Saturday, June 16, 2012

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, June 17

Our beloved Holy Mother the Church has been in the news a fair amount lately.
The continuing, decade-old (though it seems like a century) drama of the clergy sexual abuse has been playing out a new chapter in the courts in Philadelphia. Msgr. William Lynn, former Archdiocesan official in charge of clergy, is accused of moving around known abusive priests to various parishes and not reporting this to police, thus endangering children. He claims he was only doing what his Bishop ordered him to do. After 11 weeks of testimony the jury was still out after five days of deliberations. As I write this they have still not come back with a verdict. This is a very significant case, as this is the first chancery official who could go to jail for covering up for abusive priests. If Msgr. Lynn is convicted look for more court actions against other chancery officials, Monsignors and even Bishops.

In Rome the “Vatileaks” scandal continues. The Pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, has been arrested and charged as the source of the leaked letters and papers, portraying a lot of back-stabbing, nasty politics and power-plays inside the Vatican, reminiscent of the time of the Borgia Popes during the Renaissance. Many believe the butler is just the fall guy and the source of the revelations goes much deeper. According to the New York Times, the leaks deal “with at least three shadowy Vatican machinations …: a campaign to undermine the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone; controversy over the management of the Vatican bank; and intense infighting between Italian cardinals vying for position in the Conclave that will one day elect Benedict’s successor” (June 4, 2012 p 4). Rumors persist that the new Papal Nuncio (ambassador) to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who was previously #2 man in the administration of Vatican City and was known as a financial reformer, was kicked upstairs to the U.S. because he was asking too many questions at the Vatican bank. The former lay head of the Vatican bank, Gotti Tedeschi, was ousted May 24 and is now being investigated by Italian prosecutors for money laundering.

All of this turmoil has of course not stopped the Vatican from issuing a “doctrinal assessment” of the main organization of U.S. nuns, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, finding the LCWR wanting. Basically the nun’s organization has been put in receivership and taken over by the Vatican, with a U.S. Bishop to oversee the organization and to change its operating rules. This has stunned and deeply saddened many faithful and devout women religious as well as upset their supporters. And who doesn’t love the nuns? Also the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a few weeks later, also added a condemnation of a highly respected nun theologian’s critically acclaimed work on sexual ethics, Just Love. Mercy Sr. Margaret Farley was past head of the Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA) and is a retired professor at Yale Divinity School.  She is one very bright lady.

Closer to home our U.S. Bishops are deeply concerned over the erosion of religious liberty in our country, especially with who gets to define what constitutes religious activity. The immediate spark is the HHS Mandate for contraceptive coverage in health care provided by employers. You can read more about this on the US Bishop’s website,, or pick up some of the handouts available near the doors of the church. The Bishops are so concerned that they are contemplating, and even advocating, civil disobedience. They are conducting a special “Fortnight of Freedom,” a time of prayer and fasting for the two weeks leading up to the Fourth of July.

All of this, and more, leaves me feeling overwhelmed and a little numb. It’s as if some obstreperous spirit of contentiousness has been set loose in the Church, much as it is noisily prevalent in our society. Civil discourse seems to be anything but, and the contentiousness spills over into every other aspect of life. I think we could all be in need of the gifts of the Spirit in this time of the history of the Church; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal 5:22-3).

My advice is to pray for the fruits of the Holy Spirit! 

God bless! 

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