News



Current News Below;          Jan-July 2023 News  HERE ;                July-December 2022 News  HERE ;


Editorial (December 2023): Walking with or walking away from victims oc clerical child sexual abuse. HERE

Previous Editorials: HERE.


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Current News

Swiss Catholic Church abuse report delivered to Vatican
Limited Extract from swissinfo.ch, 3 February 2024
The Vatican has received a report on an investigation into allegations that members of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference tried to cover up abuse in the Catholic Church.           The Bishop of Chur, Joseph Bonnemain, has submitted the report covering accusations of harassment and covering up alleged abuse. The documentation collected as part of the preliminary canonical investigation, mandated in June 2023 by the Vatican, totals 1,800 pages, the bishopric of Chur said in a press release on Friday.         A 24-page final report contains a series of conclusions and recommendations for Vatican officials. The bishopric of Chur has not provided information on the concrete results of the preliminary canonical investigation. Questioned by the Keystone-ATS agency, Nicole Büchel, communications manager, explained that she did not receive authorisation from Rome to reveal the content of the report.         With the submission of the report, Bonnemain’s mission is complete, the diocese said. “The files will now be studied at the Vatican, which could take some time.” Those responsible for the Roman Curia will then draw their conclusions, make decisions and communicate them in an appropriate form. Bishop Bonnemain was commissioned by Rome to investigate the behaviour of four members of the Bishops’ Conference due to possible omissions of abuse reports.        For a fifth member of the episcopal conference, it was a question of shedding light on alleged acts of sexual harassment. According to the press release, Nicolas Betticher, former vicar general of the diocese of Lausanne, Geneva and Friborg denounced the wrongful behaviour of certain Swiss bishops.         For his preliminary investigation, Bonnemain was supported in his work by Pierre Cornu, cantonal judge of Neuchâtel, and by Brigitte Tag, professor of criminal law and criminal procedure at the University of Zurich…..(More).   Photo:  swissinfo.ch 3 February 2024

National consultation for next Synod assembly begins
Extract from CathNews, ACBC, 1 February 2024
Catholics around Australia are being asked to contribute to a global discussion on the future of the Church. At a diocesan level, consultation contributing to the next session of the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will start today. Groups of Catholics will gather and reflect on the question of “enhancing the differentiated co-responsibility in the mission of all members” and provide feedback. The discussion will focus on identifying the paths to follow and the tools that could be adopted in different contexts and circumstances to enhance the unique contribution of each baptised person. The dioceses will then report their findings. Dioceses are also encouraged to submit a two-page testimony of their experiences of synodality, including any best practices that they consider significant. Catholics will also be encouraged to promote new initiatives that will help them grow as a synodal Church on mission. “This work does not require restarting the synodal process again in dioceses, but rather it is built upon the outcomes of the synodal experiences from previous stages of consultation,” said Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB. National Centre for Pastoral Research director Dr Trudy Dantis said: “In responding to the questions, dioceses and groups are invited to focus on the ‘how’ and to choose aspects that enable them to make contributions based on their own situation, character and experience.” ….(More). Image: Synod on synodality updated logo 2024

Photo: Hon Anthony North KC. The Age,  Simon Schluter 13 May 2021.

The Hon. Anthony North KC appointed Yoorrook Commissioner
Extract from Yoorook Justice Commission, 31 January 2024                           

Former Federal Court Judge the Hon. Anthony North KC has been appointed as a Commissioner of Victoria’s formal truth telling process, the Yoorrook Justice Commission. Commissioner North has had a long and distinguished legal career. Commissioner North served as a judge of the Federal Court of Australia from 1995 to 2018. For the past four-and-a-half years he has been Chair of the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC).        During his time as a judge, Commissioner North’s main areas of work were cases about native title, refugee law, industrial law, and criminal appeals in the Australian Capital Territory Court of Appeal. In his role as Chair of the VLRC Commissioner North has consulted extensively with First Nations organisations and community members on issues of social justice. Chair of Yoorrook, Professor Eleanor Bourke said: “I welcome the appointment of Commissioner North to the Yoorrook Justice Commission. “This is a crucial period in the truth telling process. Yoorrook is undertaking concurrent inquiries into land, health, housing, education and economic, social and political life. Yoorrook will hold public hearings in the coming months and will complete its historic work by June 2025.       “As a former judge with a long and illustrious legal career, Commissioner North will bring invaluable experience and insight to Yoorrook as we work to fulfil the Commission’s extensive mandate.       I welcome Commissioner North and look forward to working with him.” Commissioner North said: “I am honoured to contribute to the historic work of the Yoorrook Justice Commission. I hope that my skills and experience will help advance its work: to tell the truth of our history. That truth is the foundation for community understanding, which is necessary so that we can move towards a more just society.”….(Source).

Pope extends policy of detente with China
Extract from CathNews, Crux, 31 January 2024
Several significant developments for the Catholic Church in China have occurred this week, including a bishop’s appointment and the establishment of a new diocese on the mainland for the first time since Mao’s Communist revolution. On Monday, the Vatican announced the suppression of the apostolic prefecture of Yiduxian and the establishment of the Weifang Diocese in a bid to “promote the pastoral care of the Lord’s flock and to attend more effectively to its spiritual good”.            A Vatican statement said the decision to replace the Yiduxian prefecture with the Weifang Diocese was made in April 2023, and that at the same time, Bishop Anthony Sun Wenjun, 53, had been appointed to lead the diocese. Bishop Wenjun’s episcopal ordination took place on Monday in the cathedral of Christ the King in Qingzhou, the former headquarters for the Apostolic Prefecture of Yiduxian, in a ceremony led by Bishop John Fang Xingyao of Linyi, honorary president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the state-sanctioned entity that governs the “official” Catholic church in China.         The establishment of Weifang Diocese marks the first formal creation of a new diocese by the Holy See in China since the Communist revolution in 1949…..(More). Photo: Vatican announced establishment of new diocese and bishop consecration, Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

Pope takes the “heresy hunters” to task
Pope Francis challenges all of us with a poignant reflection on the Parable of the Good Samaritan at the conclusion of the eight-day Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.      
Extract from Robert Mickens, Letter from Rome, La Croix International, 27 January 2024
The mainline Churches in the northern hemisphere have just concluded the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. And by many of the comments that appeared on social media during the January 18-25 commemoration, it would seem that at least some English speakers who describe themselves as “traditional” or “loyal” Catholics saw this annual ecumenical event as a propitious time to remind Christians who are not in communion with the Church of Rome that they are heretics. Some of these “staunch” Catholics were particularly steamed that Pope Francis allowed the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Justin Welby, and his fellow Anglicans to celebrate the Eucharist at St. Bartholomew’s on the (Tiber) Island in Rome.       This is the 10th century church that John Paul II designated during Jubilee 2000 to be a shrine to the “new” Christian martyrs of the 20th and 21st centuries. The Catholic loyalists were quick to point out, sometimes in vulgar and insulting terms, that “Mr. Welby” (as most of them called him) and the other Anglican bishops and priests were not validly ordained. “A reminder that, per Leo XIII’s Apostolicae curae of 1896, Anglican orders are ‘absolutely null and utterly void’,” said a post on X (formerly Twitter) that was replicated in many variations, most of which are just too nasty and uncharitable to repeat here.      The words “heretic” and “heresy” were also hurled mercilessly at non-Catholics over and over again — and they were aimed at the current pope, as well, sometimes quite explicitly……(More). Photo: Pope Francis, Johannes Neudecker, AP, dpa, La Croix

Same-Sex Blessing Conflict
Extract from J.A.Dick, Another Voice, 25 January 2024,
Catholic Church leaders in Africa and Central Asia prohibit the blessing of same-sex couples, despite recent Vatican approval. In fact, Catholic bishops in several countries have objected to the Vatican’s, and Pope Francis’, recent approval of blessings for same-sex couples, underscoring the divisiveness of the issue in the global Catholic Church.     The Catholic bishops of Africa and Madagascar issued a unified statement refusing to follow the Vatican declaration allowing priests to offer blessings to same-sex couples and asserting that such unions are “contrary to the will of God.”     The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a brief statement focusing mostly on its assertion that same-sex couples remain ineligible for liturgical blessings and reiterating the church’s position that marriage is a union of a man with a woman. Some bishops in Germany and Belgium, however, have long defied the earlier Catholic Church ban on blessing same-sex unions, even going so far as to produce a rite of blessing for same-sex couples….(More)

 More signs of hope from the synod synthesis report
Extract from Thomas Groome, NCR Online, 21 December 2023
In a recent and typically fine essay, Tom Reese elaborated on “15 hidden gems in the synod on synodality report.” With this, Reese was inviting us to a second and more in-depth reading after the initial and mixed responses to “A Synodal Church in Mission,” the synthesis report issued promptly after the close of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome Oct 4-29. Note first that most see the move toward synodality as a renewed impetus for the vision of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) as epitomized in Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.     There, the council portrays the church as first a mystery and then “the people of God,” before reflecting on its “hierarchical structure” — in a sense, turning the church upside down from its hierarchical pyramid. Synodality now is the way forward that can engage the whole people of God as active agents of their faith, moving along together. Yet there was serious disappointment with the synod’s synthesis report on at least two crucial fronts:       It did not endorse the ordination of women to the diaconate, and it made no explicit mention of full inclusion in the church for LGBTQ+ people. As a sign of hope, however, the report notes that while there was opposition, there was also a strong sentiment that admitting women to the diaconate would “restore the practice of the Early Church” and thus would be “faithful to the tradition.” This prompts the reasonable cry of “What are we waiting for?”      Likewise, while it does not use the term LGBTQ+, the synthesis report repeatedly uses the word “welcome” as defining the imperative posture of the church toward all peoples. Pope Francis’ constant chant of “todos” is generally heard as highlighting a particular welcome for LGBTQ+ people. In his sermon on Sunday, Oct. 29, the day after this synod gathering closed, Francis called for — as he has so often — “a church with open doors that is a haven of mercy” for all…..(More). Photo: Assembly Synod of Bishops Pope Francis pray before working session Oct 16, CNS, Lola Gomez

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP: The courage of Cardinal Pell
This is the edited text of the homily given by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP at the Memorial Mass for George Cardinal Pell, St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, 10 January 2024.
Extract from Archbishop Anthony Fisher, Catholic weekly, 21 January 2024
Years ago, I was in a lift in Goold House, then the Archdiocese of Melbourne’s chancery building, when I overheard some officials discussing the translation of George Pell to Sydney. One remarked that his motto had been “Be not afraid” and wondered what his successor’s watchword would be. From the back of the lift I whispered, “Be very afraid!”      The motto came, of course, from Christ, and was quoted by St John Paul the Great at his election. “Be not afraid,” Jesus tells His disciples repeatedly. “Let not your hearts be troubled: believe in God, believe also in me.” (Jn 14:1,27) With the Lord as my light and help, our Psalmist sang, whom shall I fear? (Ps 26:10) And as Paul said in our epistle, we should have the confidence of heirs, not the anxiety of slaves (Rom 8:14-23). George Pell was unafraid. In the inaugural Acton Lecture at the Centre for Independent Studies he argued that the Church’s task today is to teach and demonstrate that “true freedom requires truth and is the fruit of consistently striving for what is good.”      Yet, as he knew very well, there are competing accounts of truth and goodness. There are many options open to us, some good, some less so, some plain evil. To know and care which is which and choose well between them requires an unwavering commitment to truth and consistent willing of the good. And these were marks of the man George Pell.      In postmodernity it’s pick your own poison when it comes to the good. But the Cardinal was no relativist. Only a limited number of genuine goods constitute human flourishing and explain our rational choices: life and health, truth and beauty, friendship and family, work and leisure, integrity and religion. Each is self-evidently valuable, a divine perfection and a human need.    We all seek them all, but most of us specialise in one or two for much of our lives. Doctors focus on life and health; teachers on knowledge; artists on beauty; and so on…….(More).. Photo: Archbishop Anthony Fisher, Cardinal George Pell tomb 10 January 2024, Patrick J Lee

New poll finds Pope’s unfavorable rating among Americans at all-time high
Extract from John Lavenburg, Mational Correspondent, Crux, 13 January 2024
NEW YORK – A new survey conducted this past December has found that while most American adults still have a favorable view of Pope Francis, the percentage that hold an unfavorable opinion of the pontiff has risen to a new ten-year high.     The survey, conducted Dec. 1-20 by the Gallup organization, found that 58 percent of American adults overall have a favorable opinion of Francis, the same as when he became pope in 2013.      However, over the same period, the percentage of American adults who have an unfavorable opinion of Francis has risen from 10 percent to a new high of 30 percent. The percentage of American adults who have not heard of, or hold no opinion of, the pontiff has also dropped from 31 percent in 2013 to 11 percent in the latest survey, the data shows.     The survey data shows a similar trend among American Catholics as among American adults generally, in the sense of a rising level of unfavorable opinion. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given a polarized political environment in both Church and state, Francis’s favorability amongst self-described liberal American Catholics has increased since 2013, while his favorability among conservative American Catholics has declined…….(More). Photo: Pope Francis meeting then-Vice President Joe Biden, Andrew Medichini AP, Crux

Vatican doctrine official says celibacy should be optional for Catholic priests
Extract from Justin McLellan, National Catholic Reporter, 8 January 2024

The Catholic Church should revise its celibacy requirement for Latin-rite priests, a senior official in the Vatican’s doctrinal office said.             “If it were up to me, I would revise the requirement that priest(s) have to be celibate,” said Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, adjunct secretary of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, in an interview with the Times of Malta released Jan. 7. “Experience has shown me this is something we need to seriously think about.”              The archbishop said that the phenomenon of Catholic priests engaging in hidden, long-term sentimental relationships — something he said “happens everywhere” — is a “symptom” of priests “having to cope with” their celibacy requirement. He acknowledged that some priests father children in Malta and elsewhere. “We’re talking about priests around the world, so I think it happens in Malta as well,” he said.      A man who feels called to the priesthood, “may mature, enter in relationships, love a woman, love another person, and they have to make a choice,” he said. “Right now, they have to make a choice.”           The interview was conducted in Maltese, but the Times of Malta provided an English translation of his remarks in its story and in subtitles on the video clip it released.           Scicluna said the Latin-rite church “should learn from the Catholic churches of the Oriental rite,” which have a tradition of married priests.             In many of the 23 Eastern Catholic churches, men are allowed to get married prior to being ordained but cannot become bishops.           Celibacy, Scicluna said, “was optional for the first millennium of the church’s existence, and it should become optional again.”….(More). Photo:Archbishop Charles Scicluna Malta CNS photo Paul Haring.

(Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

‘Catholicism in Numbers’: New data highlights the changing Catholic Church in Britain and Ireland
Extracts from Tim Kinnear, Catholic Herald, UK, 1 January 2024
A new set of pastoral statistics regarding the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland has been released by the Catholic Record Society (CRS). They are freely available from the CRS website under a new project titled “Catholicism in Numbers”.         The project begins with data collated by myself, and which draws information from the Catholic Directory and other sources. The CRS are encouraging those with their own historical datasets to get in touch and contribute to this growing resource…………The statistics are illuminating when considered together. Ordinations have declined substantially (approximately 139 secular ordinations in England and Wales in 1960 and 32 in 2019) and there are fewer sisters in religious orders (around 11,428 in Ireland in 1991 and 4,887 in 2020). That said, the ministry of the permanent diaconate has grown with about 752 Permanent Deacons in England and Wales by 2010, up from 475 in 2000. Although fewer than the decline in Priests, the Permanent Deacons reflect a distinctive calling that will shape many Catholics’ experiences of ministry in their parish.      With more Permanent Deacons and fewer parish sisters, this impacts the gender make-up of local ministry teams. And to whom do they minister? Statistics indicate more stability in the size of the Catholic population while Mass attendance has declined.        So practice, if not identity, has changed, affecting the visibility and accessibility of Catholics to their local ministers. Meanwhile, the figures affirm the ongoing and distinctive contribution of Catholic schools as numerically very large sites of public witness (2,090 in England and 85 in Wales in 2022). Schools may connect those with no Catholic background to elements of the faith and social teaching, and form a substantial and visible role in the life of our nations.             Does the Church’s public witness lead to baptism and reception into the faith? Well, see the figures……(Source).        Photo:Changing Catholic Church, Britain, Ireland, Catholic Herald, Ian Forsyth, Getty Images 20240101

Public Christian schools? Leonard Leo’s allies advance a new cause
A tight-knit group of activists tied to Leo’s nonprofit network are rallying around an Oklahoma effort to create a public Catholic school.
Extract from Heidi Przybyla, Politico, 29 December 2023
Groups aligned with the conservative legal movement and its financial architect, Leonard Leo, are working to promote a publicly funded Christian school in Oklahoma, hoping to create a test case to change the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the First Amendment’s separation of church and state.         At issue is the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma’s push to create the St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School, which would be the nation’s first religious school entirely funded by taxpayers. The school received preliminary approval from the state’s charter school board in June. If it survives legal challenges, it would open the door for state legislatures across the country to direct taxpayer funding to the creation of Christian or other sectarian schools.          Brett Farley, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Oklahoma, acknowledges that public funding of St. Isidore is at odds with over 150 years of Supreme Court decisions. He said the justices have misunderstood Thomas Jefferson’s intent when he said there should be a wall separating church and state, but that the current conservative-dominated court seems prepared to change course.         “Jefferson didn’t mean that the government shouldn’t be giving public benefits to religious communities toward a common goal,” he said. “The court rightly over the last decade or so has been saying, ‘No, look, we’ve got this wrong and we’re gonna right the ship here.’ ”…….(More). Photo: POLITICO illustration by Emily Scherer, Photos AP, Getty Images, iStock 20231229

Hopeful pearls for peace
Extract from Frances Letters, Pearls and Irritations, 29 December 2023
Armidale, my hometown on the Northern Tablelands of NSW. Ever since then, on the last Saturday of each month, outside the old Courthouse in the centre of town a group of women have stood in silent WIB vigil. For peace.       Gratefully we tune in to those Palestinian and Israeli women who are calmly refusing to sneer or snarl at one another. Or, of course, to even think of squinting down a gun barrel …        It was involvement in Women in Black that first alerted me to my second pearl: Jewish Voice for Peace. Though not Jewish myself, years of supporting them have meant I’m privileged to be considered a member. JVP has always been passionate in demanding ‘solidarity with the Palestinian freedom struggle, guided by a vision of justice, equality, and dignity for all people’.     “We fight for the liberation of all people. We believe that through organizing, we can and will dismantle the institutions and structures that sustain injustice and grow something new, joyful, beautiful, and life-sustaining in their place.        We picture the return of Palestinian refugees, reuniting with their families and communities. We picture Palestinians — from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea — living with their inalienable rights respected, building schools and hospitals and planting olive groves with the resources they need.        We imagine Jewish Israelis joining Palestinians to build a just society, rooted in equality rather than supremacy, dignity rather than domination, democracy rather than dispossession — a society where every life is precious.”        Who could honestly object to mild, gentle groups of WIB standing together in a vigil for peace? Or Jewish voices raised in a plea for harmony, brotherhood and sisterhood?         Sadly, it’s obvious that neither longed-for goal has yet been achieved…           So now for a far more unusual step towards the growth of a third pearl……(More).   Photo:Peace, Pearls and Irritations, 20231229

The need for theological reform
Extracts from Michael Morwood, Pearls & Irritations, Dec 27, 2023

………In 1974, Karl Rahner, wrote “If we are honest, we must admit that we are to a terrifying extent a spiritually lifeless Church.” (The Shape of the Church to Come, p.82) Today we could add that the Church is not only spiritually lifeless but that it is also theologically lifeless. By continuing to insist as it does, that traditional doctrine is immutable, the Church will remain lifeless. The informal schism will continue. Voices that could bring church belief and practice alive again, as happened in the post-Vatican II era, are kept silent or remain underground.                    As long as bishops have the authority to silence sincere progressive thinkers on the grounds of infidelity to Church teaching as enshrined in The Catechism of the Catholic Church, the lethargy and lifelessness will persist.        This present time offers an exhilarating opportunity for Christian theology. Encouraging theologians to dialogue and openly explore the theological implications of the “new story” of the universe would immediately breathe new and much-needed energy into theological conversation. What can be done?…..(More) Image: Scripture – Unsplash

Research captures a fractured, distrustful priesthood in America
Extract from John Lavenburg, Crux, 22 December 2023
NEW YORK – When asked to sum up the state of the American priesthood, Catholic University of America sociologist Brandon Vaidyanathan describes it as “fractured,” in that individually priests are doing well, but their assessment of the institutional Church “is not very good.”         What’s more, research conducted by Vaidyanathan and others has found that not only is there a striking deficit in the trust priests feel in their bishop, but there’s also a significant generational mistrust priests have in each other that relates to differing theological and political alignments.        “There’s a mutual distrust of each other that is driven by political differences, and so young priests view older priests with suspicion and vice versa,” Vaidyanathan told Crux. “The younger priests are more conservative, and don’t see the older priests as sort of a part of the same program.”       The insight became apparent to Vaidyanathan and other researchers in an analysis of data compiled for “The National Survey of Catholic Priests,” which was published in October 2022 by CUA’s Catholic Project. The survey, the largest of American Catholic priests in over 50 years, got responses from 3,516 priests across 191 dioceses/eparchies.         The survey also included interviews with more than 100 priests selected from respondents, and a census survey of U.S. bishops receiving 131 responses…..(More). Photo: Brandon Vaidyanathan study of US Catholic priests, Bob Roller, CNS, Crux 20231222

Pope Francis to Vatican officials: Ideology, rigidity prevents church from moving forward
Extract from Cristopher White, National Catholic Reporter, Vatican News, 21 December 2023

Pope Francis on Dec. 21 cautioned top Vatican officials against becoming rigid and obsessing over ideology, saying that such habits can prevent the Catholic Church from growing.         “Fear, rigidity and monotony make for an immobility that has the apparent advantage of not creating problems…but lead us to wander aimlessly within our labyrinths, to the detriment of the service we are called to offer the church and the whole world,” said the pope.        Francis offered the warning in his annual pre-Christmas address to the Roman Curia — the Vatican’s central bureaucracy — where he warned that rigid ideological positions, even if motivated by good intentions, can “separate us from reality and prevent us from moving forward.”         His remarks come just three days after the Vatican’s doctrinal office released a landmark document, announcing there had been a “development” in the church’s understanding of blessings that now allows Catholic priests to bless couples in same-sex unions, and straight couples who have been divorced and remarried.        The decision has been met with mixed reactions with some church leaders hailing it as progress, while others condemning it as inconsistent with the church’s long-standing teaching that marriage is a sacrament celebrated between one man and one woman.      While the pope did not explicitly reference the Dec. 18 declaration from the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Francis was adamant in his address that it was the duty of church officials to be attentive to the pastoral needs and realities of those whom they are tasked to serve……(More). Photo:Pope Francis Christmas Message 2023, CNS photo Lola Gomez

More signs of hope from the synod synthesis report
Extract from Opinion, Thomas Groome, National Catholic Reporter, 21 December 2023

In a recent and typically fine essay, Tom Reese elaborated on “15 hidden gems in the synod on synodality report.” With this, Reese was inviting us to a second and more in-depth reading after the initial and mixed responses to “A Synodal Church in Mission,” the synthesis report issued promptly after the close of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome Oct 4-29.        Note first that most see the move toward synodality as a renewed impetus for the vision of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) as epitomized in Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. There, the council portrays the church as first a mystery and then “the people of God,” before reflecting on its “hierarchical structure” — in a sense, turning the church upside down from its hierarchical pyramid.        Synodality now is the way forward that can engage the whole people of God as active agents of their faith, moving along together.    Yet there was serious disappointment with the synod’s synthesis report on at least two crucial fronts: It did not endorse the ordination of women to the diaconate, and it made no explicit mention of full inclusion in the church for LGBTQ+ people.        As a sign of hope, however, the report notes that while there was opposition, there was also a strong sentiment that admitting women to the diaconate would “restore the practice of the Early Church” and thus would be “faithful to the tradition.” This prompts the reasonable cry of “What are we waiting for?” Likewise, while it does not use the term LGBTQ+, the synthesis report repeatedly uses the word “welcome” as defining the imperative posture of the church toward all peoples……(More). Photo: Members Assembly Synod of Bishops CNS Lola Gomez

Incomprehension in Africa after the authorization to bless same-sex couples
While African episcopates remain discreet for the time being, local priests and laypeople do not hesitate to express their incomprehension after the authorization given to priests to bless “couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples”
Limited extract from Guy Aimé Eblotié, Subscription Journal, La Croix International, 19 December 2023 |
“It’s been a while since we’ve been trying in vain to understand where the pope wants to lead the Church.” This statement from an African priest with more than three decades of priesthood, who wishes to remain anonymous, conveys both “his shock” and “his concerns” after reading the document Fiducia supplicans. Published December 18 by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, this statement authorizes the blessing of “couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples” provided that it does not “create confusion with the blessing proper to the sacrament of marriage”.           Immediately relayed by the press, this decision quickly became the center of conversations among African laypeople and priests, who are overwhelmingly opposed to this possibility. While the solicited episcopates have not yet responded, the faithful do not hesitate to express themselves. “How can this blessing lead these people towards conversion if the Church considers them to be in sin?”, asks François, an Ivorian Catholic. For him, “to open a blessing, whatever the form of the rite, is at least to comfort [these people] in a situation from which they are nevertheless called to leave”. He even considers that such a blessing could “promote this way of life as a couple.”          In its statement, the Vatican, however, emphasizes that it is not about offering “a form of moral legitimacy to a union that presumes to be a marriage or to an extra-marital sexual practice”, but rather to grant a blessing to the person who “shows himself to be in need of God’s saving presence in his life”……(More). Photo: incomprehension-in-africa-after-the-authorization-to-bless-same-sex-couples-La Croix Int 20211219

Vatican shift on gay blessings has ‘deep pastoral implications,’ say theologians
Limited extract from by Aleja Hertzler-McCain, National Catholic Reporter, 19 December 2023

Theologians and LGBTQ+ advocates greeted with mixed emotions the unexpected Dec. 18 declaration from the Vatican’s doctrinal office that Catholic priests could bless same-sex couples, as well as divorced and remarried couples. “It’s a big, small step forward,” said Brian Flanagan, a gay Catholic theologian and senior fellow at New Ways Ministry, an LGBTQ+ Catholic advocacy organization.          “Some of the headlines ran too far too fast because it’s a very specific and limited declaration,” Flanagan said. But he also said that the declaration has “deep pastoral implications for Catholics around the world, especially in places that currently don’t have civil same-gender marriage at all.” Brian Flanagan, a gay Catholic theologian and senior fellow at New Ways Ministry, said, “For those of us like me” who have the patience and privilege “to stick it out, I think we are helping the church to grow into what will seem normal in a few hundred years.”          Flanagan emphasized “the number of people who might give their relationship to Christ and their relationship to the Church a second thought, a more open thought, who might feel welcome now in a church in a way they would not have otherwise.”         He continued, “I think it’s a huge move.”…..(More). Photo: Fr Christian Olding blesses gay couple in Church of St. Martin in Geldern, Germany, OSV News KNA Rudolf Wichert.

New SA document aims to bring parishes and schools closer together
Extracts from CathNews, The Southern Cross, 13 December 2023

A document that provides a framework to support positive relationships between Adelaide parishes and Catholic school communities has been officially launched.        More than 200 Catholic school principals, assistant principals, parish priests, parish pastoral council chairs, Catholic Education SA and archdiocesan leaders, together with parishioners from around the state, gathered at the Vietnamese Catholic Community in Pooraka on November 17 for an information session on “Being Church Together”.         There have been several iterations of the document since the first working draft was penned in 2018 following visitations to parishes and schools as part of the archdiocesan renewal program. The current offering was produced by the archdiocese’s pastoral services team following consultation with Catholic Education SA leaders and the Port Pirie Diocese.         The 2023 version reflects the developments in the local, national and global Church – particularly synodality – and draws on real-life experiences of parishes and schools across South Australia. It includes a section on “activating principles for good practice” in which communities are encouraged to reflect on their current realities, imagine a vision for the future, and discern strategies for action.         In launching the document (HERE), Adelaide Archbishop Patrick O’Regan spoke of his experience attending the Synod on Syndodality in Rome in October and the unique offering of Catholic education in Australia. He said it was important there was a strong relationship between parishes and school communities. “I’m delighted that we have such a wonderful document. This is an indication of where we are going, this is not only the roadmap but the vehicle by which we can travel – but we travel together on the way,” he said. …..(Source)

Pope’s response to U.S. Catholic conservatism. Francis, Strickland & Burke
Limited Extracts from Massimo Faggioli, Commonweal, 12 December 2023

The year-long break between the first and second assemblies of the Synod on Synodality began with Pope Francis disciplining two of his most outspoken critics. First, he removed Bishop Joseph Strickland as head of the Tyler, Texas, diocese; days later, he reportedly ousted Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke from his Vatican-subsidized apartment and took away the salary Burke was receiving as a retired cardinal.        As a procedural matter, the Strickland decision was a straightforward instance of following the measures the Church provides—in this case, an apostolic visitation—concerning the right of the people of God to be governed by the pastor of the diocese, and for ensuring the respect for all those, including clergy, under a diocesan bishop’s jurisdiction.                  Burke’s case is different, and it says something more about this phase of Francis’s pontificate. No matter one’s opinion about Burke’s theology or the company he keeps, the way his punishment was handled and communicated via non-institutional channels speaks clearly to how Francis thinks about the college of cardinals and the dignity of the title of “cardinal” itself.         Francis tried to eliminate the papal court by moving out of the papal apartment to live in Santa Marta, but at the same time he weakened intermediate bodies, especially the college of cardinals and the secretariat of state. A case in point is the story of Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who was the second-ranking official in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State when dismissed by Francis in September 2020 while at the center of a landmark financial crimes trial; the following April, Francis eliminated the right of all cardinals to be judged by the pope. Since the start of Becciu’s trial, Francis has also published the reform constitution of the Roman Curia (March 2022) and the new Constitution for the Vatican City State (May 2023), which have augmented papal powers at the expense of other ecclesiastical bodies.       Even if the pope has power that is “supreme, full, immediate and universal,” it’s not absolute; that is, the pope is subject to the supremacy of divine natural and positive law. And certain uses of papal power can backfire. Burke, the former prefect of the Segnatura and archbishop emeritus of St. Louis, receives generous financial support from allies in the United States; a possible unintended consequence of Francis’s punishment may be to empower Burke in the way the “crown cardinals” of the early modern era were. And Burke remains a cardinal, retaining the right to participate in a conclave until he reaches the age of eighty, on June 30, 2028……….The 1960s have long been seen as a decisive decade in terms of Christianity’s encounter with secular and pluralistic modernity. In terms of secular modernity’s impact on relations among different Christian traditions, the 1990s—with the explosion of the culture wars—were crucial. Now, just over a decade into Francis’s papacy, we have transitioned into a global Christianity that is more reflective of the Southern hemisphere, and in the United States, a Catholicism and Protestantism that is, to be blunt, less “white” and less “male.” It’s hard not to see Strickland and what he represents as a reaction to this new demographic reality…..(Source). Photo: Cardinal Burke Rome October 2023, CNS photo Lola Gomez.

Preparing for Synod 2024: Towards a synodal and missionary Church
Extract from Vatican News, 12 December 2023

Cardinals Grech and Hollerich write to bishops across the world explaining the next stages of the synodal process in view of next year’s second and final session of the Synod of Bishops on synodality.             The work of the Synod on synodality continues in view of the final session set for October 2024, and Churches are now called to reflect on the Synthesis Report published in October 2023, to promote further consultation and to prepare contributions for next year’s assembly. Bishops from across world have just received a document with instructions from the Secretariat of the Synod accompanied by a letter from Cardinals Mario Grech (the General Secretary) and Jean-Claude Hollerich (the Relator General). The four-page text first of all underscores the importance of the experience lived by those who took part in the first session of the Synod in October this year, recalling that “their account constitutes an inalienable part of the gift we have received, conveying the richness of an experience that no text can condense.”       The synodal process will, therefore, continue along some lines of work, keeping in mind what Pope Francis said when he approved them that “the Synod is about synodality, and not about this or that theme”, and that the “important thing is how the reflection is done, that is, in a synodal way.”         Topics to be discussed. Regarding the specific themes that have emerged so far, the document explains that some need to be considered at the level of the Universal Church and in collaboration with the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia. These matters include, for example, the preliminary study in view of the updating of the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Rite (CIC) and the Code of Canon Law for the Eastern Rites of the Church (CCEO); of the Ratio Fundamentalis on the formation of ordained ministers, of the document “Mutuae Relationes” on the mutual relations between bishops and religious in the Church; or the deepening of theological and pastoral research on the diaconate and specifically, on women’s admission to the diaconate.        A list of these topics will be submitted to the Pope as the fruit of the Assembly of the Synod. Groups of experts from all the continents , along with the relevant Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, coordinated by the General Secretariat of the Synod will be asked to work ” in a synodal way” on the topics indicated by the Pope.     A report on the progress of this work will be presented at the Synod. Focus on how to be a synodal Church in mission. Discussions in the next month will focus on the fundamental question of how to be a synodal Church in mission, with the aim to identify the paths to follow and the tools to adopt to “enhance the unique contribution of each baptised person and of each Church in the one mission of proclaiming the Risen Lord and his Gospel to the world today.”         As the document clarifies, the process must, therefore, not be limited “to a plan of technical or procedural improvements to make the Church’s structures more efficient,” but rather be “a reflection on the concrete forms of the missionary commitment to which we are called, that express the dynamism between unity and diversity proper to a synodal Church.”….(More). Photo: Participants 2023 Synod of Bishops on synodality, Vat News 20231212

Voice question should have been split: Wyatt
Extract from 12 December 2023, CathNews, The Age, 12 December 2023

Former Indigenous affairs minister Ken Wyatt says the Voice referendum was too complicated and should have split out the question of recognition, as he called on National Cabinet to urgently focus on closing the gap. One of the key conservative supporters of the October referendum – which was rejected by 60 per cent of Australians and rapidly faded as a point of political debate – said many Indigenous Australians and their leaders were still grieving but he hoped deep frustration and rejection would lead to fresh ideas.               National Cabinet and a new federal task force focused on failures to close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage should “bite the bullet and deal with the targets in a very concerted, pragmatic way,” Mr Wyatt said. Chief Voice proponents, including Noel Pearson, have not spoken publicly since the October 14 poll. Labor has not released new policies to reverse dire health, education and criminal justice statistics despite Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney hinting at new announcements on referendum night.             Regional and local voices should have been legislated before a referendum to prove their value and operation, Mr Wyatt argued. He said it would be viewed as a historic shame that two separate questions were not asked: one on symbolic recognition in the Constitution of the unique status of First Australians and the other on the Indigenous advisory body to Parliament. While devastating Indigenous Australians, Mr Wyatt said the referendum had the positive effect of heightening awareness of Indigenous disadvantage and spawning the next generation of Indigenous leaders he said could enter Parliament…..(More) Photo: Ken Wyatt, Facebook Ken Wyatt

Australia ‘punched well above its weight’ at Synod of Bishops
Extract from CathNews, Christopher White. Source: NCR Online, 8 December 2023

“Australia punched well above its weight,” Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv told me last month during a visit to the country for a series of lectures sponsored by the Parramatta Diocese, Australian Catholic University, and Newman College, Melbourne. In July 2022, some 277 delegates from throughout the country gathered in Sydney for the second assembly of Australia’s Plenary Council.      Both the style and the substance of that weeklong meeting would prove consequential for the global Church. Unlike past synods, the first session of Francis’ Synod on Synodality took place at roundtables, rather than utilising the stadium-style seating of the Vatican’s Synod hall. Cardinals and bishops sat shoulder to shoulder with lay people from around the world, who for the first time were also granted the right to vote in the Synod.         No longer did Synod delegates spend hours listening to prepared remarks, where they could sit back and doze off or check emails. Instead, the month-long Synod opted for a new methodology known as “spiritual conversations” over three rounds. Prayer and meditation broke up each round, and the results of the roundtable discussions served as the basis for shaping the Synod’s final document.         The origins and inspiration for all this? Australia’s Plenary Council, which utilised the same methodology and practices. In the end, Australia clocked in with a total of 13 synod participants in Rome, making it the third largest delegation just behind Italy and the US…..(More). Photo: Ormond Rush speaks at Synod of Bishops October 2023, CNS, Lola Gomez,

A mini-mirror image of the Global Synod
Extracts from Margaret Beirne RSC, Catholic Outlook, 8 December 2023

In promulgating the first Diocesan of Parramatta Synod, Bishop Vincent LongOFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, proposed this ‘anchor question’: “In light of the call to become a more synodal Church, where is the Holy Spirit calling us to in the Diocese of Parramatta?”( Synod Directory 2023-2025, p.8). The call to listen deeply to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church has been faithfully woven through each stage of the Synodal process, culminating in the grace-filled Assembly from 13-15 October this year.          This emphasis on listening to the Holy Spirit is echoed throughout the Scriptures. In the Gospel of John, Jesus assures his disciples on the evening before his crucifixion, that he will send “the Spirit of Truth who will teach them all things” (Jn 14:17). The Book of Revelation expands on this several times: “Let them hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to the churches” (Rev 2:7; 2:29; 3:22).       To experience first-hand how thoroughly this core biblical teaching has been implemented in the Diocese of Parramatta has been, for me, a great grace; indeed, it was a privilege to be invited to participate. In a very real sense, the October assembly, although far removed physically from Rome, can truly be described as a mini-mirror image of what was taking place simultaneously at the global Synod on Synodality………..So how did this extraordinary event hold together and produce such a rich and rewarding experience for those present, and by extension for the thousands of people who had contributed so readily during the preparatory phase? Like the Assembly members, they were familiar with the process from the many sessions that had been part of the preparation since the convocation in March up to the actual Assembly in October…….(More). Photo: Diocesan Synod Delegates, CommBank Stadium, Parramatta, Parramatta Diocese 20231208

Pope Francis says he wants a “less masculine” Church
Limited Extract from Loup Besmond de Senneville Vatican City, Subscription Journal La Croix International, 1 December 2023

In a meeting with some of the world’s leading theologians, the Jesuit pope extolled the “feminine” character of the Church .  Pope Francis has told members of the International Theological Commission (ITC) they need to do more to “help make the Church less masculine”.             The pope, who is battling a nasty bout of bronchitis and is short of breath, began his meeting with the 28 members currently on the commission by handing them his prepared address. “There is a good address here dealing with theological matters,” he said. “But because of my health, it is better not to read it. ”          That did not stop him from speaking, however. And in a frank manner, no less. “Theology, theological reflection, is very important,” he told the ITC members. “But there is something about you that I do not like,pardon my sincerity,” he added, as he looked over the group assembled before him. “One, two, three, four women: poor women! They are alone! Ah, excuse me, there are five,” he said.         Francis, who is the one who actually chooses the theologians who are on the ITC, then spoke off-the-cuff for several minutes, expanding on remarks he’s made before regarding the “feminine” nature of the Church. The “Petrine” and “Marian” principles As he has already done on several occasions, Francis highlighted the “two principles” he distinguishes in the Church: the “Petrine” principle, in reference to the first of the Apostles, and the “Marian” principle, in reference to the mother of Jesus.          The Jesuit pope said the first is a ministerial principle, and is therefore linked to the Church’s ministries. He said that it is because of the Petrine principle that only men can be priests. But he insisted that the Marian principle is more important.         “The Marian is more important than the Petrine, because there is the bride Church, the woman Church, without being masculine,” said. The pope said this means we need more women theologians and a more feminized theology. “We must advance in this,” he said. “Women have a capacity for theological reflection that is different to that of us men.”……….(More). Photo: Pope Francis Feminine nature of Church, Tiziana Fabi AFP 2023

Canberra-Goulburn Roundtables a forum for discernment and discussion
Extract from CathNews, Catholic Voice, 30 November 2023

A series of roundtable sessions will provide an opportunity for Catholics in the Canberra-Goulburn Archdiocese to prayerfully discern where the Holy Spirit may be calling the community, according to evangelisation animator Huw Warmenhoven. “Each roundtable centres on a theme, identified as particularly important to the life and mission of the archdiocese,” Mr Warmenhoven said.          “Each roundtable will include a time of gathering around some food, prayer, hearing and celebrating some leaders involved in that particular space before moving into a time of discussion and reflection in small groups.” Grounded in core themes from the Plenary Council and broader topics of synodal discernment, the roundtables hope to identify existing initiatives and opportunities for collaboration among parishes, communities, movements and ministries.           These will also develop a foundation and inform both content and processes for the Archdiocesan Assembly in 2024. “Our first two roundtables are focused on ‘raising up a new generation through youth and young adult ministry’ and ‘celebrating the gift of our families’,” Mr Warmenhoven said. “These are designed to listen to the reality of youth, young adults and families in the life of the Church that will be important to highlight in our Archdiocesan Assembly in 2024. They will also help to guide our pastoral efforts at both an archdiocesan and parish level into next year and beyond.”………(More) Photo:Roundtable life and mission of Archdiocese, CathNews 20231130

Association of U.S. Catholic Priests highlights similarities between Francis’ remarks and its position on Priestly Formation and Clericalism
Extract from Catholic Outlook, 29 November 2023
The largest group of U.S. Catholic priests has said that Pope Francis’ latest statements on priestly formation and clericalism resonates with its recommendation for a pastoral model of priestly formation.
Holy Cross Father Stephen P. Newton, executive director of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, has appreciated the pope’s synodal intervention when he referred to clericalism as a “scourge,” and its own 2018 recommendations for changes in priestly formation.       The AUSCP which has around 1,200 priests among its ranks is the largest association of priests in the United States. It was founded in 2011 as a support group for priests who are inspired by the teaching of Second Vatican Council (1962-65) and its continued implementation and has become a “pastoral and collegial voice of member priests,” following the call of Pope Francis to synodality, open to the participation of all the members of the People of God.     “Clericalism is a whip, it is a scourge”…….(More).

Franciscan bishop implements Jesuit pope’s synodal vision in Australia
More than 200 delegates participating in the first-ever synod for the Australian Diocese of Parramatta filed out of their opening Mass, they were discreetly given flyers by those questioning both the meeting and the bishop who had called it.

Extract from National Catholic Reporter, 28 November 2023
Since his installation as the head of the diocese in the western suburbs of Sydney in 2016, Bishop Vincent Long has ruffled more than a few feathers for his support of LGBTQ Catholics, his advocacy in support of the country’s recent referendum on Indigenous representation, and his own personal testimony of being a victim of clergy sexual abuse. For taking those stances, Long is unapologetic.            “I try to follow Pope Francis’ lead by focusing on pastoral priorities such as a church that is more inclusive, participatory, open to the gifts of all members, especially women,” he told NCR on Nov. 8.        “More aligned with the poor, the dispossessed and the marginalized, more in partnership with others, more engaged with the world not flight from or hostility against it.” To be clear, Long says he does not want to compare himself with the pope, but that he is simply trying to draw from what Francis is teaching and apply it in his own backyard. “The pope has had many critics both within and outside the church. I have my share. But I would not compare myself with him. …          This comes with the territory,” he said. Long’s remarks came during an interview with NCR on the sidelines of the plenary meeting of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference at Mary MacKillop Place in Sydney, and while this reporter was in the country for a series of lectures sponsored by the Parramatta Diocese, the La Salle Academy at Australian Catholic University, and Newman College, Melbourne. Like Francis, Long is somewhat of an outsider……(More). Photo: Bishop Vincent Long, Parramatta Diocese

The overwhelming case to restore women to ordained ministry alongside men as their equals.  Extract from Miriam Duignan, The Tablet, 27 November 2023

“We are still hopeful, but not particularly optimistic.” This was the response of the campaign group, Catholic Women’s Ordination, to the first synodal meeting in Rome. During the synodal process, Church leadership heard Catholics everywhere express a strong desire to see women recognised for their vocations to ministry and for the priestly work they do in parishes everywhere.              In so many of our churches, it is women preparing families for baptisms, marriages and funerals and, in the absence of a male priest, they conduct Communion services on a Sunday. Women are chaplains in hospitals where they care for the sick and the dying, but must call for a male priest to administer the last rites or hear confession.                 This glaring and illogical injustice can no longer be ignored. And yet, the topic of women priests was banned at the Synod. Instead, after one month of discussions and constant edits, the summary document’s paragraph on the female diaconate (a question that was allowed) was a watered down, vague statement about the need for further study. If yet another study were to be taken up, this would be the third go-around in seven years to examine the case to restore the women’s diaconate.          We have to ask, how much longer can this possibly take?……….(More).    Photo:Fresco, woman priest, Priscilla Catacombs, Abaca Press Almy Live News,Tablet 20231127

Comments on Synod on Synodality ‘Conversation’ at Sense of Faith Newman College Oratory 23 November 2023         Extracts from Fr Frank Brennan Homily (Solemnity of Christ The King), Catholic Outlook, 26 November 2023

One “particular grace” of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia has been its encouragement of many initiatives in the Church across the country, according to a letter to the People of God prepared for the Solemnity of Christ the King. As the Church marks the end of the liturgical year this weekend, the letter provides an update on work carrying forward the Plenary Council’s outcomes while awaiting the Holy See’s formal recognition of the Council’s decrees………….During the week, the Sense of the Faithful group sponsored a discussion evening on the recent synod process.[2] Bishop Shane McKinlay and Ms Susan Pascoe, synod participants, were invited speakers who shared their reflections on the experience, as did Brother Mark O’Connor FMS who was an observer in Rome.[3] All three were upbeat about the process, reporting that a month of deep listening to hundreds of people with diverse views was an exhausting but rewarding experience.              Bishop McKinlay had a box seat at the synod as he was one of the people selected to work on the 40-page Synthesis Report. They worked around the clock producing three editions of a document which included a thousand amendments…..(More). Photo:Jesus-sheep_Catholic Outlook 20231126

Church in Australia carrying forward its pursuit of synodality
Extract from CathNews, ACBC Media Blog, 24 November 2023
One “particular grace” of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia has been its encouragement of many initiatives in the Church across the country, according to a letter to the People of God prepared for the Solemnity of Christ the King. As the Church marks the end of the liturgical year this weekend, the letter provides an update on work carrying forward the Plenary Council’s outcomes while awaiting the Holy See’s formal recognitio of the Council’s decrees. More than a dozen people – clergy, religious and laity – gathered in Sydney recently to provide a report on work undertaken since the Council’s conclusion in July 2022. Such a report had been called for in the Council’s decrees. The group’s members had been nominated by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Catholic Religious Australia and the Association of Ministerial PJPs. They decided to offer the report in the format of a letter to the People of God. The report is linked HERE

Pope Francis’ inclusive stance resonates with transgender community
Extract from  CathNews NZ, 23 November 2023.                                                               

In a significant gesture towards inclusivity, Pope Francis extended a lunch invitation to a group of transgender individuals.             The group, mostly Latin American migrants and often engaged in sex work, has received unprecedented support from the Vatican. Under the guidance of the local parish priest, Rev Andrea Conocchia, these women now attend Francis’ weekly audiences as VIP guests. Recently, the group joined over 1200 other underprivileged individuals as guests for a special lunch at the Vatican, commemorating the Catholic Church’s World Day of the Poor. For these marginalised women, these gestures signify a newfound sense of inclusion within a church that historically kept them at arm’s length.             Transgenders feel more human. “Before, the church was closed to us. They didn’t see us as normal people. They saw us as the devil” said Andrea Paola Torres Lopez, a Colombian transgender woman. “Then Pope Francis arrived, and the doors of the church opened for us.” Claudia Victoria Salas, 55 and Carla Segovia, 46, both sew workers from Argentina, attended the lunch. To her surprise, Salas found herself seated at the main table opposite the pope – who of course is also Argentinian. “We transgenders here in Italy feel a bit more human because the fact that Pope Francis brings us closer to the Church is a beautiful thing” said Carla Segovia……(More). Photo: Pope-Francis-Transgender-

Pope intervenes in German Synodal Path plan
Extract from CathNews NZ, 23 November 2023

Pope Francis has written a letter about several proposals regarding the German Synodal Path and “the numerous concrete steps that are taking place”.          On Tuesday this week German news outlet Die Welt published a copy of the letter which was addressed to four recipients. Those four are German women who resigned from the Synodal Path in February 2022.            Theologians Professor Katharina Westerhorstmann and Professor Marianne Schlosser, philosopher Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz and journalist Dorothea Schmidt said they objected to some of the Synodal Path’s conclusions and methods. The letter begins: “I extend my gratitude for your kind letter dated November 6. Your concerns regarding the current developments within the Church in Germany have reached me, and I share your concerns. There are indeed numerous steps being taken by significant segments of this local Church that threaten to steer it increasingly away from the universal Church’s common path. “This doubtlessly includes the establishment of the synodal committee you referenced” Francis wrote.           The Synodal Path proposals. The noncanonical Synodal Path process concluded its initial stage in March……(More) Photo: Pope Francis writing letter CathNews NZ RNS 20231123

Theology, culture, and context
Pope Francis and the opening up of new sources for theological reflection
Limited Extract from J.P. Grayland, Germany, Subscription Journal La Croix International, 20 November 2023

An “open”, “synodal” and “missionary” theology, free of “self-referent” structures of thinking can be dynamic and engaging. This is the basis of a transdisciplinary theological approach that is not afraid of contemporary physical, human and social sciences. It does not hide concepts of nature, humanity, society, justice and power that are more at home in the Middle Ages or the 19th century modernist controversies. Central to Francis’ theological shift is Romano Guardini, a prominent figure in the German Reform theological and liturgical movement of the late 19th and 20th centuries. Guardini’s emphasis on the importance of experience and context in theological reflection resonates with the pope’s vision of a Church deeply connected to the contemporary world and Francis’ writings reflect and reference Guardini’s thinking……(More). Image:Theology, Ted, Flickr.

‘Excuse me, Your Eminence, she has not finished speaking’
Extract from CathNews NZ, Phyllis Zagano, Religion News Service, 20 November 2023
Without doubt, the best line to emanate from the Synod on Synoldality is “Excuse me, Your Eminence, she has not finished speaking.”       That sums up the synod and the state of the Catholic Church’s attitude toward change.       In October, hundreds of bishops, joined by lay men and women, priests, deacons, religious sisters and brothers met for nearly a month in Rome for the Synod on Synodality.          At its end, the synod released a synthesis report brimming with the hope and the promise that the church would be a more listening church.           Some 54 women voted at the synod. Back home, women are still ignored. Why? It is not because women quote the Second Vatican Council at parish council meetings. It is because too many bishops and pastors ignore parish councils.          It is not because women of the world do not write to their pastors and bishops. It is because without large checks, their letters are ignored. The Synod on Synodality was groundbreaking in part because it was more about learning to listen. It was more about the process than about results. Its aim was to get the whole church on board with a new way of relating, of having “conversations in the Spirit,” where listening and prayer feed discernment and decision-making.        Even now, the project faces roadblocks. At their November meeting this week in Baltimore, U.S. bishops heard presentations by Brownsville, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores, who has led the two-year national synod process so far. His brother bishops did not look interested.        To be fair, some bishops in some dioceses, in the U.S. and other parts of the world, are on board with Pope Francis’ attempt to encourage the church to accept the reforms of Vatican II, to listen to the people of God. But too many bishops are having none of it…….(More).  Photo: Dr Phyllis Zaganao, Religion News Service

US bishops’ meeting a “big snooze”
Edited Opinion Piece from Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter, 17 November 2023

This year’s meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops was like no other. There was very little in the body’s deliberations that was newsworthy. Taken as a whole, the meeting demonstrated the sclerotic condition the U.S. hierarchy has created for itself.          How bad is it?          It’s not every day that a former general meddles in the internal politics of the Catholic Church. But if you needed any further confirmation that there is a group within the church that is completely unhinged, all the evidence needed came in a tweet this week from Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s short-lived national security adviser and long-term conspiracy theorist, telling disgraced former nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò and deposed Bishop Joseph Strickland to “Stand Your Ground!”          MAGA world wasn’t content to storm the U.S. Capitol. It has broken into the realm of the sacred and defiled the temple. Those of us who subscribe to James Joyce’s “Here comes everybody” ecclesiology understand that the Catholic Church will include a range of cultural dispositions, social classes, intellectual and moral attitudes. But it is appalling that the brutish and unhinged quality of the MAGA-sphere has become pronounced in a church that calls itself “one, holy, catholic and apostolic.”        Whatever the MAGA-sphere is, it is not one or holy or catholic or apostolic……(More). Photo: US Bishops pray during November session US Conference of Catholic Bishops, OSV News, Bob Roller.

Abortion to be ‘preeminent priority’ in voting guide for US Catholic
Extract from CathNews, CNA, 17 November 2023
The United States bishops will continue to highlight the threat of abortion as a “preeminent priority” in the introduction to a guide they’ll disseminate to Catholic voters ahead of the 2024 election.            That designation, the source of debate among some bishops in recent years, was retained when the bishops voted overwhelmingly (225-11, with seven abstentions) to approve a revised introduction to the guide, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship”, at their annual November assembly in Baltimore this week. The bishops also voted to approve several brief excerpts from the guide to be inserted in parish bulletins during the upcoming election cycle.          “The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks our most vulnerable and voiceless brothers and sisters and destroys more than a million lives per year in our country alone,” the new introduction to the guide says.          The new introduction also lists euthanasia, gun violence, terrorism, the death penalty, and human trafficking as “other grave threats to life and dignity of the human person.” The revised introduction also now states that the “redefinition of marriage and gender … threaten[s] the dignity of the human person.”           In a press conference after the vote, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, vice president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that while many issues are important, “not all issues are equal”.          “We are called to stand in radical solidarity with women in difficult pregnancies and their unborn children and to provide them with the kind of support and services and public policies that they need,” he said.            “So, it’s not simply a public policy issue. It is a deeply, deeply pastoral issue of loving the moms in need, walking with them, helping them bring their babies to term, and then providing them with what they need to move forward,” he said…..(More)   Image:US bishops, Catholics called to stand in radical solidarity with women in difficult pregnancies and unborn children, Bigstock, CNA

Vatican ambassador urges US bishops to embrace synodality
Extracts from CathNews NZ, Vatican Correspondent, 16 November 2023 Cardinal Christophe Pierre has been apostolic nuncio to the United States since 2016 and, at Pope Francis’ request, he will continue in this role for the foreseeable future, he told America’s Vatican correspondent in an exclusive interview in Rome in early October……….When I asked how he read the apparent disconnect between many U.S. bishops and Pope Francis, the cardinal remarked, “This is something we have to dig a little deeper [to understand].” But, he said, “I would not concentrate on Francis so much because Francis is now seen as the big sinner by some. “There are some priests and religious and bishops who are terribly against Francis as if he was the scapegoat [for] all the failures of the church or of society.” “We are in the church at a change of epoch,”            Cardinal Pierre said. “People don’t understand it. And this may be the reason why most of the young priests today dream about wearing the cassock and celebrating Mass in the traditional [pre-Vatican II] way.” “In some ways, they are lost in a society which has no security, and all of us when we feel lost look for some security,” he said. “But which kind of security?” The cardinal recalled that Pope Francis declared, “my security is Jesus.” He added, “It’s not the church that will protect me. It’s not the habit.”….(Source)

Francis calls Catholic theologians to a “cultural revolution”
Will the Church and its universities help promote the pope’s theological vision?
Limited Extract from Massimo Faggioli, Subscription Journal La Croix International, 16 November 2023.

The first session of the Synod of Bishops’ assembly on the future of the Church has brought to the surface the gap that exists between Pope Francis’ idea of synodality and how some Catholic theologians understand it – even those theologians that have enthusiastically welcomed his pontificate as a much-awaited turn in the orientation of Church teaching for a more dialogical relationship with the world and the “existential peripheries”.             The Jesuit pope’s anti-elitism keeps a him at a safe distance from academic theologians. But, at times, he has issued important statements about theology’s role in the Church. Some notable examples include his letter in 2015 to the Grand Chancellor of the Catholic University of Argentina; his publication in 2017 of Veritatis Gaudium, the apostolic constitution on ecclesiastical universities and faculties; and his address in 2019 to the Pontifical Theological Faculty of Southern Italy. Three days after the conclusion of the Synod assembly’s first session, Francis also issued Ad theologiam promovendam, a “motu proprio” to approve the new statutes of the Pontifical Academy of Theology….(More)

Photo: Hon Anthony North KC. The Age,  Simon Schluter 13 May 2021.

The Hon. Anthony North KC appointed Yoorrook Commissioner
Extract from Yoorook Justice Commission, 31 January 2024                           

Former Federal Court Judge the Hon. Anthony North KC has been appointed as a Commissioner of Victoria’s formal truth telling process, the Yoorrook Justice Commission. Commissioner North has had a long and distinguished legal career. Commissioner North served as a judge of the Federal Court of Australia from 1995 to 2018. For the past four-and-a-half years he has been Chair of the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC).        During his time as a judge, Commissioner North’s main areas of work were cases about native title, refugee law, industrial law, and criminal appeals in the Australian Capital Territory Court of Appeal. In his role as Chair of the VLRC Commissioner North has consulted extensively with First Nations organisations and community members on issues of social justice. Chair of Yoorrook, Professor Eleanor Bourke said: “I welcome the appointment of Commissioner North to the Yoorrook Justice Commission. “This is a crucial period in the truth telling process. Yoorrook is undertaking concurrent inquiries into land, health, housing, education and economic, social and political life. Yoorrook will hold public hearings in the coming months and will complete its historic work by June 2025.       “As a former judge with a long and illustrious legal career, Commissioner North will bring invaluable experience and insight to Yoorrook as we work to fulfil the Commission’s extensive mandate.       I welcome Commissioner North and look forward to working with him.” Commissioner North said: “I am honoured to contribute to the historic work of the Yoorrook Justice Commission. I hope that my skills and experience will help advance its work: to tell the truth of our history. That truth is the foundation for community understanding, which is necessary so that we can move towards a more just society.”….(Source).

Pope extends policy of detente with China
Extract from CathNews, Crux, 31 January 2024
Several significant developments for the Catholic Church in China have occurred this week, including a bishop’s appointment and the establishment of a new diocese on the mainland for the first time since Mao’s Communist revolution. On Monday, the Vatican announced the suppression of the apostolic prefecture of Yiduxian and the establishment of the Weifang Diocese in a bid to “promote the pastoral care of the Lord’s flock and to attend more effectively to its spiritual good”.            A Vatican statement said the decision to replace the Yiduxian prefecture with the Weifang Diocese was made in April 2023, and that at the same time, Bishop Anthony Sun Wenjun, 53, had been appointed to lead the diocese. Bishop Wenjun’s episcopal ordination took place on Monday in the cathedral of Christ the King in Qingzhou, the former headquarters for the Apostolic Prefecture of Yiduxian, in a ceremony led by Bishop John Fang Xingyao of Linyi, honorary president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the state-sanctioned entity that governs the “official” Catholic church in China.         The establishment of Weifang Diocese marks the first formal creation of a new diocese by the Holy See in China since the Communist revolution in 1949…..(More). Photo: Vatican announced establishment of new diocese and bishop consecration, Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

Pope takes the “heresy hunters” to task
Pope Francis challenges all of us with a poignant reflection on the Parable of the Good Samaritan at the conclusion of the eight-day Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.      
Extract from Robert Mickens, Letter from Rome, La Croix International, 27 January 2024
The mainline Churches in the northern hemisphere have just concluded the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. And by many of the comments that appeared on social media during the January 18-25 commemoration, it would seem that at least some English speakers who describe themselves as “traditional” or “loyal” Catholics saw this annual ecumenical event as a propitious time to remind Christians who are not in communion with the Church of Rome that they are heretics. Some of these “staunch” Catholics were particularly steamed that Pope Francis allowed the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Justin Welby, and his fellow Anglicans to celebrate the Eucharist at St. Bartholomew’s on the (Tiber) Island in Rome.       This is the 10th century church that John Paul II designated during Jubilee 2000 to be a shrine to the “new” Christian martyrs of the 20th and 21st centuries. The Catholic loyalists were quick to point out, sometimes in vulgar and insulting terms, that “Mr. Welby” (as most of them called him) and the other Anglican bishops and priests were not validly ordained. “A reminder that, per Leo XIII’s Apostolicae curae of 1896, Anglican orders are ‘absolutely null and utterly void’,” said a post on X (formerly Twitter) that was replicated in many variations, most of which are just too nasty and uncharitable to repeat here.      The words “heretic” and “heresy” were also hurled mercilessly at non-Catholics over and over again — and they were aimed at the current pope, as well, sometimes quite explicitly……(More). Photo: Pope Francis, Johannes Neudecker, AP, dpa, La Croix

Same-Sex Blessing Conflict
Extract from J.A.Dick, Another Voice, 25 January 2024,
Catholic Church leaders in Africa and Central Asia prohibit the blessing of same-sex couples, despite recent Vatican approval. In fact, Catholic bishops in several countries have objected to the Vatican’s, and Pope Francis’, recent approval of blessings for same-sex couples, underscoring the divisiveness of the issue in the global Catholic Church.     The Catholic bishops of Africa and Madagascar issued a unified statement refusing to follow the Vatican declaration allowing priests to offer blessings to same-sex couples and asserting that such unions are “contrary to the will of God.”     The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a brief statement focusing mostly on its assertion that same-sex couples remain ineligible for liturgical blessings and reiterating the church’s position that marriage is a union of a man with a woman. Some bishops in Germany and Belgium, however, have long defied the earlier Catholic Church ban on blessing same-sex unions, even going so far as to produce a rite of blessing for same-sex couples….(More)

 More signs of hope from the synod synthesis report
Extract from Thomas Groome, NCR Online, 21 December 2023
In a recent and typically fine essay, Tom Reese elaborated on “15 hidden gems in the synod on synodality report.” With this, Reese was inviting us to a second and more in-depth reading after the initial and mixed responses to “A Synodal Church in Mission,” the synthesis report issued promptly after the close of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome Oct 4-29. Note first that most see the move toward synodality as a renewed impetus for the vision of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) as epitomized in Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.     There, the council portrays the church as first a mystery and then “the people of God,” before reflecting on its “hierarchical structure” — in a sense, turning the church upside down from its hierarchical pyramid. Synodality now is the way forward that can engage the whole people of God as active agents of their faith, moving along together. Yet there was serious disappointment with the synod’s synthesis report on at least two crucial fronts:       It did not endorse the ordination of women to the diaconate, and it made no explicit mention of full inclusion in the church for LGBTQ+ people. As a sign of hope, however, the report notes that while there was opposition, there was also a strong sentiment that admitting women to the diaconate would “restore the practice of the Early Church” and thus would be “faithful to the tradition.” This prompts the reasonable cry of “What are we waiting for?”      Likewise, while it does not use the term LGBTQ+, the synthesis report repeatedly uses the word “welcome” as defining the imperative posture of the church toward all peoples. Pope Francis’ constant chant of “todos” is generally heard as highlighting a particular welcome for LGBTQ+ people. In his sermon on Sunday, Oct. 29, the day after this synod gathering closed, Francis called for — as he has so often — “a church with open doors that is a haven of mercy” for all…..(More). Photo: Assembly Synod of Bishops Pope Francis pray before working session Oct 16, CNS, Lola Gomez

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP: The courage of Cardinal Pell
This is the edited text of the homily given by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP at the Memorial Mass for George Cardinal Pell, St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, 10 January 2024.
Extract from Archbishop Anthony Fisher, Catholic weekly, 21 January 2024
Years ago, I was in a lift in Goold House, then the Archdiocese of Melbourne’s chancery building, when I overheard some officials discussing the translation of George Pell to Sydney. One remarked that his motto had been “Be not afraid” and wondered what his successor’s watchword would be. From the back of the lift I whispered, “Be very afraid!”      The motto came, of course, from Christ, and was quoted by St John Paul the Great at his election. “Be not afraid,” Jesus tells His disciples repeatedly. “Let not your hearts be troubled: believe in God, believe also in me.” (Jn 14:1,27) With the Lord as my light and help, our Psalmist sang, whom shall I fear? (Ps 26:10) And as Paul said in our epistle, we should have the confidence of heirs, not the anxiety of slaves (Rom 8:14-23). George Pell was unafraid. In the inaugural Acton Lecture at the Centre for Independent Studies he argued that the Church’s task today is to teach and demonstrate that “true freedom requires truth and is the fruit of consistently striving for what is good.”      Yet, as he knew very well, there are competing accounts of truth and goodness. There are many options open to us, some good, some less so, some plain evil. To know and care which is which and choose well between them requires an unwavering commitment to truth and consistent willing of the good. And these were marks of the man George Pell.      In postmodernity it’s pick your own poison when it comes to the good. But the Cardinal was no relativist. Only a limited number of genuine goods constitute human flourishing and explain our rational choices: life and health, truth and beauty, friendship and family, work and leisure, integrity and religion. Each is self-evidently valuable, a divine perfection and a human need.    We all seek them all, but most of us specialise in one or two for much of our lives. Doctors focus on life and health; teachers on knowledge; artists on beauty; and so on…….(More).. Photo: Archbishop Anthony Fisher, Cardinal George Pell tomb 10 January 2024, Patrick J Lee

New poll finds Pope’s unfavorable rating among Americans at all-time high
Extract from John Lavenburg, Mational Correspondent, Crux, 13 January 2024
NEW YORK – A new survey conducted this past December has found that while most American adults still have a favorable view of Pope Francis, the percentage that hold an unfavorable opinion of the pontiff has risen to a new ten-year high.     The survey, conducted Dec. 1-20 by the Gallup organization, found that 58 percent of American adults overall have a favorable opinion of Francis, the same as when he became pope in 2013.      However, over the same period, the percentage of American adults who have an unfavorable opinion of Francis has risen from 10 percent to a new high of 30 percent. The percentage of American adults who have not heard of, or hold no opinion of, the pontiff has also dropped from 31 percent in 2013 to 11 percent in the latest survey, the data shows.     The survey data shows a similar trend among American Catholics as among American adults generally, in the sense of a rising level of unfavorable opinion. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given a polarized political environment in both Church and state, Francis’s favorability amongst self-described liberal American Catholics has increased since 2013, while his favorability among conservative American Catholics has declined…….(More). Photo: Pope Francis meeting then-Vice President Joe Biden, Andrew Medichini AP, Crux

Vatican doctrine official says celibacy should be optional for Catholic priests
Extract from Justin McLellan, National Catholic Reporter, 8 January 2024

The Catholic Church should revise its celibacy requirement for Latin-rite priests, a senior official in the Vatican’s doctrinal office said.             “If it were up to me, I would revise the requirement that priest(s) have to be celibate,” said Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, adjunct secretary of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, in an interview with the Times of Malta released Jan. 7. “Experience has shown me this is something we need to seriously think about.”              The archbishop said that the phenomenon of Catholic priests engaging in hidden, long-term sentimental relationships — something he said “happens everywhere” — is a “symptom” of priests “having to cope with” their celibacy requirement. He acknowledged that some priests father children in Malta and elsewhere. “We’re talking about priests around the world, so I think it happens in Malta as well,” he said.      A man who feels called to the priesthood, “may mature, enter in relationships, love a woman, love another person, and they have to make a choice,” he said. “Right now, they have to make a choice.”           The interview was conducted in Maltese, but the Times of Malta provided an English translation of his remarks in its story and in subtitles on the video clip it released.           Scicluna said the Latin-rite church “should learn from the Catholic churches of the Oriental rite,” which have a tradition of married priests.             In many of the 23 Eastern Catholic churches, men are allowed to get married prior to being ordained but cannot become bishops.           Celibacy, Scicluna said, “was optional for the first millennium of the church’s existence, and it should become optional again.”….(More). Photo:Archbishop Charles Scicluna Malta CNS photo Paul Haring.

(Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

‘Catholicism in Numbers’: New data highlights the changing Catholic Church in Britain and Ireland
Extracts from Tim Kinnear, Catholic Herald, UK, 1 January 2024
A new set of pastoral statistics regarding the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland has been released by the Catholic Record Society (CRS). They are freely available from the CRS website under a new project titled “Catholicism in Numbers”.         The project begins with data collated by myself, and which draws information from the Catholic Directory and other sources. The CRS are encouraging those with their own historical datasets to get in touch and contribute to this growing resource…………The statistics are illuminating when considered together. Ordinations have declined substantially (approximately 139 secular ordinations in England and Wales in 1960 and 32 in 2019) and there are fewer sisters in religious orders (around 11,428 in Ireland in 1991 and 4,887 in 2020). That said, the ministry of the permanent diaconate has grown with about 752 Permanent Deacons in England and Wales by 2010, up from 475 in 2000. Although fewer than the decline in Priests, the Permanent Deacons reflect a distinctive calling that will shape many Catholics’ experiences of ministry in their parish.      With more Permanent Deacons and fewer parish sisters, this impacts the gender make-up of local ministry teams. And to whom do they minister? Statistics indicate more stability in the size of the Catholic population while Mass attendance has declined.        So practice, if not identity, has changed, affecting the visibility and accessibility of Catholics to their local ministers. Meanwhile, the figures affirm the ongoing and distinctive contribution of Catholic schools as numerically very large sites of public witness (2,090 in England and 85 in Wales in 2022). Schools may connect those with no Catholic background to elements of the faith and social teaching, and form a substantial and visible role in the life of our nations.             Does the Church’s public witness lead to baptism and reception into the faith? Well, see the figures……(Source).        Photo:Changing Catholic Church, Britain, Ireland, Catholic Herald, Ian Forsyth, Getty Images 20240101

Public Christian schools? Leonard Leo’s allies advance a new cause
A tight-knit group of activists tied to Leo’s nonprofit network are rallying around an Oklahoma effort to create a public Catholic school.
Extract from Heidi Przybyla, Politico, 29 December 2023
Groups aligned with the conservative legal movement and its financial architect, Leonard Leo, are working to promote a publicly funded Christian school in Oklahoma, hoping to create a test case to change the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the First Amendment’s separation of church and state.         At issue is the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma’s push to create the St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School, which would be the nation’s first religious school entirely funded by taxpayers. The school received preliminary approval from the state’s charter school board in June. If it survives legal challenges, it would open the door for state legislatures across the country to direct taxpayer funding to the creation of Christian or other sectarian schools.          Brett Farley, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Oklahoma, acknowledges that public funding of St. Isidore is at odds with over 150 years of Supreme Court decisions. He said the justices have misunderstood Thomas Jefferson’s intent when he said there should be a wall separating church and state, but that the current conservative-dominated court seems prepared to change course.         “Jefferson didn’t mean that the government shouldn’t be giving public benefits to religious communities toward a common goal,” he said. “The court rightly over the last decade or so has been saying, ‘No, look, we’ve got this wrong and we’re gonna right the ship here.’ ”…….(More). Photo: POLITICO illustration by Emily Scherer, Photos AP, Getty Images, iStock 20231229

Hopeful pearls for peace
Extract from Frances Letters, Pearls and Irritations, 29 December 2023
Armidale, my hometown on the Northern Tablelands of NSW. Ever since then, on the last Saturday of each month, outside the old Courthouse in the centre of town a group of women have stood in silent WIB vigil. For peace.       Gratefully we tune in to those Palestinian and Israeli women who are calmly refusing to sneer or snarl at one another. Or, of course, to even think of squinting down a gun barrel …        It was involvement in Women in Black that first alerted me to my second pearl: Jewish Voice for Peace. Though not Jewish myself, years of supporting them have meant I’m privileged to be considered a member. JVP has always been passionate in demanding ‘solidarity with the Palestinian freedom struggle, guided by a vision of justice, equality, and dignity for all people’.     “We fight for the liberation of all people. We believe that through organizing, we can and will dismantle the institutions and structures that sustain injustice and grow something new, joyful, beautiful, and life-sustaining in their place.        We picture the return of Palestinian refugees, reuniting with their families and communities. We picture Palestinians — from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea — living with their inalienable rights respected, building schools and hospitals and planting olive groves with the resources they need.        We imagine Jewish Israelis joining Palestinians to build a just society, rooted in equality rather than supremacy, dignity rather than domination, democracy rather than dispossession — a society where every life is precious.”        Who could honestly object to mild, gentle groups of WIB standing together in a vigil for peace? Or Jewish voices raised in a plea for harmony, brotherhood and sisterhood?         Sadly, it’s obvious that neither longed-for goal has yet been achieved…           So now for a far more unusual step towards the growth of a third pearl……(More).   Photo:Peace, Pearls and Irritations, 20231229

The need for theological reform
Extracts from Michael Morwood, Pearls & Irritations, Dec 27, 2023

.……..In 1974, Karl Rahner, wrote “If we are honest, we must admit that we are to a terrifying extent a spiritually lifeless Church.” (The Shape of the Church to Come, p.82) Today we could add that the Church is not only spiritually lifeless but that it is also theologically lifeless. By continuing to insist as it does, that traditional doctrine is immutable, the Church will remain lifeless. The informal schism will continue. Voices that could bring church belief and practice alive again, as happened in the post-Vatican II era, are kept silent or remain underground.                    As long as bishops have the authority to silence sincere progressive thinkers on the grounds of infidelity to Church teaching as enshrined in The Catechism of the Catholic Church, the lethargy and lifelessness will persist.        This present time offers an exhilarating opportunity for Christian theology. Encouraging theologians to dialogue and openly explore the theological implications of the “new story” of the universe would immediately breathe new and much-needed energy into theological conversation. What can be done?…..(More) Image: Scripture – Unsplash

Research captures a fractured, distrustful priesthood in America
Extract from John Lavenburg, Crux, 22 December 2023
NEW YORK – When asked to sum up the state of the American priesthood, Catholic University of America sociologist Brandon Vaidyanathan describes it as “fractured,” in that individually priests are doing well, but their assessment of the institutional Church “is not very good.”         What’s more, research conducted by Vaidyanathan and others has found that not only is there a striking deficit in the trust priests feel in their bishop, but there’s also a significant generational mistrust priests have in each other that relates to differing theological and political alignments.        “There’s a mutual distrust of each other that is driven by political differences, and so young priests view older priests with suspicion and vice versa,” Vaidyanathan told Crux. “The younger priests are more conservative, and don’t see the older priests as sort of a part of the same program.”       The insight became apparent to Vaidyanathan and other researchers in an analysis of data compiled for “The National Survey of Catholic Priests,” which was published in October 2022 by CUA’s Catholic Project. The survey, the largest of American Catholic priests in over 50 years, got responses from 3,516 priests across 191 dioceses/eparchies.         The survey also included interviews with more than 100 priests selected from respondents, and a census survey of U.S. bishops receiving 131 responses…..(More). Photo: Brandon Vaidyanathan study of US Catholic priests, Bob Roller, CNS, Crux 20231222

Pope Francis to Vatican officials: Ideology, rigidity prevents church from moving forward
Extract from Cristopher White, National Catholic Reporter, Vatican News, 21 December 2023

Pope Francis on Dec. 21 cautioned top Vatican officials against becoming rigid and obsessing over ideology, saying that such habits can prevent the Catholic Church from growing.         “Fear, rigidity and monotony make for an immobility that has the apparent advantage of not creating problems…but lead us to wander aimlessly within our labyrinths, to the detriment of the service we are called to offer the church and the whole world,” said the pope.        Francis offered the warning in his annual pre-Christmas address to the Roman Curia — the Vatican’s central bureaucracy — where he warned that rigid ideological positions, even if motivated by good intentions, can “separate us from reality and prevent us from moving forward.”         His remarks come just three days after the Vatican’s doctrinal office released a landmark document, announcing there had been a “development” in the church’s understanding of blessings that now allows Catholic priests to bless couples in same-sex unions, and straight couples who have been divorced and remarried.        The decision has been met with mixed reactions with some church leaders hailing it as progress, while others condemning it as inconsistent with the church’s long-standing teaching that marriage is a sacrament celebrated between one man and one woman.      While the pope did not explicitly reference the Dec. 18 declaration from the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Francis was adamant in his address that it was the duty of church officials to be attentive to the pastoral needs and realities of those whom they are tasked to serve……(More). Photo:Pope Francis Christmas Message 2023, CNS photo Lola Gomez

More signs of hope from the synod synthesis report
Extract from Opinion, Thomas Groome, National Catholic Reporter, 21 December 2023

In a recent and typically fine essay, Tom Reese elaborated on “15 hidden gems in the synod on synodality report.” With this, Reese was inviting us to a second and more in-depth reading after the initial and mixed responses to “A Synodal Church in Mission,” the synthesis report issued promptly after the close of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome Oct 4-29.        Note first that most see the move toward synodality as a renewed impetus for the vision of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) as epitomized in Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. There, the council portrays the church as first a mystery and then “the people of God,” before reflecting on its “hierarchical structure” — in a sense, turning the church upside down from its hierarchical pyramid.        Synodality now is the way forward that can engage the whole people of God as active agents of their faith, moving along together.    Yet there was serious disappointment with the synod’s synthesis report on at least two crucial fronts: It did not endorse the ordination of women to the diaconate, and it made no explicit mention of full inclusion in the church for LGBTQ+ people.        As a sign of hope, however, the report notes that while there was opposition, there was also a strong sentiment that admitting women to the diaconate would “restore the practice of the Early Church” and thus would be “faithful to the tradition.” This prompts the reasonable cry of “What are we waiting for?” Likewise, while it does not use the term LGBTQ+, the synthesis report repeatedly uses the word “welcome” as defining the imperative posture of the church toward all peoples……(More). Photo: Members Assembly Synod of Bishops CNS Lola Gomez

Incomprehension in Africa after the authorization to bless same-sex couples
While African episcopates remain discreet for the time being, local priests and laypeople do not hesitate to express their incomprehension after the authorization given to priests to bless “couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples”
Limited extract from Guy Aimé Eblotié, Subscription Journal, La Croix International, 19 December 2023 |
“It’s been a while since we’ve been trying in vain to understand where the pope wants to lead the Church.” This statement from an African priest with more than three decades of priesthood, who wishes to remain anonymous, conveys both “his shock” and “his concerns” after reading the document Fiducia supplicans. Published December 18 by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, this statement authorizes the blessing of “couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples” provided that it does not “create confusion with the blessing proper to the sacrament of marriage”.           Immediately relayed by the press, this decision quickly became the center of conversations among African laypeople and priests, who are overwhelmingly opposed to this possibility. While the solicited episcopates have not yet responded, the faithful do not hesitate to express themselves. “How can this blessing lead these people towards conversion if the Church considers them to be in sin?”, asks François, an Ivorian Catholic. For him, “to open a blessing, whatever the form of the rite, is at least to comfort [these people] in a situation from which they are nevertheless called to leave”. He even considers that such a blessing could “promote this way of life as a couple.”          In its statement, the Vatican, however, emphasizes that it is not about offering “a form of moral legitimacy to a union that presumes to be a marriage or to an extra-marital sexual practice”, but rather to grant a blessing to the person who “shows himself to be in need of God’s saving presence in his life”……(More). Photo: incomprehension-in-africa-after-the-authorization-to-bless-same-sex-couples-La Croix Int 20211219

Vatican shift on gay blessings has ‘deep pastoral implications,’ say theologians
Limited extract from by Aleja Hertzler-McCain, National Catholic Reporter, 19 December 2023

Theologians and LGBTQ+ advocates greeted with mixed emotions the unexpected Dec. 18 declaration from the Vatican’s doctrinal office that Catholic priests could bless same-sex couples, as well as divorced and remarried couples. “It’s a big, small step forward,” said Brian Flanagan, a gay Catholic theologian and senior fellow at New Ways Ministry, an LGBTQ+ Catholic advocacy organization.          “Some of the headlines ran too far too fast because it’s a very specific and limited declaration,” Flanagan said. But he also said that the declaration has “deep pastoral implications for Catholics around the world, especially in places that currently don’t have civil same-gender marriage at all.” Brian Flanagan, a gay Catholic theologian and senior fellow at New Ways Ministry, said, “For those of us like me” who have the patience and privilege “to stick it out, I think we are helping the church to grow into what will seem normal in a few hundred years.”          Flanagan emphasized “the number of people who might give their relationship to Christ and their relationship to the Church a second thought, a more open thought, who might feel welcome now in a church in a way they would not have otherwise.”         He continued, “I think it’s a huge move.”…..(More). Photo: Fr Christian Olding blesses gay couple in Church of St. Martin in Geldern, Germany, OSV News KNA Rudolf Wichert.

New SA document aims to bring parishes and schools closer together
Extracts from CathNews, The Southern Cross, 13 December 2023

A document that provides a framework to support positive relationships between Adelaide parishes and Catholic school communities has been officially launched.        More than 200 Catholic school principals, assistant principals, parish priests, parish pastoral council chairs, Catholic Education SA and archdiocesan leaders, together with parishioners from around the state, gathered at the Vietnamese Catholic Community in Pooraka on November 17 for an information session on “Being Church Together”.         There have been several iterations of the document since the first working draft was penned in 2018 following visitations to parishes and schools as part of the archdiocesan renewal program. The current offering was produced by the archdiocese’s pastoral services team following consultation with Catholic Education SA leaders and the Port Pirie Diocese.         The 2023 version reflects the developments in the local, national and global Church – particularly synodality – and draws on real-life experiences of parishes and schools across South Australia. It includes a section on “activating principles for good practice” in which communities are encouraged to reflect on their current realities, imagine a vision for the future, and discern strategies for action.         In launching the document (HERE), Adelaide Archbishop Patrick O’Regan spoke of his experience attending the Synod on Syndodality in Rome in October and the unique offering of Catholic education in Australia. He said it was important there was a strong relationship between parishes and school communities. “I’m delighted that we have such a wonderful document. This is an indication of where we are going, this is not only the roadmap but the vehicle by which we can travel – but we travel together on the way,” he said. …..(Source)

Pope’s response to U.S. Catholic conservatism. Francis, Strickland & Burke
Limited Extracts from Massimo Faggioli, Commonweal, 12 December 2023

The year-long break between the first and second assemblies of the Synod on Synodality began with Pope Francis disciplining two of his most outspoken critics. First, he removed Bishop Joseph Strickland as head of the Tyler, Texas, diocese; days later, he reportedly ousted Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke from his Vatican-subsidized apartment and took away the salary Burke was receiving as a retired cardinal.        As a procedural matter, the Strickland decision was a straightforward instance of following the measures the Church provides—in this case, an apostolic visitation—concerning the right of the people of God to be governed by the pastor of the diocese, and for ensuring the respect for all those, including clergy, under a diocesan bishop’s jurisdiction.                  Burke’s case is different, and it says something more about this phase of Francis’s pontificate. No matter one’s opinion about Burke’s theology or the company he keeps, the way his punishment was handled and communicated via non-institutional channels speaks clearly to how Francis thinks about the college of cardinals and the dignity of the title of “cardinal” itself.         Francis tried to eliminate the papal court by moving out of the papal apartment to live in Santa Marta, but at the same time he weakened intermediate bodies, especially the college of cardinals and the secretariat of state. A case in point is the story of Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who was the second-ranking official in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State when dismissed by Francis in September 2020 while at the center of a landmark financial crimes trial; the following April, Francis eliminated the right of all cardinals to be judged by the pope. Since the start of Becciu’s trial, Francis has also published the reform constitution of the Roman Curia (March 2022) and the new Constitution for the Vatican City State (May 2023), which have augmented papal powers at the expense of other ecclesiastical bodies.       Even if the pope has power that is “supreme, full, immediate and universal,” it’s not absolute; that is, the pope is subject to the supremacy of divine natural and positive law. And certain uses of papal power can backfire. Burke, the former prefect of the Segnatura and archbishop emeritus of St. Louis, receives generous financial support from allies in the United States; a possible unintended consequence of Francis’s punishment may be to empower Burke in the way the “crown cardinals” of the early modern era were. And Burke remains a cardinal, retaining the right to participate in a conclave until he reaches the age of eighty, on June 30, 2028……….The 1960s have long been seen as a decisive decade in terms of Christianity’s encounter with secular and pluralistic modernity. In terms of secular modernity’s impact on relations among different Christian traditions, the 1990s—with the explosion of the culture wars—were crucial. Now, just over a decade into Francis’s papacy, we have transitioned into a global Christianity that is more reflective of the Southern hemisphere, and in the United States, a Catholicism and Protestantism that is, to be blunt, less “white” and less “male.” It’s hard not to see Strickland and what he represents as a reaction to this new demographic reality…..(Source). Photo: Cardinal Burke Rome October 2023, CNS photo Lola Gomez.

Preparing for Synod 2024: Towards a synodal and missionary Church
Extract from Vatican News, 12 December 2023

Cardinals Grech and Hollerich write to bishops across the world explaining the next stages of the synodal process in view of next year’s second and final session of the Synod of Bishops on synodality.             The work of the Synod on synodality continues in view of the final session set for October 2024, and Churches are now called to reflect on the Synthesis Report published in October 2023, to promote further consultation and to prepare contributions for next year’s assembly. Bishops from across world have just received a document with instructions from the Secretariat of the Synod accompanied by a letter from Cardinals Mario Grech (the General Secretary) and Jean-Claude Hollerich (the Relator General). The four-page text first of all underscores the importance of the experience lived by those who took part in the first session of the Synod in October this year, recalling that “their account constitutes an inalienable part of the gift we have received, conveying the richness of an experience that no text can condense.”       The synodal process will, therefore, continue along some lines of work, keeping in mind what Pope Francis said when he approved them that “the Synod is about synodality, and not about this or that theme”, and that the “important thing is how the reflection is done, that is, in a synodal way.”         Topics to be discussed. Regarding the specific themes that have emerged so far, the document explains that some need to be considered at the level of the Universal Church and in collaboration with the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia. These matters include, for example, the preliminary study in view of the updating of the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Rite (CIC) and the Code of Canon Law for the Eastern Rites of the Church (CCEO); of the Ratio Fundamentalis on the formation of ordained ministers, of the document “Mutuae Relationes” on the mutual relations between bishops and religious in the Church; or the deepening of theological and pastoral research on the diaconate and specifically, on women’s admission to the diaconate.        A list of these topics will be submitted to the Pope as the fruit of the Assembly of the Synod. Groups of experts from all the continents , along with the relevant Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, coordinated by the General Secretariat of the Synod will be asked to work ” in a synodal way” on the topics indicated by the Pope.     A report on the progress of this work will be presented at the Synod. Focus on how to be a synodal Church in mission. Discussions in the next month will focus on the fundamental question of how to be a synodal Church in mission, with the aim to identify the paths to follow and the tools to adopt to “enhance the unique contribution of each baptised person and of each Church in the one mission of proclaiming the Risen Lord and his Gospel to the world today.”         As the document clarifies, the process must, therefore, not be limited “to a plan of technical or procedural improvements to make the Church’s structures more efficient,” but rather be “a reflection on the concrete forms of the missionary commitment to which we are called, that express the dynamism between unity and diversity proper to a synodal Church.”….(More). Photo: Participants 2023 Synod of Bishops on synodality, Vat News 20231212

Voice question should have been split: Wyatt
Extract from 12 December 2023, CathNews, The Age, 12 December 2023

Former Indigenous affairs minister Ken Wyatt says the Voice referendum was too complicated and should have split out the question of recognition, as he called on National Cabinet to urgently focus on closing the gap. One of the key conservative supporters of the October referendum – which was rejected by 60 per cent of Australians and rapidly faded as a point of political debate – said many Indigenous Australians and their leaders were still grieving but he hoped deep frustration and rejection would lead to fresh ideas.               National Cabinet and a new federal task force focused on failures to close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage should “bite the bullet and deal with the targets in a very concerted, pragmatic way,” Mr Wyatt said. Chief Voice proponents, including Noel Pearson, have not spoken publicly since the October 14 poll. Labor has not released new policies to reverse dire health, education and criminal justice statistics despite Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney hinting at new announcements on referendum night.             Regional and local voices should have been legislated before a referendum to prove their value and operation, Mr Wyatt argued. He said it would be viewed as a historic shame that two separate questions were not asked: one on symbolic recognition in the Constitution of the unique status of First Australians and the other on the Indigenous advisory body to Parliament. While devastating Indigenous Australians, Mr Wyatt said the referendum had the positive effect of heightening awareness of Indigenous disadvantage and spawning the next generation of Indigenous leaders he said could enter Parliament…..(More) Photo: Ken Wyatt, Facebook Ken Wyatt

Australia ‘punched well above its weight’ at Synod of Bishops
Extract from CathNews, Christopher White. Source: NCR Online, 8 December 2023

“Australia punched well above its weight,” Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv told me last month during a visit to the country for a series of lectures sponsored by the Parramatta Diocese, Australian Catholic University, and Newman College, Melbourne. In July 2022, some 277 delegates from throughout the country gathered in Sydney for the second assembly of Australia’s Plenary Council.      Both the style and the substance of that weeklong meeting would prove consequential for the global Church. Unlike past synods, the first session of Francis’ Synod on Synodality took place at roundtables, rather than utilising the stadium-style seating of the Vatican’s Synod hall. Cardinals and bishops sat shoulder to shoulder with lay people from around the world, who for the first time were also granted the right to vote in the Synod.         No longer did Synod delegates spend hours listening to prepared remarks, where they could sit back and doze off or check emails. Instead, the month-long Synod opted for a new methodology known as “spiritual conversations” over three rounds. Prayer and meditation broke up each round, and the results of the roundtable discussions served as the basis for shaping the Synod’s final document.         The origins and inspiration for all this? Australia’s Plenary Council, which utilised the same methodology and practices. In the end, Australia clocked in with a total of 13 synod participants in Rome, making it the third largest delegation just behind Italy and the US…..(More). Photo: Ormond Rush speaks at Synod of Bishops October 2023, CNS, Lola Gomez,

A mini-mirror image of the Global Synod
Extracts from Margaret Beirne RSC, Catholic Outlook, 8 December 2023

In promulgating the first Diocesan of Parramatta Synod, Bishop Vincent LongOFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, proposed this ‘anchor question’: “In light of the call to become a more synodal Church, where is the Holy Spirit calling us to in the Diocese of Parramatta?”( Synod Directory 2023-2025, p.8). The call to listen deeply to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church has been faithfully woven through each stage of the Synodal process, culminating in the grace-filled Assembly from 13-15 October this year.          This emphasis on listening to the Holy Spirit is echoed throughout the Scriptures. In the Gospel of John, Jesus assures his disciples on the evening before his crucifixion, that he will send “the Spirit of Truth who will teach them all things” (Jn 14:17). The Book of Revelation expands on this several times: “Let them hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to the churches” (Rev 2:7; 2:29; 3:22).       To experience first-hand how thoroughly this core biblical teaching has been implemented in the Diocese of Parramatta has been, for me, a great grace; indeed, it was a privilege to be invited to participate. In a very real sense, the October assembly, although far removed physically from Rome, can truly be described as a mini-mirror image of what was taking place simultaneously at the global Synod on Synodality………..So how did this extraordinary event hold together and produce such a rich and rewarding experience for those present, and by extension for the thousands of people who had contributed so readily during the preparatory phase? Like the Assembly members, they were familiar with the process from the many sessions that had been part of the preparation since the convocation in March up to the actual Assembly in October…….(More). Photo: Diocesan Synod Delegates, CommBank Stadium, Parramatta, Parramatta Diocese 20231208

Pope Francis says he wants a “less masculine” Church
Limited Extract from Loup Besmond de Senneville Vatican City, Subscription Journal La Croix International, 1 December 2023

In a meeting with some of the world’s leading theologians, the Jesuit pope extolled the “feminine” character of the Church .  Pope Francis has told members of the International Theological Commission (ITC) they need to do more to “help make the Church less masculine”.             The pope, who is battling a nasty bout of bronchitis and is short of breath, began his meeting with the 28 members currently on the commission by handing them his prepared address. “There is a good address here dealing with theological matters,” he said. “But because of my health, it is better not to read it. ”          That did not stop him from speaking, however. And in a frank manner, no less. “Theology, theological reflection, is very important,” he told the ITC members. “But there is something about you that I do not like,pardon my sincerity,” he added, as he looked over the group assembled before him. “One, two, three, four women: poor women! They are alone! Ah, excuse me, there are five,” he said.         Francis, who is the one who actually chooses the theologians who are on the ITC, then spoke off-the-cuff for several minutes, expanding on remarks he’s made before regarding the “feminine” nature of the Church. The “Petrine” and “Marian” principles As he has already done on several occasions, Francis highlighted the “two principles” he distinguishes in the Church: the “Petrine” principle, in reference to the first of the Apostles, and the “Marian” principle, in reference to the mother of Jesus.          The Jesuit pope said the first is a ministerial principle, and is therefore linked to the Church’s ministries. He said that it is because of the Petrine principle that only men can be priests. But he insisted that the Marian principle is more important.         “The Marian is more important than the Petrine, because there is the bride Church, the woman Church, without being masculine,” said. The pope said this means we need more women theologians and a more feminized theology. “We must advance in this,” he said. “Women have a capacity for theological reflection that is different to that of us men.”……….(More). Photo: Pope Francis Feminine nature of Church, Tiziana Fabi AFP 2023

Canberra-Goulburn Roundtables a forum for discernment and discussion
Extract from CathNews, Catholic Voice, 30 November 2023

A series of roundtable sessions will provide an opportunity for Catholics in the Canberra-Goulburn Archdiocese to prayerfully discern where the Holy Spirit may be calling the community, according to evangelisation animator Huw Warmenhoven. “Each roundtable centres on a theme, identified as particularly important to the life and mission of the archdiocese,” Mr Warmenhoven said.          “Each roundtable will include a time of gathering around some food, prayer, hearing and celebrating some leaders involved in that particular space before moving into a time of discussion and reflection in small groups.” Grounded in core themes from the Plenary Council and broader topics of synodal discernment, the roundtables hope to identify existing initiatives and opportunities for collaboration among parishes, communities, movements and ministries.           These will also develop a foundation and inform both content and processes for the Archdiocesan Assembly in 2024. “Our first two roundtables are focused on ‘raising up a new generation through youth and young adult ministry’ and ‘celebrating the gift of our families’,” Mr Warmenhoven said. “These are designed to listen to the reality of youth, young adults and families in the life of the Church that will be important to highlight in our Archdiocesan Assembly in 2024. They will also help to guide our pastoral efforts at both an archdiocesan and parish level into next year and beyond.”………(More) Photo:Roundtable life and mission of Archdiocese, CathNews 20231130

Association of U.S. Catholic Priests highlights similarities between Francis’ remarks and its position on Priestly Formation and Clericalism
Extract from Catholic Outlook, 29 November 2023
The largest group of U.S. Catholic priests has said that Pope Francis’ latest statements on priestly formation and clericalism resonates with its recommendation for a pastoral model of priestly formation.
Holy Cross Father Stephen P. Newton, executive director of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, has appreciated the pope’s synodal intervention when he referred to clericalism as a “scourge,” and its own 2018 recommendations for changes in priestly formation.       The AUSCP which has around 1,200 priests among its ranks is the largest association of priests in the United States. It was founded in 2011 as a support group for priests who are inspired by the teaching of Second Vatican Council (1962-65) and its continued implementation and has become a “pastoral and collegial voice of member priests,” following the call of Pope Francis to synodality, open to the participation of all the members of the People of God.     “Clericalism is a whip, it is a scourge”…….(More).

Franciscan bishop implements Jesuit pope’s synodal vision in Australia
More than 200 delegates participating in the first-ever synod for the Australian Diocese of Parramatta filed out of their opening Mass, they were discreetly given flyers by those questioning both the meeting and the bishop who had called it.

Extract from National Catholic Reporter, 28 November 2023
Since his installation as the head of the diocese in the western suburbs of Sydney in 2016, Bishop Vincent Long has ruffled more than a few feathers for his support of LGBTQ Catholics, his advocacy in support of the country’s recent referendum on Indigenous representation, and his own personal testimony of being a victim of clergy sexual abuse. For taking those stances, Long is unapologetic.            “I try to follow Pope Francis’ lead by focusing on pastoral priorities such as a church that is more inclusive, participatory, open to the gifts of all members, especially women,” he told NCR on Nov. 8.        “More aligned with the poor, the dispossessed and the marginalized, more in partnership with others, more engaged with the world not flight from or hostility against it.” To be clear, Long says he does not want to compare himself with the pope, but that he is simply trying to draw from what Francis is teaching and apply it in his own backyard. “The pope has had many critics both within and outside the church. I have my share. But I would not compare myself with him. …          This comes with the territory,” he said. Long’s remarks came during an interview with NCR on the sidelines of the plenary meeting of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference at Mary MacKillop Place in Sydney, and while this reporter was in the country for a series of lectures sponsored by the Parramatta Diocese, the La Salle Academy at Australian Catholic University, and Newman College, Melbourne. Like Francis, Long is somewhat of an outsider……(More). Photo: Bishop Vincent Long, Parramatta Diocese

The overwhelming case to restore women to ordained ministry alongside men as their equals.  Extract from Miriam Duignan, The Tablet, 27 November 2023

“We are still hopeful, but not particularly optimistic.” This was the response of the campaign group, Catholic Women’s Ordination, to the first synodal meeting in Rome. During the synodal process, Church leadership heard Catholics everywhere express a strong desire to see women recognised for their vocations to ministry and for the priestly work they do in parishes everywhere.              In so many of our churches, it is women preparing families for baptisms, marriages and funerals and, in the absence of a male priest, they conduct Communion services on a Sunday. Women are chaplains in hospitals where they care for the sick and the dying, but must call for a male priest to administer the last rites or hear confession.                 This glaring and illogical injustice can no longer be ignored. And yet, the topic of women priests was banned at the Synod. Instead, after one month of discussions and constant edits, the summary document’s paragraph on the female diaconate (a question that was allowed) was a watered down, vague statement about the need for further study. If yet another study were to be taken up, this would be the third go-around in seven years to examine the case to restore the women’s diaconate.          We have to ask, how much longer can this possibly take?……….(More).    Photo:Fresco, woman priest, Priscilla Catacombs, Abaca Press Almy Live News,Tablet 20231127

Comments on Synod on Synodality ‘Conversation’ at Sense of Faith Newman College Oratory 23 November 2023         Extracts from Fr Frank Brennan Homily (Solemnity of Christ The King), Catholic Outlook, 26 November 2023

One “particular grace” of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia has been its encouragement of many initiatives in the Church across the country, according to a letter to the People of God prepared for the Solemnity of Christ the King. As the Church marks the end of the liturgical year this weekend, the letter provides an update on work carrying forward the Plenary Council’s outcomes while awaiting the Holy See’s formal recognition of the Council’s decrees………….During the week, the Sense of the Faithful group sponsored a discussion evening on the recent synod process.[2] Bishop Shane McKinlay and Ms Susan Pascoe, synod participants, were invited speakers who shared their reflections on the experience, as did Brother Mark O’Connor FMS who was an observer in Rome.[3] All three were upbeat about the process, reporting that a month of deep listening to hundreds of people with diverse views was an exhausting but rewarding experience.              Bishop McKinlay had a box seat at the synod as he was one of the people selected to work on the 40-page Synthesis Report. They worked around the clock producing three editions of a document which included a thousand amendments…..(More). Photo:Jesus-sheep_Catholic Outlook 20231126

Church in Australia carrying forward its pursuit of synodality
Extract from CathNews, ACBC Media Blog, 24 November 2023
One “particular grace” of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia has been its encouragement of many initiatives in the Church across the country, according to a letter to the People of God prepared for the Solemnity of Christ the King. As the Church marks the end of the liturgical year this weekend, the letter provides an update on work carrying forward the Plenary Council’s outcomes while awaiting the Holy See’s formal recognitio of the Council’s decrees. More than a dozen people – clergy, religious and laity – gathered in Sydney recently to provide a report on work undertaken since the Council’s conclusion in July 2022. Such a report had been called for in the Council’s decrees. The group’s members had been nominated by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Catholic Religious Australia and the Association of Ministerial PJPs. They decided to offer the report in the format of a letter to the People of God. The report is linked HERE

Pope Francis’ inclusive stance resonates with transgender community
Extract from  CathNews NZ, 23 November 2023.                                                               

In a significant gesture towards inclusivity, Pope Francis extended a lunch invitation to a group of transgender individuals.             The group, mostly Latin American migrants and often engaged in sex work, has received unprecedented support from the Vatican. Under the guidance of the local parish priest, Rev Andrea Conocchia, these women now attend Francis’ weekly audiences as VIP guests. Recently, the group joined over 1200 other underprivileged individuals as guests for a special lunch at the Vatican, commemorating the Catholic Church’s World Day of the Poor. For these marginalised women, these gestures signify a newfound sense of inclusion within a church that historically kept them at arm’s length.             Transgenders feel more human. “Before, the church was closed to us. They didn’t see us as normal people. They saw us as the devil” said Andrea Paola Torres Lopez, a Colombian transgender woman. “Then Pope Francis arrived, and the doors of the church opened for us.” Claudia Victoria Salas, 55 and Carla Segovia, 46, both sew workers from Argentina, attended the lunch. To her surprise, Salas found herself seated at the main table opposite the pope – who of course is also Argentinian. “We transgenders here in Italy feel a bit more human because the fact that Pope Francis brings us closer to the Church is a beautiful thing” said Carla Segovia……(More). Photo: Pope-Francis-Transgender-

Pope intervenes in German Synodal Path plan
Extract from CathNews NZ, 23 November 2023

Pope Francis has written a letter about several proposals regarding the German Synodal Path and “the numerous concrete steps that are taking place”.          On Tuesday this week German news outlet Die Welt published a copy of the letter which was addressed to four recipients. Those four are German women who resigned from the Synodal Path in February 2022.            Theologians Professor Katharina Westerhorstmann and Professor Marianne Schlosser, philosopher Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz and journalist Dorothea Schmidt said they objected to some of the Synodal Path’s conclusions and methods. The letter begins: “I extend my gratitude for your kind letter dated November 6. Your concerns regarding the current developments within the Church in Germany have reached me, and I share your concerns. There are indeed numerous steps being taken by significant segments of this local Church that threaten to steer it increasingly away from the universal Church’s common path. “This doubtlessly includes the establishment of the synodal committee you referenced” Francis wrote.           The Synodal Path proposals. The noncanonical Synodal Path process concluded its initial stage in March……(More) Photo: Pope Francis writing letter CathNews NZ RNS 20231123

Theology, culture, and context
Pope Francis and the opening up of new sources for theological reflection
Limited Extract from J.P. Grayland, Germany, Subscription Journal La Croix International, 20 November 2023

An “open”, “synodal” and “missionary” theology, free of “self-referent” structures of thinking can be dynamic and engaging. This is the basis of a transdisciplinary theological approach that is not afraid of contemporary physical, human and social sciences. It does not hide concepts of nature, humanity, society, justice and power that are more at home in the Middle Ages or the 19th century modernist controversies. Central to Francis’ theological shift is Romano Guardini, a prominent figure in the German Reform theological and liturgical movement of the late 19th and 20th centuries. Guardini’s emphasis on the importance of experience and context in theological reflection resonates with the pope’s vision of a Church deeply connected to the contemporary world and Francis’ writings reflect and reference Guardini’s thinking……(More). Image:Theology, Ted, Flickr.

‘Excuse me, Your Eminence, she has not finished speaking’
Extract from CathNews NZ, Phyllis Zagano, Religion News Service, 20 November 2023
Without doubt, the best line to emanate from the Synod on Synoldality is “Excuse me, Your Eminence, she has not finished speaking.”       That sums up the synod and the state of the Catholic Church’s attitude toward change.       In October, hundreds of bishops, joined by lay men and women, priests, deacons, religious sisters and brothers met for nearly a month in Rome for the Synod on Synodality.          At its end, the synod released a synthesis report brimming with the hope and the promise that the church would be a more listening church.           Some 54 women voted at the synod. Back home, women are still ignored. Why? It is not because women quote the Second Vatican Council at parish council meetings. It is because too many bishops and pastors ignore parish councils.          It is not because women of the world do not write to their pastors and bishops. It is because without large checks, their letters are ignored. The Synod on Synodality was groundbreaking in part because it was more about learning to listen. It was more about the process than about results. Its aim was to get the whole church on board with a new way of relating, of having “conversations in the Spirit,” where listening and prayer feed discernment and decision-making.        Even now, the project faces roadblocks. At their November meeting this week in Baltimore, U.S. bishops heard presentations by Brownsville, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores, who has led the two-year national synod process so far. His brother bishops did not look interested.        To be fair, some bishops in some dioceses, in the U.S. and other parts of the world, are on board with Pope Francis’ attempt to encourage the church to accept the reforms of Vatican II, to listen to the people of God. But too many bishops are having none of it…….(More).  Photo: Dr Phyllis Zaganao, Religion News Service

US bishops’ meeting a “big snooze”
Edited Opinion Piece from Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter, 17 November 2023

This year’s meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops was like no other. There was very little in the body’s deliberations that was newsworthy. Taken as a whole, the meeting demonstrated the sclerotic condition the U.S. hierarchy has created for itself.          How bad is it?          It’s not every day that a former general meddles in the internal politics of the Catholic Church. But if you needed any further confirmation that there is a group within the church that is completely unhinged, all the evidence needed came in a tweet this week from Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s short-lived national security adviser and long-term conspiracy theorist, telling disgraced former nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò and deposed Bishop Joseph Strickland to “Stand Your Ground!”          MAGA world wasn’t content to storm the U.S. Capitol. It has broken into the realm of the sacred and defiled the temple. Those of us who subscribe to James Joyce’s “Here comes everybody” ecclesiology understand that the Catholic Church will include a range of cultural dispositions, social classes, intellectual and moral attitudes. But it is appalling that the brutish and unhinged quality of the MAGA-sphere has become pronounced in a church that calls itself “one, holy, catholic and apostolic.”        Whatever the MAGA-sphere is, it is not one or holy or catholic or apostolic……(More). Photo: US Bishops pray during November session US Conference of Catholic Bishops, OSV News, Bob Roller.

Abortion to be ‘preeminent priority’ in voting guide for US Catholic
Extract from CathNews, CNA, 17 November 2023
The United States bishops will continue to highlight the threat of abortion as a “preeminent priority” in the introduction to a guide they’ll disseminate to Catholic voters ahead of the 2024 election.            That designation, the source of debate among some bishops in recent years, was retained when the bishops voted overwhelmingly (225-11, with seven abstentions) to approve a revised introduction to the guide, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship”, at their annual November assembly in Baltimore this week. The bishops also voted to approve several brief excerpts from the guide to be inserted in parish bulletins during the upcoming election cycle.          “The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks our most vulnerable and voiceless brothers and sisters and destroys more than a million lives per year in our country alone,” the new introduction to the guide says.          The new introduction also lists euthanasia, gun violence, terrorism, the death penalty, and human trafficking as “other grave threats to life and dignity of the human person.” The revised introduction also now states that the “redefinition of marriage and gender … threaten[s] the dignity of the human person.”           In a press conference after the vote, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, vice president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that while many issues are important, “not all issues are equal”.          “We are called to stand in radical solidarity with women in difficult pregnancies and their unborn children and to provide them with the kind of support and services and public policies that they need,” he said.            “So, it’s not simply a public policy issue. It is a deeply, deeply pastoral issue of loving the moms in need, walking with them, helping them bring their babies to term, and then providing them with what they need to move forward,” he said…..(More)   Image:US bishops, Catholics called to stand in radical solidarity with women in difficult pregnancies and unborn children, Bigstock, CNA

Vatican ambassador urges US bishops to embrace synodality
Extracts from CathNews NZ, Vatican Correspondent, 16 November 2023 Cardinal Christophe Pierre has been apostolic nuncio to the United States since 2016 and, at Pope Francis’ request, he will continue in this role for the foreseeable future, he told America’s Vatican correspondent in an exclusive interview in Rome in early October……….When I asked how he read the apparent disconnect between many U.S. bishops and Pope Francis, the cardinal remarked, “This is something we have to dig a little deeper [to understand].” But, he said, “I would not concentrate on Francis so much because Francis is now seen as the big sinner by some. “There are some priests and religious and bishops who are terribly against Francis as if he was the scapegoat [for] all the failures of the church or of society.” “We are in the church at a change of epoch,”            Cardinal Pierre said. “People don’t understand it. And this may be the reason why most of the young priests today dream about wearing the cassock and celebrating Mass in the traditional [pre-Vatican II] way.” “In some ways, they are lost in a society which has no security, and all of us when we feel lost look for some security,” he said. “But which kind of security?” The cardinal recalled that Pope Francis declared, “my security is Jesus.” He added, “It’s not the church that will protect me. It’s not the habit.”….(Source)

Francis calls Catholic theologians to a “cultural revolution”
Will the Church and its universities help promote the pope’s theological vision?
Limited Extract from Massimo Faggioli, Subscription Journal La Croix International, 16 November 2023.

The first session of the Synod of Bishops’ assembly on the future of the Church has brought to the surface the gap that exists between Pope Francis’ idea of synodality and how some Catholic theologians understand it – even those theologians that have enthusiastically welcomed his pontificate as a much-awaited turn in the orientation of Church teaching for a more dialogical relationship with the world and the “existential peripheries”.             The Jesuit pope’s anti-elitism keeps a him at a safe distance from academic theologians. But, at times, he has issued important statements about theology’s role in the Church. Some notable examples include his letter in 2015 to the Grand Chancellor of the Catholic University of Argentina; his publication in 2017 of Veritatis Gaudium, the apostolic constitution on ecclesiastical universities and faculties; and his address in 2019 to the Pontifical Theological Faculty of Southern Italy. Three days after the conclusion of the Synod assembly’s first session, Francis also issued Ad theologiam promovendam, a “motu proprio” to approve the new statutes of the Pontifical Academy of Theology….(More)

Pope Francis greets Australian Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of Perth at the Vatican June 24, 2019. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The Synodal Journey Continues But course corrections are needed.
Extract from Massimo Faggioli, Commonweal, 8 November 2023

The first assembly of the Synod on Synodality in October left us with some important certainties as well as a few uncertainties. One of the certainties is that synodality is not an experiment (even if the form of the recent assembly is somewhat experimental). Indeed, synodality is a long-forgotten way for the Church to gather, listen, and make decisions in the service of the Gospel. It is a moment of ressourcement in the tradition of the Church—a reconnection with an important and very real part of its past.            Another certainty is that this assembly differed fundamentally from the twenty-nine that the Bishops’ Synod have celebrated since 1967, after the creation of the new institution by Paul VI during the last session of Vatican II in September 1965. Not just because it’s part of the long “synodal process” begun in 2021 and set to conclude with the second assembly in October 2024; it’s different as well because of the position the Synod occupies among the turning points in Catholic history in the last two centuries…..(More).    Photo: Pope Francis blessing conclusion Synod CNS, Vatican Media, Commomeweal 20231108

Fifteen hidden gems in the Synod on Synodality report
Extract from Religion New Service (November 2023)
At the Synod on Synodality, the Western media focused on a limited number of hot-button issues — women’s ordination, married priests and blessing of gay couples. But hidden in the synod participants’ 40-page synthesis are some surprising gems that could lead to significant reform in the church.             The first is a new stress on lay involvement. Compared with other Christian churches, the Catholic Church is very hierarchical. This synod, especially the conversations at roundtables, was structured so that lay voices, including women and young people, were heard and respected. “Synod path called by the Holy Father is to involve all the baptized,” the report notes. “We ardently desire this to happen and want to commit ourselves to making it possible.”             Secondly, the synod promotes “Conversation in the Spirit.” The term refers to a practice that “enables authentic listening in order to discern what the Spirit is saying to the Churches,” the report explains, adding that “‘conversation’ expresses more than mere dialogue: it interweaves thought and feeling, creating a shared vital space.”              RELATED: Synod on Synodality report is disappointing but not surprising Third, the report acknowledges disagreements and uncertainties.       In the past, the hierarchy tended to cover them up, presenting a united front to the faithful and the world. But on its first page the synod’s report acknowledges “The multiplicity of interventions and the plurality of positions voiced in the Assembly,” and admits “that it is not easy to listen to different ideas, without immediately giving in to the temptation to counter the views expressed.”            In each following chapter, any disagreements and uncertainties are listed under “matters for consideration” that “require deepening our understanding pastorally, theologically, and canonically.”             The report also acknowledges its divides. “The Church too is affected by polarization and distrust in vital matters such as liturgical life and moral, social and theological reflection,” it reads. “We need to recognize the causes of each through dialogue and undertake courageous processes of revitalizing communion and processes of reconciliation to overcome them.”…..(Source). Image: Synod on Synodality, Religion News Service


The theme of “communion” and how the Church might provide greater welcome to all of its members is the focus for the 460 participating bishops and lay members of the Synod on Synodality this week. Source: NCR Online.

The delegates of the October 4-29 Synod of Bishops will discuss that theme throughout the week, and also to discuss how Catholics can improve relations with other Christian denominations. “If we act like Jesus, we will testify to God’s love for the world,” Luxembourg Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the Synod’s relator general, said yesterday. “Failing to do so will make us look like an identitarian club.” Laying out the themes for the week ahead, the cardinal recalled the Pope’s recent and now-often cited mantra that the Church should be open to “todos, todos, todos” (“everyone, everyone, everyone”). “Jesus extended this communion to all the sinners. Are we ready to do the same?” he asked at the beginning of the second week of Synod meetings. “Are we ready to do this with groups which might irritate us because their way of being might seem to threaten our identity?” Cardinal Hollerich’s remarks marked the start of the second phase of the Synod’s discussions. The assembly’s small group discussions this week, he said, will consider questions regarding ecumenism, interreligious dialogue and ecology, among other topics. While the Synod sessions are generally being held in private, the Vatican is offering a livestream at the beginning of each phase of discussions, which are being termed as “modules.” Cardinal Hollerich, a Jesuit, told the delegates he had been warned that tensions inside the Synod hall will begin to rise this week as the body considers more contentious topics. Toward the end of the week, the assembly is expected to begin discussions on themes including the possible ordination of women as Catholic deacons. “We are not afraid of tensions,” he said. “Tensions are a part of the process, as long as we consider ourselves to be sisters and brothers, walking together.”…(More). Photo: Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich SJ introductory remarks Synod, CNS Lola Gomez