married-priests issue is a footnote; the female-priests issue is a footnote; so is divorce, contraception, Latin Masses, changes in the liturgy, even perhaps the death penalty.
What matters is your reaching out to help. That’s the sole question you will be asked when you reach the Pearly Gates.
Does this mean that Catholics do not need a worldwide church structure? Not at all. We need the parish, the parish priest, the parish church, where most of us will be baptized, take Communion and confession, get married and eventually enjoy the last rites. But those parishes reside under the protective umbrella of a diocese and its bishop — and the line from a bishop goes straight to Rome.
The physical parish church offers not only a place for public worship but also a place for study groups, social and fund-raising events, soup kitchens and the like. Nobody, surely, wants to be like the early Christians, wandering through deserts and hillsides, without a physical place of worship, without roots. We need the Church Physical, just as we need the Church Ethical and the Church Social. Even the modest Quakers, with their great commitment to prayer and social justice, need meeting houses, organization and a network.
But no one launching an attack upon the papal elections, Vatican finances, sexism and the rest should think that they are attacking Catholicism per se. From my perspective, our Catholic Church is vibrant, helpful, intellectual, and working in so many ways to fulfill the message to love God and to love, and reach out to, one’s unknown neighbor. Everything else is, well, footnotes.
Paul Kennedy is Dilworth Professor of History and director of International Security Studies at Yale University; and the author of many books, including “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.”

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Bad Catholic = the New Catholic?


We Catholics are really all over the place.  It will take a long time to work through a lot of these issues.  The one counsel I'd offer this writer is that the 58 million Catholics in North America cannot dictate to the rest of the over 1 billion Catholics across the world how to be Catholic.

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Young Catholics: What Kind of Church Do They Want?

Annie Selak's article in the Washington Post is well worth pondering.  - Fr. Rick

Posted at 04:10 PM ET, 02/14/2013
The church young Catholics want
By Annie Selak
(This photo is the Pope in Australia.  This is not the photo that appeared with this article in The Washington Post.  I choose this photo from goggle images to illustrate this article - Fr. Rick)

Pope Benedict XVI walks past a figurine of baby Jesus as he leads the Christmas Mass in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican December 24, 2011. REUTERS/Max Ross (MAX ROSSI - REUTERS)
With the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, all eyes are turned to the future of the Roman Catholic Church. Rather than getting caught up in a game of the most likely candidates to serve as the next pope (a different type of March Madness for Catholics), I think it’s helpful to take a step back and think about what we hope the future church will look like. I’m a young Catholic. I work with college age Catholics. What do young Catholics want?
- A church that takes our experience seriously: If you dig through church teaching, you can see that experience is a valid and necessary aspect of forming conscience. However, it does not feel like that is the case. Whether it is the sexual abuse crisis or new translation of the Roman Missal, the church seems distant from what is actually going on in the world. We want the church to ask the questions we are asking, rather than ones that seem trivial at best and irrelevant at worst. Catholicism can recover from mistakes, but one thing the church cannot recover from is being irrelevant.
-A church that emphasizes the inclusive ministry of Jesus: Jesus was incredible, right? Why is it that we so rarely hear about that? Jesus consistently reached out to those marginalized from the community, yet the church does not follow suit. Who are the marginalized today? Most young Catholics are quick to point to two groups: women and people who do not identify as heterosexual. Regardless of political leanings, there is an overwhelming consensus that the church needs to do better in these areas. The Vatican has repeatedly shut down any dialogue surrounding the ordination of women and church teaching on homosexuality. At the very least, these issues need to be opened up to a thoughtful, informed dialogue that includes historical analysis, social sciences, tradition and Scripture (notably, all areas the church affirms in the formation of conscience). There is an urgency to these issues, as these are not nameless people on the margins, these are our friends, family members, mentors,and leaders. One of the things that draws young people to the Gospel is the inclusivity of Jesus; how is it that the exclusivity of the church turns people away?
-A church that embraces that God is everywhere: The younger generation of the church resonates with the universal notion of Catholicism. We see diversity and unity as two concepts that go together, rather than being opposites. Moreover, we recognize the importance of other religions. Some of Pope Benedict XVI’s biggest missteps related to his interactions with other religions. But young Catholics have grown up alongside people from different religions who are some of the holiest people we know. Nostra Aetate , Vatican II’s “Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions” affirms that God is present in other religions, yet you would be hard-pressed to find anyone in the pews on a Sunday morning who knows this. We need to affirm and emphasize that God is present in other religions and sincerely work on improving our relationships with them.
-A church that engages struggles and is open to dialogue: We want to wrestle with the hard questions of how our experience interacts with Scripture and tradition. Yet, it feels like young Catholics are alone in this desire. Many young people respond to this vacuum in two ways: by either taking everything the hierarchy says as absolute truth or completely disregarding the church. Neither of these responses are what the church actually calls us to do. We do not need answers; we need to engage the world. We do not want to be spoon-fed theology. Rather, we want to wrestle, grapple, use our minds, engage our hearts, debate, think and pray. And we want our church to do that with us.
In Mass we say that “we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” So too, in this time of transition in the church, we wait in joyful hope of a Catholicism that lives out the Gospel in our modern world. We, the young generation of the church, are yearning for the Gospel of Jesus. We want the church to get its hands dirty and be engaged and relevant in our lives, helping us to share this good news throughout the world.
Annie Selak is a lay minister in the Roman Catholic Church and specializes in the question of young adults and vocation in the modern world.
By Annie Selak  |  04:10 PM ET, 02/14/2013

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Interesting data on Young Catholics From The Barna Group


The Spiritual Journeys of Young Catholics, Plus their Views on Birth Control, Sexuality and the Church

February 19, 2013 – The Catholic church has been making news. On February 7, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops rejected the Obama Administration’s revised rules regarding mandated insurance coverage for contraceptive health. Less than a week later, on February 12, Pope Benedict XVI resigned, citing his age and failing health. While unrelated, these events reveal a faith segment very much at a crossroads.
Representing about one quarter of Americans, the Catholic church continues to grapple with the consequences of its sex scandals, faces increasing political pressures and—like many of its evangelical counterparts—must deal with growing disillusionment among its youth. A Barna study among young adults ages 18-29 who attended a Catholic church at some point during their teenage years, looks at the faith journeys of these young Catholics and how these controversial issues factor into their faith and their perspective of the church.
Sexuality and Birth Control
The Catholic church’s stance on some of the most divisive social and political issues of the day has garnered significant media attention. And issues of reproductive health appear to be one of the major disconnects for some young Catholics and the church. Yet, reflecting our increasingly fragmented society, millions of other young Catholics have no qualms at all with these teachings on sexuality.
The study shows most young adults who identify as Catholic say “the church’s teachings on sexuality and birth control are out of date” (60%). Still, only one-quarter of young Catholics (23%) say this perception is “completely true” of their experience—the most extreme end of the scale provided to survey respondents.
The segment of 18-29-year-old Catholics surveyed includes a range of individuals, from those who are very active to those who have essentially dropped out of church. Among young Catholics who are still religiously active, only one-third (37%) raises some level of concern about the church’s teachings on birth control and sexuality and just 12% say it’s “completely true” for them that the church’s teachings on these matters feel out of date.
In contrast, among young adults who have dropped out of Catholic churches, 69% are concerned about the church’s teachings on sexuality and birth control and 23% say this is a major concern. It is important to note that this kind of survey research does not imply causation—we do not know if or how these views about sexuality affected the spiritual journey of those who dropped out of church, only that the connection exists.
Interestingly, among those who attended a Catholic or faith-related school growing up, 65% said they have some misgivings about the church’s stance on sexuality and birth control, slightly above the average.
David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group and author of You Lost Me, points out that these data have to be interpreted in light of the millions of young people who are represented across the spectrum of viewpoints. “Even when we look at a fairly defined demographic segment like young adult Catholics, we find a great deal of differences. While many young Catholics are at odds with Catholic teaching on matters of birth control, only about one-quarter are very discontent and many do not at all share these perceptions.”
Clergy Abuse Scandals
The priest abuse scandals are another controversial dimension of today’s Catholic experience—and one that has had inevitable impact on many people’s beliefs and feelings toward the church. Among all 18-29-year-olds who have a Catholic background, 43% say the “priest abuse scandals have made me question my faith,” with 11% indicating this is completely true of their experience.
This perception was particularly common among young Catholic dropouts: 57% say this has been a stumbling block for them and 11% say this has been a major obstacle to their faith.
The study also looked at how young Catholic’s feel about the church’s stance toward ordaining women. Overall, just under half (45%) of young Catholics say it bothers them “that the Church does not ordain women as priests.” Just 14% feel strongly about this. Young Catholics who remain active in the church are even more likely than lapsed Catholics to say this is an important consideration (13% versus 9%). While not a majority view among young Catholics, it is a very strongly held sentiment even among those who have stayed connected to the Church.

The Faith Journeys of Young Catholics
“Keeping the next generation” has consistently been a major concern of religious institutions, but perhaps never more so than today. With the well-documented rise of the “nones”—those claiming no religious affiliation—and the growing number of young church exiles, faith leaders of all kinds are focusing on how to attract and keep young people. The Catholic church is no exception, and in many ways, faces some unique challenges in retaining its future congregants.
A majority (56%) of young Catholics (ages 18-29) admit they’ve dropped out of attending church at some point after having gone regularly. This percentage is slightly lower than the dropout rate among young Protestants with a Christian background (61%). Still, 65% of Catholic-raised young adults say they are less religiously active today than they were at age 15, which is slightly higher than their Protestant counterparts (58%).
Also, more than half of young Catholics (51%) say they have been significantly frustrated with their faith and four in 10 (41%) have gone through a period when they felt significant doubts about their faith. These rates are on par with young Protestants.
While many young Catholics may have left the church or questioned their faith at some level, very few have outright abandoned their Catholic roots. Only one in three (35%) admit to having gone through a period when they felt like rejecting their parent’s faith (statistically on par with the 32% of young Protestants).
Yet, while most young Catholics may have dropped out of church at some point, the desire to be part of a historic religious institution remains. Four in ten young Christians (41%) say they’d rather have “a traditional faith than be part of a hip version of Christianity.” Similarly, most young Catholics still consider themselves spiritual. Only three out of 10 (29%) say they are less spiritual today than they were at age 15.
So if most young Catholics embrace their religious roots, are spiritually oriented and desire a traditional faith, why the high drop-out rates? One reason may be that many young adults find Mass to be dull and uninteresting. One-fifth of all young Catholics (18%) admit, while they know Mass is supposed to be meaningful, they consistently find it to be a boring obligation. Two-thirds say this has been true for them at least some of the time.
Young Catholics also admit they feel excluded in church at the expense of older adults. One in four young Catholics say they’ve felt their parish values older people more than younger people.
Not surprisingly, compared to those young adults who remain religiously active, Catholic dropouts are more likely to express these kinds of criticisms of their experience with Catholicism.
One of the surprising revelations of the research is that those who have attended a Catholic or faith related school are essentially no more favorable—or unfavorable—than the norm toward Catholicism, the church and Mass. Attending a Catholic school doesn’t seem to cause additional disaffection, but neither does it insulate students from such frustrations. In fact, about one-quarter of all young Catholics (26%) say they had a mostly negative experience in Catholic school. Among those who attended, the proportion is about two out of five (40%) who remember their educational experience unfavorably.

With the bishop’s recent announcement regarding health insurance and contraceptive coverage, there’s a lot of skepticism about young people’s positions on these issues. Yet the data suggests that most active young Catholics are in agreement with the Church’s teachings on abortion, birth control and sexuality. Additionally, while many devout Catholics are discussing this—and other recent church and political clashes—as religious liberty issues, that’s not what younger adults are talking about. In fact, a recent Barna study found that religious liberty isn’t much of a concern for young people.
“While the Catholic Bishops’ decision will likely connect with religiously active younger Catholics—who tend to be conservative on matters of sexuality,” says David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group. “An important part of the story seems to be in how those young Catholics who have left the church—or who are moderately active—feel about these issues. Interestingly, among those who are just semi-active in the Catholic church, their perceptions of sexuality are much more like those of Catholic dropouts, which suggests the struggles over birth control and reproduction are likely to affect millions of ‘swing’—that is, moderately involved—Catholics.”
Kinnaman says that while “it’s worth understanding the spiritual journeys of a group of people,” that does not mean trying to cater to their preferences of church or religion. “Leaders have to be in tune with the people they are serving,” he says. “Especially in America’s increasingly fragmented religious landscape where people are influenced by many factors beyond their church or spiritual heritage.”
He also points out that doubts, questions and even dropping out of church for a time are not always the end of the story. “We have to acknowledge that the spiritual transitions people experience can be a good, productive thing,” Kinnaman says. “Anyone who takes their faith seriously will at some point in their life call certain aspects of it into question—and that includes the priorities and teachings of their religious institution. It isn’t necessarily the doubting or the questioning that’s cause for concern—it’s what young people do as a result of those questions.
“And, with nearly two-thirds of young Catholics having dropped out of church at some point, this should be a high priority among Catholic church leaders, as it has become among many Protestant leaders. Being effective among Millennials requires understanding what makes them tick, which includes knowing how the church’s teachings and positions on key social issues affects and is interpreted by young Catholics.”
To help educate faith leaders about Millennials and faith, Barna Group has been hosting a series of events, called You Lost Me Live, around the country.
About the Research
This Barna Update is based on research conducted for the Faith That Lasts Project. The research included a series of national public opinion surveys conducted by Barna Group.
In addition to extensive quantitative interviewing with adults and faith leaders nationwide, the main research examination for the study was conducted with 18- to 29-year-olds who had been active in a Christian church at some point in their teen years. The quantitative study among 18- to 29-year-olds was conducted online with 1,296 current and former churchgoers. The Faith That Lasts research also included parallel testing on key measures using telephone surveys, including interviews conducted among respondents using cell phones, to help ensure the representativeness of the online sample. The sampling error associated with 1,296 interviews is plus or minus 2.7 percentage points, at the 95% confidence level.
The sample of young Catholics included 536 interviews with18- to 29-year-olds who had experience attending a Catholic church prior to age 18. The sampling error associated with this sample is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points, at the 95% confidence level.
The online study relied upon a research panel called KnowledgePanel®, created by Knowledge Networks. It is a probability-based online non-volunteer access panel. Panel members are recruited using a statistically valid sampling method with a published sample frame of residential addresses that covers approximately 97% of U.S. households. Sampled non-Internet households, when recruited, are provided a netbook computer and free Internet service so they may also participate as online panel members. KnowledgePanel consists of about 50,000 adult members (ages 18 and older) and includes persons living in cell phone only households.
About Barna Group
Barna Group (which includes its research division, the Barna Research Group) is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. It conducts primary research, produces media resources pertaining to spiritual development, and facilitates the healthy spiritual growth of leaders, children, families and Christian ministries.
Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984. If you would like to receive free e-mail notification of the release of each update on the latest research findings from Barna Group, you may subscribe to this free service at the Barna website (www.barna.org). Additional research-based resources are also available through this website.
© Barna Group, 2013.

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Monday, February 18, 2013

National Catholic Reporter on Pope and Clergy Sex Abuse


Jesuit expert calls Benedict 'great reformer' on sex abuse

  • Jesuit Fr. Hans Zollner presents the acts of a 2012 symposium on sex abuse to Pope Benedict XVI on Feb. 1
One difficulty in assessing the legacy of Pope Benedict XVI on the sexual abuse crisis is that the people making the assessments tend to know more about one end of the equation than the other. That is, they’re either papal observers struggling to make sense of the scandals, or people on the front lines of the scandals trying to understand the pope.
A rare figure with deep expertise in both is Jesuit Fr. Hans Zollner, the academic vice-rector of the Jesuit-run Gregorian University in Rome and head of its Institute of Psychology.
On the papal side, Zollner was born in the Bavarian city of Regensburg, more or less the hometown of Pope Benedict XVI, and holds degrees in philosophy and theology from the University of Regensburg where the future pope once taught. In Rome, he’s had a front-row seat for the last part of Benedict’s tenure at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the almost eight years of his papacy.
In terms of understanding the dynamics of abuse, Zollner’s credentials are equally impressive. He was licensed as a psychologist and psychotherapist in 2004, and in 2010 and 2011 he served as a member of the scientific working group of the “Round Table on Child Abuse” created by Germany’s federal government.
Zollner has studied the church’s rocky history on the issue at length, publishing the 2010 book Chiesa e pedofilia. Una ferita aperta. Un approccio psicologico-pastorale (“The Church and Pedophilia – An Open Wound: A Psychological and Pastoral Approach”), along with fellow Jesuit Fr. Giovanni Cucci.
In 2012, Zollner was chair of the organizing committee for a major international summit on the sex abuse crisis held at the Gregorian, and co-sponsored by several Vatican departments. Among other things, that summit marked the debut of a “Center for Child Protection” and an e-learning curriculum for church practitioners, intended to distill “best practices” in preventing abuse, detecting it when it occurs, responding to it in terms of civil and canon law, and reaching out to victims.
On Feb. 15, Zollner sat down for an interview with NCR to discuss Benedict’s record and the fallout from last’s year summit.
* * *
Now that Benedict XVI is stepping down, how do you evaluate his legacy on the sexual abuse scandals?
Based on what I know personally, at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he was the first person, and the most determined person, to take on what he called the ‘open wound’ in the body of the church, meaning the sexual abuse of minors by clergy. He came to know about a number of cases, and the intensity of the wounds inflicted on victims. He became aware of what priests had done to minors, and to vulnerable adults. As a result, he became more and more convinced that it has to be tackled, and at various levels he started to deal with it – the canonical level, the ecclesial, and the personal.
Benedict XVI is the first pope who has met with and listened to abuse victims, who has apologized, and who has written about the problem both in his letter to Irish bishops and in the book Light of the World.
One very important step was to concentrate all the legal and administrative procedures at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Another was to appoint a very intelligent, practical and dedicated man as Promoter of Justice.
You’re talking about Monsignor Charles Scicluna, now Bishop Scicluna in Malta?
Yes, Monsignor Scicluna, who was in that job for ten years. Now he’s appointed Father Robert Oliver [of the Boston archdiocese], which shows his resolution to go on – to do justice to the victims, to hold abusers within the church accountable, and to whatever can be done to promote prevention.
We had enormous support for the symposium on abuse last February by all the heads of the major offices in the Roman Curia – the Doctrine of the Faith, Propaganda Fide, Bishops, Education, the Secretariat of State. The Secretary of State wrote a letter to participants in which he quotes the pope. If you understand how Rome functions, all this could not have happened if there wasn’t a placet from above.
Other voices notwithstanding, and despite the bad image some people have created of the pope both as prefect and as Holy Father, he has been the most determined person to take this on. He’s been very encouraging for many people, including ourselves, to really face the issues and to try to do whatever can done to make sure that this evil within the church is acknowledged and is avoided as much as possible in the future.
You believe Benedict XVI will be remembered as a great reformer on the sex abuse front?
Yes, I do.
How do you explain his negative image?
Based on what I’ve read recently in the German newspapers, even in those that are rather critical of the church, all of them unanimously acknowledge that he was forced to face a crisis rooted in cases that often go back up to fifty or sixty years. Both in the last years of John Paul II and in his papacy, Benedict XVI was dealing with something that had lingered for decades. Unfortunately, he was made responsible for something that came to a broader public light in the last ten years or so, but it predates him. He got a bad image probably because people didn’t know how far back these cases went, and it was not communicated well enough how much he’s done to clean out the stables. He was the most important person in this.
Why do you think that story is so hard to tell?
Probably because his public image as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith got in the way. It was so opposite to who he really is. Whoever has worked with him, whoever has encountered him personally, as we did two weeks ago when we presented the proceedings of the symposium to him, knows that he’s the most humble, most sensitive person. He’s very much aware of who’s in front of him, so he really takes the individual into account. That’s so contrary to the public image of the “panzer cardinal” and so on … a very rigid, conservative person. He has his convictions, but he’s much more open-minded.
He encountered the Jesuit professors here at the Gregorian in 2006, and he made a statement that was so profoundly encouraging to develop theology. I was there in 2008 when he addressed the Jesuit General Congregation members, made up of 220 Jesuits, and some of them were fairly apprehensive. He gave a brilliant talk which took many of us by surprise because of its openness, and its deep understanding of the needs of the church today. He praised Fr. [Pedro] Arrupe, he praised our work for social justice, he gave credit to the Jesuit Refugee Service, he singled out the pioneering work of dialogue with culture of Matteo Ricci, and he called us to go to the frontiers, acknowledging that going there means being at the edge, in difficulties, and not always having the right answer. It was both deeply consoling and challenging.
The public image and the reality are just so different. For instance, bishops with a story of scandals, most of them personal, have been asked to step down. That’s happened in Europe, in Latin America, in Africa, and in other places.
One of the reasons it’s tough to style Benedict as a reformer, at least in the United States, is precisely because the perception is that bishops have not been held accountable. We have a bishop in Kansas City who pled guilty to not reporting suspected child abuse, Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston received a position in Rome, and now Cardinal Roger Mahony is on his way to the conclave despite having been relieved of administrative and public duties by his successor. What about accountability for bishops?
I know this is a constant question from American journalists and the public. I was there when Monsignor Scicluna responded to your question on this point at the symposium last year.
He said we need greater accountability mechanisms for bishops.
Yes, the question really is not resolved. It’s complicated to work out clear procedures, partly because civil law and church law often don’t coincide in many instances and in many countries. We’ve tried to promote understanding of this point, but I know it’s hard to do. The civil law in the United States on these issues, for instance, is not the law in other countries. What your people ask for may not be what Germans, or Italians, or Malaysians, would ask for, and so it’s hard to arrive at a common standard [of accountability] for the entire world.
Obviously, we have to think about how accountability for bishops can be put in place, clearly and recognizably. Despite its hierarchical nature, the church actually doesn’t have clear procedures for some of these issues. For instance, the role of the bishops’ conference [in enforcing accountability] is not clear, the role of the Metropolitan is not clear.
I was a bit surprised by Monsignor Scicluna’s reply to you, because he seemed to suggest that it all goes back to the pope. The poor pope can’t possibly deal with every one of these situations. There have to be intermediate steps, and these are not yet in place. That’s probably true not only of the church, but of many other institutions. Who’s responsible for a teacher who abuses a child in a school? Is it the principal, the superintendent, the regional administrator, the minister for education in that country?
In American lawsuits, they would probably all be named.
That’s not the case in Europe, where the fault in civil law lies with the single person.
It’s not only a question of how we deal with sex abuse cases and the responsibility of the superior or the bishops. There are also other situations, such as financial misconduct, physical abuse, and various kinds of scandals. It’s not dealt with adequately in church law, and the picture is very complex.
Both in the church and in society, people have learned a lot in the past ten years in terms of developing protocols and systems to ensure child safety, and are moving in the right direction, although there remains much still to be done. But Benedict XVI should be given the credit for taking important institutional first steps.
The symposium a year ago seemed to send a signal that the Vatican and Rome was trying to gets its hands around the issue. One year later, what have the fruits been?
The major fruit is that around the world, church leaders at various levels and the faithful have come to a much higher awareness and sensitivity. More people are coming to understand that abuse at the hands of priests has happened in all countries and other church employees, as in other institutions. There’s a growing conviction that we can’t tolerate this, we have to do whatever can be done to do justice to victims, we must stop the abusers and bring them to do justice, and we have to whatever we can to prevent these crimes.
Last weekend I was in Poland, giving some lectures to psychologists. A week before I arrived, a Dutch journalist living in Poland published a book in which he presents twelve interviews he did with victims of clerical abuse in Poland. One of my Polish Jesuit brothers said, ‘You were right. I never believed this had happened in Poland, because if it had the Communists would have used it against us. Now I see that it’s true.’ If that’s happening in Poland and other parts of Central and Eastern Europe, which has a very conservative church climate, and where people didn’t believe it could have happened because of their unique circumstances, it’s striking. The same thing is happening in Latin America. I’ve talking to the bishops’ conferences and a wider public in Chile and Argentina in April. They get the point, and it tells me we’ve made a major step forward.
What about Asia and Africa?
It varies from country to country. In the Philippines they’re ahead of Eastern Europe. Much has been done, because of the public scandals there and because of the contact the bishops have with the United States. The cardinal of Manila is the best example. He’s given talks in the States on this issue, and he’s made it clear this is a major concern that has to be handled by the church in the Philippines. The same thing is true for Thailand, where abuse is rampant among sexual tourists there, and the church is the forefront of protecting children and women.
In Confucianist countries such as Korea and Japan, it is quite difficult to talk about sexual abuse publicly. We know from statistics that abuse in the family is a serious problem, but the church hasn’t really taken any public position. In India we’re working with 17 Jesuit provinces to fight the wider problem of child abuse, not just in the church. One government study in India, where the population obviously is mostly Hindu and Muslim, claims that fifty percent of young people are abused.
Africa, as both Monsignor Scicluna and Father Oliver have said, is far behind in many countries in setting up guidelines and acknowledging the problem. One challenge, and this is very hard to convey to a broader public, is the cultural differences. This is not the Anglo-Saxon legal system and puritanical moral system. In many African countries, for example, it’s normal to marry a girl at 14, 15 and 16, and to have children at that age. In Angola, there are initiation rites for boys at the age of 13 to 16. They stay in ‘boy camps’ for one to two years, where they’re introduced to sexuality, including what by our standards would include abuse. We have to understand a bit more what sexuality means for the peoples of Africa, and how they understand sexual interaction with minors. The civil law may be completely different from the practice. If the culture, or the tribe, or the family says that you marry at 16, then it doesn’t matter with the law says. Actually, that’s often true in India with the caste system.
In Kenya we’re working with the Malindi diocese on the east coast, which is a center for sexual tourism by Europeans and Americans. The bishop of Malindi, who’s a Maltese Capuchin, opened a help desk for the victims of abuse in the family, through sexual tourism, and possibly also by priests. At the first conference organized by the Center for Child Protection in Munich, a Kenyan priest told us about a fourteen or fifteen-year-old boy who has two sisters, twelve and ten. They don’t have parents anymore because of AIDS. He sells his sisters to tourists so all three can survive. That kind of context helps us to understand the wider perspective in which the African church is trying to handle abuse cases. What does ‘abuse’ mean in that context?
Of course, some things are universal. If you violate the body, the mind and the freedom of a minor, that’s clearly abuse. The appropriate responses, however, are complicated, and we have to be aware that we’re far from having a ‘one size fits all’ response.
The archbishop of Tamale in Ghana was here two days ago. He’s a broad-minded man, with a degree in church history from Germany. He told me that the seminary now has problems they didn’t have thirty years ago. He wants to promote awareness, and this is where we think our approach can make a difference. He works together with UNICEF and other NGOs to fight abuse, which gives credit to the efforts of the church. It’s so different from the situation in some parts of Europe and North America; in Africa we can really help the victims speak out, to help stop the abuse, and to raise awareness that this is an important issue not just for the church but the entire society.
What’s another fruit?
One that will have important consequences has to do with the [anti-abuse] guidelines established by bishops’ conferences, which the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had requested be submitted for review and comment by June 2012. More than 75 percent of conferences have responded. Virtually every European country, all the countries in North and South America, and most Asian countries have sent them in. The bulk of the ones missing are in Africa, where there are 36 bishops’ conferences. However, many of them sent representatives to the symposium, and they’ve at least begun to think about how to shape a set of guidelines for their situation.
Let’s remember that in countries such as Mali and Congo, there’s a war going on. Obviously, it’s hard to think about a set of guidelines in those circumstances. But we see the momentum even in these places, and I’m sure the Congregation for the Faith will continue to push. They’ll also get their observations back, and the congregation is being very clear.
How is the e-learning center going?
It’s going very well. We have funding for three years, so we can find out whether this platform can function in various languages, cultures and continents. The initial feedback is very good. The interest is exploding, from NGOs, political institutions, research institutes. We also want to do it in a scientifically rigorous way, so by the end of 2014 we should have something to present that’s sustainable.
How many church practitioners have made use of it?
At the moment, there are around 250 practitioners and 60 trainers involved, in the eight countries in which we are present at the moment.
What’s the future of the Center for Child Protection?
First of all, we want to consolidate the e-learning program, with everything that church practitioners need, and later on for others who want to join the program. The basics are how to recognize that a child possibly has been abused, how to act with the abuser, and what’s the correct civil and canon law. We have to be aware of the cultural issues, which will raise many questions.
We also want to develop the theological reflection on this issue, which has not had much development. There’s actually very little.
We also have to sort out how we can best promote and expand these efforts. Child protection is one concern, protection of vulnerable adults is another, and women’s rights are another. We need to think about how to combine them.
Also, we need to think about how to connect our program with other areas and resources. For instance, the Jesuit Refugee Service has a program that connects various Jesuit universities through e-learning programs. We could insert this one, and it has a wide reach. In India, for instance, the Jesuits have an immense network of schools. In Indonesia, the Jesuits have a university where the students are seventy to eighty percent Muslims. This opens up a totally new area, involving the Muslim community in this network and acknowledging what happens in the Muslim community.
You’re saying this is not just an exercise in crisis management, but a permanent commitment?
Surely, yes.

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Rick Malloy, S.J., on Pope Benedict's Decision!

 Pope Benedict XVI Steps Down.
 Richard G. Malloy, S.J., Ph.D.
Vice President for University Mission and Ministry, the University of Scranton
(Front Page Story in the University of Scranton's paper, the Aquinas, Feb 15 2013)

This week we saw something that hasn’t happened in 719 years.  A Pope resigned.  This is a wise and humble choice on the part of Benedict XVI.  He has led the church since 2005, taking over from the charismatic and beloved John Paul II.  Admittedly more shy and less media savvy and charismatic than his predecessor, Benedict has charmed many he visited, e.g. his USA trip in 2008.
Celestine V in 1294 A.D. was the last Pope to voluntarily resign as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church.  (Gregory XII was forced to resign in 1415, and so ended a painful schism, in the Western church where two Popes were claiming the Papacy).
Benedict’s eight years as head of the world’s more than one billion Catholics have not been easy.  He had to deal with the never ending revelations of priests’ sex scandals and Bishops mishandling of these matters.  Benedict XVI has been less the conservative enforcer some predicted and has certainly not made the conservative –liberal logjam any worse than it was when he took office.  Still, relations with religious women, and especially two well respected female theologians, Margaret Farley and Elizabeth Johnson, did not please the Catholic left.  But the Catholic right has not been pleased with what some see as his unwillingness to take a hard line and “crack down” on dissenters. 
This Pope is a brilliant theologian and an astute reader of the signs of the times.  He realizes that women and men of faith gain more by the patient and prayerful work of persuasion than the bludgeon of deafening dogma.  In the long run, dictators never win true allegiance of hearts and minds. 
Especially in his writings (hundreds of articles, multiple books, Encyclicals and three recent popular books on the life of Jesus), Benedict has been a voice of faith grounded in solid biblical scholarship.  Jim Martin, S.J., notes, “in [his] books, the pope brought to bear decades of scholarship and prayer to the most important question that a Christian can ask: Who is Jesus?  This is the pope’s primary job--to introduce people to Jesus--and Pope Benedict did that exceedingly well.” http://americamagazine.org/content/all-things/popes-legacy
Benedict’s voice calls for faith in an age where faith is fragile.  The erosion of faith in European and First world countries threatens the life of the church.  Yet hope rises where the church is blossoming, in places like Africa, Asia and Latin America.  China has seen Christianity grow exponentially in recent decades.
In his Introduction to Christianity, Benedict writes, “one could very well describe Christianity as a philosophy of freedom” and “The Christian message is basically nothing else than the transmission of the testimony that love has managed to break through death here and thus has transformed fundamentally the situation of us all.” (1968, p. 158; p. 307)
Jesuit Father Drew Christiansen argues that Benedict’s “encyclical Caritas in Veritate, with its affirmation of structural reform as ‘political charity’ and his call for a global authority to regulate the financial sector, may be the most radical since John XXIII's Pacem in terris 50 years ago.” http://americamagazine.org/content/all-things/benedicts-legacy
In Jesus of Nazareth, Benedict movingly reveals his view of God who exists in loving relationship.  “We see that to be God’s child is not a matter of dependency, but rather of standing in the relation of love that sustains man’s existence and gives it meaning and grandeur.  One last question: Is God also Mother?  The Bible does compare God’s love with the love of a mother.    The mystery of God’s maternal love is expressed with particular power in the Hebrew word rahamim, … ‘womb,’ later used to mean divine compassion, … God’s mercy.  The womb is the most concrete expression for the interrelatedness of two lives and of loving concern…” (2007, p. 139).
Joseph Ratzinger was born in 1927 and ordained a priest in 1951.  He has been serving the church in many capacities for over six decades.  He merits some time to relax, read and pray.  Maybe he’ll even have some more time to write.
College students know how to use twitter.  “Tweet” the Pope at his twitter handle “@pontifex” and say, “Thanks.”

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Monday, February 04, 2013

96% are Takers! America Tells it like it is


A Nation of Takers?

Here is a startling fact: About 96 percent of Americans benefit from some kind of government assistance. Whether the benefit is student loans or Medicare, chances are that at some point in your life you will receive public aid. This figure is instructive regarding the role of government in the lives of citizens. The divide in this country is not between the “47 percent” who depend on government programs and those who do not. The story of government assistance is more complicated, more surprising and ultimately more vexing.
Consider this: The top 20 percent of households receive 10 percent of entitlement spending, yet they receive 66 percent of tax expenditure benefits. In other words, they receive a disproportionate share of tax breaks in the form of exemptions, deductions or credits. High earners also receive better benefits packages at work. While these benefits are not government assistance per se, the government has opted to let employers handle the disbursement of certain social resources. These facts should shape the way the government approaches social welfare. Sensible tax reform is within reach and could help to bridge the gap between rich and poor.

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