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    AmP Countdown: Time left to demand that Congress make health care reform pro-life: 2009-11-07 18:00:00 GMT-05:00


    Sunday, December 20, 2009

    Breaking: Nelson caves, Senate passes pro-abortion bill tonight


    I've been deluged with emails this weekend keeping me up to date on the rapid developments taking place in the health care debate.

    The most important news to absorb is that Senator Nelson - at this point - has caved and is promising to support Senator Reid's pro-abortion bill when it is voted upon at 1AM tonight {update - he did cave and became the 60th and final vote for Reid's pro-abortion bill.}

    He refused to listen to pro-life groups who were attempting to support him, opting instead to strike a backroom deal with Senator Reid which saves his state of Nebraska $100 million over the next decade, as I report on the APP blog.

    Others have noted the implications of Nelson's "sweetheart" deal:
    "Deacon Keith Fournier describes this as Nelson’s “bag of silver.”  Fournier explains, “If Senator Ben Nelson actually sold his vote for a bag of silver for Nebraska then this has become a ‘Judas moment’ not a ‘Thomas More moment’ and its implications are evil.”
    The Casey-Nelson solution is unacceptable. The National Right to Life Committee is crystal clear :
    "The manager’s amendment [= Casey-Nelson compromise] is light years removed from the Stupak-Pitts Amendment that was approved by the House of Representatives on November 8 by a bipartisan vote of 240-194.  The new abortion language solves none of the fundamental abortion-related problems with the Senate bill, and it actually creates some new abortion-related problems."
    The message from the US bishops, when briefed about Nelson's decision, is uncompromising:
    The Senate health reform bill should not move forward in its current form, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City said December 19, as senators proceeded closer to a vote.
    ... [the bill] should be opposed unless and until such serious concerns have been addressed. The bishops' conference continues to study that 383-page amendment's implications from the perspective of all the bishops' moral concerns -- protection of life and conscience, affordable access to health care, and fairness to immigrants.
    Deal Hudson - who has been very active in this debate through his new innitiative the Catholic Advocate - picks up on an argument I made last week during my EWTN appearance last week: "A Vote for Cloture Is a Vote for Abortion" (basically, anyone who votes for the current legislation is voting to create and expand federal sponsorship of abortion, in opposition to long-standing policy). Deal also writes :

    The fight over federal funding for abortion will now move back to the House where 62 Democrats voted for the Stupak-Pitts amendment — it remains to be seen how many of those Democrats will follow in the footsteps of Sen. Ben Nelson.
    Once again the bright light will fall on Cong. Bart Stupak (D-MI) who stood up against immense pressure last month to get his amendment passed.

    Deal is absolutely right - presuming the bill is passed out of the Senate - everything hinges on Rep. Stupak and his coalition of pro-life Democrats in the House. That's our last cause for hope.

    As further background, the Catholic Health Association came out in support of the Casey-Nelson compromise, and Steven Ertelt picks apart why they probably did so. Shame on them. The Catholic Medical Association, meanwhile, is strongly against the bill. Good for them.


    I will update this post as I find out more information.


    Update 1:15 AM - the Senate ended debate and passed the bill on a party line vote of 60-40. All 58 Democrats and 2 Independents voted on the bill, not a single Republican voted for the bill. Senators Casey and Nelson both supported the pro-abortion bill. A sad day for America and the protection of unborn human life, but the fight is not over.

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    Thursday, December 17, 2009

    Breaking: Pro-life groups say Casey compromise "unacceptable"

    First, a quick recap: last Tuesday the Senate, led by Senator Harry Reid, voted down Senator Ben Nelson's pro-life amendment.

    After Nelson threatened to filibuster a bill with pro-abortion provisions, Senator Bob Casey worked with Senator Harry Reid (already a bad sign) to work on compromise language that would be acceptable to Nelson.

    Late yesterday Casey gave new language to Nelson for him to review, and Nelson asked pro-life groups to comment.

    Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life, having seen the language, was the first prominent pro-life consultant to declare the Casey compromise "unacceptable" - as he explained:
    "This is far cry from the Stupak Amendment," Johnson said in an email delivered to news outlets.
    "This proposal would break from the long-established principles of the Hyde Amendment by providing federal subsidies for health plans that cover abortion on demand. This is entirely unacceptable," he added.
    The proposal apparently has an opt-out clause that would allow taxpayers who object to their premiums and tax money used to pay for abortions to leave the program.
    "It is particularly offensive that the proposal apparently would make it the default position for the federal government to subsidize plans that cover abortion on demand, and then permit individual citizens to apply for conscientious objector status," he said.
    "This is an exercise is cosmetics -- like putting lipstick on a legislative warthog," Johnson concluded.
    Staff for Nelson and Casey say process of drafting the language is ongoing, though the condemnation from National Right to Life might make its drafters go back to the drawing board.
    Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, also came out against the Casey amendment. If Perkins and Johnson are against it, you can be very confident that the rest of the pro-life organizations will come to a similar conclusion. This really isn't a hard call to make.

    After all, remember - all pro-life groups are demanding at this point is that the new health care legislation follow long-standing Hyde amendment language (which prohibits federal funds from paying for abortions). The US Bishops have released a helpful side-by-side page which compares current federal law to the Nelson amendment and twitters "[they are] the same thing."

    And yet pro-abortion groups and legislators - and now Senator Casey himself - continue to try to sneak in (or outright provide for) an abortion mandate in the bill.

    The word on the street is that Senator Casey will continue negotiations with Senator Nelson, hoping to win-over Nelson's vote. Senator Casey is thus, in a real way, pushing for this health care bill.

    Yesterday I uploaded one of the advertisements that pro-life groups are airing in Senator Casey's home state of Pennsylvania, and also noted the pressure that Senator Nelson is under from within the Senate to change his vote.

    Outside of Washington DC, however, it's a very different picture. In Senator Nelson's state of Nebraska, the majority of citizens don't want Harry Reid's health care bill. So Senator Nelson's resistance to the current legislation need not solely be on the grounds that it provides a huge expansion to abortion funding and access. There are very practical political reasons to oppose it, in addition to the moral reasons I've mentioned.

    I urge papists in these two states to continue doing their best to convince their Senators to make the right choice - to craft truly pro-life language, and to only vote for a bill that will improve the way health care is delivered, at an affordable cost, without rationing care to vulnerable persons.

    Personally, I see no way the current legislation can address all of these serious issues.

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    Tuesday, December 08, 2009

    Update: Senate defeats Sen. Nelson's pro-life amendment 54-45

    I just watched on C-SPAN as the Nelson-Hatch amendment (the Senate version of the Stupak amendment in the House - I explain it here) was defeated 54-45. 

    The democrats needed only 50 votes to defeat this abortion neutrality amendment and they went over that mark by four Senators. This means, however, that at least 5 democrats came across he aisle and voted pro-life, but it wasn't enough.

    As I wrote after the vote was published, "Senate Health Care remains strongly pro-abortion."

    This result was not unexpected, but it certainly complicates the efforts of the American bishops and faithful to ensure that health care reform does not change the status quo in favor of government money funding abortion. 

    More as it happens....

    According to the official roll, {update} two Republicans voted for the pro-abortion status quo (Collins and Snowe of Maine). {update} 7 Democrats, meanwhile, voted for the pro-life Nelson amendment: Kaufman of DL, Bayh of IN, Casey of PA, Conrad of ND, Dorgan of ND, Nelson of NE, Pryor of AR.

    Bob Casey of PA, however, will probably vote for the pro-abortion bill, now that he has had his chance to offer an amendment (which was tabled, of course). 

    Sen. Nelson has made some promise that he would filibuster the final bill if his amendment failed or was tabled. Let's focus our prayers on him holding true to that promise.

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    Monday, November 09, 2009

    Text/Commentary: Anglican Constitution establishing personal ordinariates

    Hot off the Vatican (internet) press:
    Commentary:

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    Monday, November 02, 2009

    National News: TX Planned Parenthood director resigns after witnessing ultrasound, story drawing national attention (+video & inside details)

    This news, currently highlighted on the Drudge Report, is quickly making national headlines.

    Through AmP reader Marcel at Aggie Catholics, we have an inside loop into the situation, because she is friends with Shawn - the Coalition for Life director - who is pictured at left with Abby Johnson - the former director of the neighboring Planned Parenthood - who is at the center of this amazing tale.

    Here is the video:


    And here is the story (I've bolded some parts):
    Planned Parenthood has been a part of Abby Johnson's life for the past eight years; that is until last month, when Abby resigned. Johnson said she realized she wanted to leave, after watching an ultrasound of an abortion procedure.

    "I just thought I can't do this anymore, and it was just like a flash that hit me and I thought that's it," said Jonhson.

    She handed in her resignation October 6. Johnson worked as the Bryan Planned Parenthood Director for two years.

    According to Johnson, the non-profit was struggling under the weight of a tough economy, and changing it's business model from one that pushed prevention, to one that focused on abortion.

    "It seemed like maybe that's not what a lot of people were believing any more because that's not where the money was. The money wasn't in family planning, the money wasn't in prevention, the money was in abortion and so I had a problem with that," said Johnson.

    Johnson said she was told to bring in more women who wanted abortions, something the Episcopalian church goer recently became convicted about.

    "I feel so pure in heart (since leaving). I don't have this guilt, I don't have this burden on me anymore that's how I know this conversion was a spiritual conversion."

    Johnson now supports the Coalition For Life, the pro-life group with a building down the street from Planned Parenthood. Coalition volunteers can regularly be seen praying on the sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood. Johnson has been meeting with the coalition's executive director, Shawn Carney, and has prayed with volunteers outside Planned Parenthood.

    On Friday both Johnson and the Coalition For Life were issued temporary restraining orders filed by Planned Parenthood.

    Rochelle Tafolla, a Planned Parenthood spokesperson issued the following statement: "We regret being forced to turn to the courts to protect the safety and confidentiality of our clients and staff, however, in this instance it is absolutely necessary."

    The temporary restraining order contends that Planned Parenthood would be irreparably harmed by the disclosure of certain information, but does not bar Johnson or Coalition For Life volunteers from the premises.
    Marcel writes:
    I just got an email from Shawn. They are swamped, because the story has gone national and they are doing interviews with the big news agencies right now. Pray for them, that the pro-life message gets out.
    Amen. Let's help!

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    Thursday, October 29, 2009

    Exclusive: Cardinal George urges every US bishop to take decisive action on Catholic health care concerns - and meet with their politicians

    Francis Cardinal George - President of the USCCB, together with Justin Cardinal Rigali (Chairman of USCCB pro-life activities), Bishop Murphy (Chairman of domestic justice and human development) and Bishop Wester (Chairman on Migration) have sent a letter to every Cardinal, Archbishop and Bishop in the United States asking for their "active and personal leadership" and to "redouble [their] efforts" that health care reform is done right. 

    Right now, health care reform is wrong. 

    I want to focus on what the bishops are urged to undertake personally.

    In part the letter to them reads:
    "The outcome [of this debate] will depend not primarily on advocacy done [by us] in Washington, but on what we do in our own dioceses and states to make the case clearly and persuasively to influence how our Senators and Representatives vote."
    The letter includes many action items for the bishops, including:
    • "Personally contact your Senators and Representatives who serve your diocese. In addition to letters and email, we ask you to speak personally to your members of Congress, in meetings and/or by phone."
    The letter goes on to say, to both Senators and Representatives (im paraphrasing here):
    • Please support an amendment to support conscience clauses and rule-out tax-payer funded abortions. If these amendments are not added to the bill, you must oppose the final bill when it comes to a vote.
    The ramifications of this activity of the US bishops are extremely significant. 

    To take one important example, Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco ought to call Nancy Pelosi, and ask that she follow the advice presented above. This then means that when she ignores his advice (as she undoubtedly will) and pushes through this pro-abortion health care reform bill, she will be intentionally and explicitly defying the personal request of her Archbishop.

    It should now be impossible, in fact, for any elected Catholic official to claim that they voted for the final pro-abortion health care bill without knowing clearly, in advance, where their local bishop stood on this particular issue. 

    I'll let us all ponder these implications for a moment. 

    Updates to follow....

    [This most recent activity from the USCCB goes even beyond their efforts to place a pro-life bulletin insert into every parish in America. I blogged on that story earlier today here. Make no mistake - this is going to be big.]

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    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Open Thread: Anglican-Catholic Reunification

    I will be busy today attending to APP-related activities, but I want to allow the discussion about yesterday's news to continue. Here are the posts AmP published yesterday about the Vatican announcing special pastoral provisions for traditional Anglicans to be received back into the Catholic Church:

    Please be aware of these resources which provide ongoing quality coverage and commentary:

    For those very interested in the internal politics of this news, do read the entirety of Robert Moynihan's most recent report from Rome. He was in the room when the Vatican press conference took place, and provides a unique and thorough perspective on the many dynamics that were and are at play.

    ... and that should provide ample fodder for you eager Papists .... and those eager to be Papists!

    And, as in all open threads, AmP readers are welcome to drop appropriate links into the comment box.

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    Tuesday, October 20, 2009

    Raw video: Abp. Nichols of Westminster explains new Anglo-Catholic structures

    Raw video from the press conference held this morning in London. This video features Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the President of the Catholic Bishop's Conference of England and Wales, explaining more about what the new Anglo-Catholic structures will look like:

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    Video: Vatican press conference on Anglican provision

    From the Vatican's YouTube channel, interesting because it gives us a visual of what happened in Rome this morning:

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    Anglo-Vatican announcement has important American/African dimension

    The Anglican Communion includes over 80 million persons worldwide.

    I'll leave it to others to look at the possibilities for reconciliation and communion with the Catholic Church in Africa, where the Anglican Communion is on average far more conservative than their British counterparts.

    But let us not forget the large numbers of Anglicans (Episcopalians) in the United States - well over two million. Episcopalians in the United States are not all of one mold, but among their number there are many traditional "high Church" individuals, who would be most disposed to reunification with Rome. There are already numerous "Anglican-rite" parishes in the United States, which allow for the inclusion of some elements of traditional Anglican prayer in the Catholic Mass.

    Cardinal George - President of the US Bishops - has released a statement to reflect on the US dimension of the decisions announced in Rome and London today which I include in full:

    Today the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has received word of the new Provision in the form of an apostolic constitution issued by the Holy See for the reception into full communion with the Catholic Church of groups from the Anglican tradition. The USCCB stands ready to collaborate in the implementation of that Provision in our country.

    This step by the Holy See is in response to a number of requests received in Rome from groups of Anglicans seeking corporate reunion. The application of the new Provision recognizes the desire of some Anglicans (Episcopalians) to live the Catholic faith in full, visible communion with the See of Peter, while at the same time retaining some elements of their traditions of liturgy, spirituality and ecclesial life which are consistent with the Catholic faith.

    This Provision, at the service of the unity of the Church, calls us as well to join our voices to the Priestly Prayer of Jesus that ‘all may be one’ (Jn 17:21) as we seek a greater communion with all our brothers and sisters with whom we share Baptism. For forty-five years, our Episcopal Conference has engaged in ecumenical dialogue with The Episcopal Church, which is the historic Province of the Anglican communion in North America. The Catholic Bishops of the United States remain committed to seeking deeper unity with the members of The Episcopal Church by means of theological dialogue and collaboration in activities that advance the mission of Christ and the welfare of society."

    I certainly intend to do my part - there is an English pub down the street and this evening I'm going down there to have a few pints in celebration of the 1st annual "Anglo-Catholic Reunification Day."

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    Breaking: Vatican welcomes Anglicans into Catholic Church with Apostolic Constitution

    Some stories are so big it's hard to know where to begin.

    So let's begin with what the Vatican is saying:

    "Today’s announcement of the Apostolic Constitution is a response by Pope Benedict XVI to a number of requests over the past few years to the Holy See from groups of Anglicans who wish to enter into full visible communion with the Roman Catholic Church, and are willing to declare that they share a common Catholic faith and accept the Petrine ministry as willed by Christ for his Church.

    Pope Benedict XVI has approved, within the Apostolic Constitution, a canonical structure that provides for Personal Ordinariates, which will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of distinctive Anglican spiritual patrimony.

    The announcement of this Apostolic Constitution brings to an end a period of uncertainty for such groups who have nurtured hopes of new ways of embracing unity with the Catholic Church. It will now be up to those who have made requests to the Holy See to respond to the Apostolic Constitution." (VIS)

    UK Telegraph reporter Damian Thompson (and "British Papist") is the man to read at this hour:

    This is astonishing news. Pope Benedict XVI has created an entirely new Church structure for disaffected Anglicans that will allow them to worship together – using elements of Anglican liturgy – under the pastoral supervision of their own specially appointed bishop or senior priest.

    The Pope is now offering Anglicans worldwide “corporate reunion” on terms that will delight Anglo-Catholics. In theory, they can have their own married priests, parishes and bishops – and they will be free of liturgical interference by liberal Catholic bishops who are unsympathetic to their conservative stance.

    There is even the possibility that married Anglican laymen could be accepted for ordination on a case-by-case basis – a remarkable concession.

    .... This is a decision of supreme boldness and generosity by Pope Benedict XVI, comparable to his liberation of the Traditional Latin Mass. The implications of this announcement will take a long time to sink in, but I suspect that this will be a day of rejoicing for conservative Anglo-Catholics and their Roman Catholic friends all over the world.
    Also to read at this early stage: Deacon Keith Fournier (for more implications of this decision) and BBC News (to get an early sense for how the British press views this move). I will be updating this post as time permits today.

    *At this time the text of the Apostolic Constitution is not available online.*

    More....

    More #2....

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    Diocese of Wilmington, DE files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

    From the Associated Press:

    A bankruptcy filing by the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington was the best way to ensure reconciliation and compensation for all victims of clergy sexual abuse in the diocese, the bishop said Monday.

    The diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection late Sunday after hours of settlement negotiations failed with about a dozen alleged victims, including eight plaintiffs whose cases were scheduled for trial. More than 100 other alleged victims are pursuing compensation through dispute resolution instead of trials.

    "It was clear to us in our negotiations that the amount of money that was being sought by the early victims and the finite amount that we had ... was not going to work," said the Most Rev. W. Francis Malooly, the bishop of the diocese.

    ... The Wilmington diocese, which serves about 230,000 Catholics in Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland, is the seventh U.S. Catholic diocese to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since the church abuse scandal erupted seven years ago in Boston.

    Others are Davenport, Iowa; Fairbanks, Alaska; Portland, Ore.; San Diego; Spokane, Wash.; and Tucson, Ariz. The San Diego case was dismissed.

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    Monday, October 19, 2009

    Tomorrow: Major announcement on Catholic-Anglican relations?

    Papist chatter across the herring pond in England is heating up, with confirmed reports of major simultaneous press conferences taking place tomorrow morning at the Vatican and London.

    We inform accredited journalists that tomorrow, Tuesday 20 October 2009, at 11am, in the John Paul II Hall of the Press Office of the Holy See, a briefing will be held on a theme pertaining to the relationship with the Anglicans, at which His Eminence Cardinal William Joseph Levada, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and His Excellency Mgr Joseph Augustine Di Noia OP, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments will take part. (Hat-tip, Fr Finigan.)
    Meanwhile, this press release came from the Archbishop of Canterbury's office:
    You are invited to a press conference with Archbishop Vincent Nichols (Archbishop of Westminster) and Archbishop Rowan Williams (Archbishop of Canterbury) on Tuesday 20 October at 1000. The press conference will take place at 39 Eccleston Square, London SW1V 1BX.
    For both Cardinal Levada (doctrinal issues) and Abp. Di Noia (liturgy and sacraments) to be involved, you know it has to be significant.

    The conference will be taking place in the very early morning hours my time, so when I wake up tomorrow I'll take a look at the news wire and report back.

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    Thursday, October 08, 2009

    Important: US Bishops taking the gloves off on health care reform

    I'm literally about to step into a car and drive to Ft. Collins, CO tonight, where I will be presenting a speech to young adults on "Catholic Principles of Health Care Reform" (encore performance tomorrow night in Denver, details have been posted), but wanted beforehand to update AmP readers on an important development.

    This from religion and politics reporters Dan Gilgoff:
    After alleging that the House healthcare bill includes an abortion mandate and taxpayer-funded abortion, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have kept quiet as the Senate Finance Committee has wrestled with its version of healthcare reform these last couple of weeks. But in a letter to House leaders today, the bishops make clear that they're opposed to both bills as they currently stand—and skeptical that their grievances will be addressed.
    Abortion continues to be the top concern. Here's an excerpt [of the bishops' letter]:
        We continue to urge you to:
        1. Exclude mandated coverage for abortion, and incorporate longstanding policies against abortion funding and in favor of conscience rights. No one should be required to pay for or participate in abortion. It is essential that the legislation clearly apply to this new program longstanding and widely supported federal restrictions on abortion funding and mandates, and protections for rights of conscience. No current bill meets this test....
        We sincerely hope that the legislation will not fall short of our criteria. However, we remain apprehensive when amendments protecting freedom of conscience and ensuring no taxpayer money for abortion are defeated in committee votes. If acceptable language in these areas cannot be found, we will have to oppose the health care bill vigorously.
    Read full letter here.
    John Jalsevac at LifeSiteNews has a summary, as does George Stephanapoulos from a political perspective.

    As I said in my post title - this has the feeling of "taking the gloves off". Finally. Good.

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    Friday, August 28, 2009

    Breaking: Bp. Joseph Martino to resign from diocese for health reasons

    From the Scranton Times:

    "Bishop Joseph F. Martino is expected to resign as head of the Diocese of Scranton next week, sources within the diocese confirmed to The Times-Tribune today.

    Speculation about the bishop's future began earlier this week when The Times-Tribune reported that his belongings were being moved from the rectory adjacent to the diocese's mother church, St. Peter's Cathedral, to a retreat in Dalton."

    More from local WNEP 16:

    "When the bishop does step aside, Newswatch 16 has learned, that Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, will be in charge of the Scranton diocese on an interim basis until a new bishop is named."

    The Times Leader has more background. The communications office at the Scranton diocese doesn't appear to be doing its job very well. Bishop Martino is only 63 years old, so typically he would have 12 more years of episcopal service before being allowed to retire.

    I'm very saddened by this news and urge readers to pray for his health. Bishop Martino is a real firebrand who has been passionately defending the principles of our Catholic faith in his diocese, as previous AmP posts detail.

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    Friday, July 31, 2009

    Re-defeat: Abortion measure passes *then fails* in House

    update: the post below has been rendered meaningless by an 11th-hour move by Rep. Waxman (D-CA) which brought the amendment up for a second vote, and then defeated it by a one vote margin:
    An anti-abortion amendment to a sweeping health overhaul bill was voted down in a House committee late Thursday — a dramatic reversal just hours after the measure initially was approved.

    The amendment said health care legislation moving through Congress may not impose requirements for coverage of abortion, except in limited cases. It was approved in the Energy and Commerce Committee after conservative Democrats joined Republicans to support it.

    But committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., invoked House rules that allowed him to bring up the amendment for a second vote, despite Republican objections.

    This time, one conservative Democrat — Rep. Bart Gordon of Tennessee — changed his vote from "yes" to "no." And a second conservative Democrat who hadn't voted the first time — Rep. Zack Space of Ohio — voted "no."

    It was enough to take down the amendment on a 30-29 vote.
    See how dead set the Democrat leadership is on keeping abortion in this health care bill?

    ===

    original post....

    I typically don't post blogs in the evening, but this is important news which shouldn't wait till morning:
    Lawmakers have amended a sweeping health overhaul bill to ensure it does not require coverage of abortions.

    The anti-abortion measure was approved late Thursday in the House Energy and Commerce Committee as conservative Democrats banded with Republicans to support it.

    The amendment says health care overhaul legislation moving through Congress may not impose requirements for coverage of abortion, except in cases where a woman's life is endangered or her pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.

    The amendment would have to survive the full House and Senate.

    The measure was offered by Rep. Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat, along with Republicans Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania and Roy Blunt of Missouri. (AP)
    What we should take from this:
    1. Despite the attempt by pro-abortion groups to hide the truth, abortion is in this health care plan until the point that it is explicitly excluded. That's why we needed an amendment to rule it out.
    2. We're not there yet. This measure still has to be approved in the full House and Senate. Keep sending in the emails, making the phone calls, and find ways of meeting with your representatives as they go back to their home districts in August.
    3. Removing abortion coverage is a big step, but the health care reform plan still has serious flaws which also need to be examined over the coming weeks.
    But that said, praise God that some measure of sanity has been introduced into our nation's health care debate. Our efforts are meeting some success ... now let's redouble them.

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    Friday, July 24, 2009

    Urgent: a chance to defund Planned Parenthood

    update: 247-183 against the Pence Ammendment. I wonder if any congressmen who claim to be pro-life voted against the ammendment? Thank you for all your efforts. One of these times, we'll succeed.

    Pro-life warrior Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) has given us a chance to have Planned Parenthood cut off from receiving federal funds through the Health and Human Services Department.
    Pence has said (and written):
    “The time has come to deny any and all federal funding to Planned Parenthood of America. The largest abortion provider in America should not also be the largest recipient of federal funds under Title X.”
    He has offered a simple amendment which reads:
    "None of the funds made available under this Act shall be available to Planned Parenthood for any purpose under Title X of the Public Health Services Act."
    It's a miracle this amendment made it through the rules committee last night, making it eligible for a general floor vote today. This is a chance to defund Planned Parenthood and also a chance to see who is in their pocket.

    Since this vote is happening so soon, the best thing to do is call your congressional office now and tell them "I want you to vote for the Pence Ammendment and defund Planned Parenthood!" The switchboard number is 202-224-3121 and they can direct you by state to the right office. Staffers are waiting to hear your voice. That's why they are there.

    Let's defund Planned Parenthood and have something to celebrate this weekend.

    update - Congressman Mike Pence makes his case on the floor:

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    Monday, July 20, 2009

    Ave Maria University dismisses Fr. Joseph Fessio, SJ ... again (letter included)

    I have breaking news that Fr. Joseph Fessio, SJ has been dismissed from Ave Maria University today.

    In this letter from Fr. Fessio himself, he explains the circumstances of the dismissal:
    This morning, (Monday, July 20th) Dr. Jack Sites, Academic Vice President of Ave Maria University, flew from Houston, where he was attending a meeting of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, to San Francisco, to inform me personally that I was being dismissed from Ave Maria University. Our meeting was amicable and Dr. Sites, as always, acted as a Christian gentleman.

    He said that the reason for my dismissal stemmed from a conversation I had in November of 2008 with Jack Donahue, then chairman of the board of AMU. At that time I felt it an obligation to speak to the board chairman before the upcoming board meeting, to make sure he was aware of the urgency of the university’s financial situation. After I had informed him, using projections based on publicly available documents and statements, he asked me what I thought was the solution. I told him that there were policies being followed that were at the root of the problem, that the present administration was irrevocably wedded to those policies, and that without a change of administration the university was at great risk.

    Dr. Sites said that Jack Donahue related this conversation to Tom Monaghan, and it was decided (I don’t know specifically by whom) that the university could not have a faculty member making these criticisms of the administration and thus undermining the university.

    Dr. Sites told me that there were unspecified others who had similar substantive concerns that I was undermining the university.

    I continue to support the university. I pray for its success. I have great admiration for the faculty, students, and many of the staff. I do disagree with some of the policies of the administration. This seems to be the reason I was fired the first time, in March 2007, since the official explanation was “irreconcilable administrative differences”.

    Nevertheless, I think it is an accurate summary to say that I am being dismissed as a faculty member because of a private conversation with the chairman of the board in which I made known my criticisms of the university administration; and because of allegations which have not been made known to me and to which I have not been given an opportunity to respond.

    I will continue to recommend AMU to students and parents. And I will continue to think my dismissal is another mistake in a long series of unwise decisions.
    On the Ave Maria University website Fr. Fessio is listed as a "professor of theology and chaplain in residence." Also on the AMU website, it appears that Fr. Fessio just finished teaching a summer course for the university on July 17th.
    Fr. Fessio is best known for founding Ignatius Press.
    AmP readers will recall that, in March 2007, Fr. Fessio was summarily fired-from-and-rehired-by the university in circumstances I covered here. Before March 2007 Fr. Fessio served as the provost of the university.
    update: Eric Statts at the Naples Daily News adds details....
    In a statement late Monday afternoon, the university confirmed it had “ended its formal relationship” with Fessio but did not cite a reason.
    “The decision was made by the leadership of the university and supported by its Board of Trustees,” the statement said. “While Fr. Fessio will not be continuing in any capacity at the university, AMU wishes to express its gratitude to him for the assistance that he rendered to the university.”
    ... Speaking later in a telephone interview, Fessio would not be specific. He said he would continue to express his concerns privately, if asked.
    Fessio said he doesn’t expect a change of heart by the university administration this time around — and he’s not looking for one.
    As word spread Monday of his firing, one faculty member contacted Fessio to offer a show of support akin to 2007, Fessio said.
    “I said I think the decision’s been made,” Fessio said. “There’s no use trying to reverse the action.”
    Fessio was due back at the university next week to help teach a session to high school students, he said.
    He attributed the timing of his firing, during the summer and in between academic years, to university leaders wanting to avoid a repeat of the protests that ensued after his first firing in March 2007.
    Also of note .... and perhaps this has something to do with the timing as well: this fall, Ave Maria Law School is moving down from Michigan to take up residence in its new home - the old temporary campus which Ave Maria University originally occupied.
    Full disclosure: I graduated from Ave Maria College in 2005. Since then, Ave Maria University in Florida has replaced Ave Maria College, which had its campus in Michigan.

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    Friday, July 17, 2009

    Pope Benedict fractures wrist - prayers asked

    New York Times:
    Pope Benedict XVI fractured his right wrist in a fall Friday morning while on vacation in northern Italy, the Vatican said.

    In a statement, the Vatican said that the pope had slipped in his room in the chalet where he is staying in the mountainous Valle d’Aosta region, but was well enough to eat breakfast and celebrate Mass before being taken by car to the local hospital.

    “It’s nothing serious,” the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said in a telephone interview . He said that the pope’s wrist had been “immobilized.”

    Doctors operated on the pope’s wrist for about 20 minutes, Reuters reported, and he will have to wear a cast for about a month.
    Whispers has several updates, including that the Holy Father has been released from the hospital

    I thought this was admirable:
    Italian news footage shows pope walked inside hospital emergency room with his aides.

    Pope insisted he get no special treatment at hospital. He waited his turn for X-ray, operating room.
    Well, he's first in line for my prayers today.

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    Thursday, July 02, 2009

    Noteworthy: Obama meets with Catholic press today

    Fascinating, noteworthy news from National Catholic Register's Tim Drake:
    [Today] at 10:45 Eastern time, the president is hosting a round table at the White House for members of the Catholic press.

    The National Catholic Register’s publisher, Father Owen Kearns, will be among eight religion reporters and editors in attendance at that gathering.

    The purpose of the gathering, according to Chris Hensman, press secretary with the National Security Council, is a “preview of the president’s upcoming visit with Pope Benedict XVI.” The president is meeting with the Pope on July 10.

    Father Kearns just received the invitation to the meeting yesterday via e-mail. At this point, there isn’t a complete list of the media who will be in attendance, but our understanding is that it’s strictly Catholic print media, not radio or television.

    According to Father Kearns, the meeting is unprecedented. He has not previously met a sitting U.S. president, nor has he been previously invited by the president to a White House gathering for members of the Catholic press.

    When Father Kearns asked the purpose of the round table, he was told, “It’s for the president to inform us, to listen to concerns, and to answer questions.”

    The meeting is not a press conference.

    “It sounds like what we would call a listening session,” said Father Kearns.
    This move provokes many questions for me. What are the other eight organizations invited? Why did the Obama team think this would be a good move? How is the Obama team preparing for his meeting with the Pope in eight days? Does he see these organizations as a resource to prepare for that meeting and to ensure he says the right things?

    And why just print organizations (and not widely-read Catholic blogs - *cough, cough*)? Could it be because some of Obama's most staunch defenders are liberal print publications such as National Catholic Reporter and America magazine? I'm surprised, if they were invited, that they have not trumpeted the fact yet. 
    On the other hand, this was done under extremely short notice.
    Well, time will tell, so check back here later in the day.
    And PS - for future reference, I'm just right up the street from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and can pass CIA clearances. 
    I'm just sayin'...

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    Wednesday, July 01, 2009

    Breaking: Abp. Chaput, other Legion visitors appointed by Vatican (full details added)

    Sandro Magister reports - an extremely reliable source:
    Last March, the announcement; July 15th, the go-ahead. The apostolic visitors of the Legion of Christ will interview the priests and religious of the congregation founded by the Mexican priest Marcial Maciel Degollado, in shock because of the admitted evil conduct of their very own founder, sanctioned in 2006 for sexual abuse, and now, a year after his death, discovered to have had a lover and a daughter in Spain.
    The long-awaited names:
    – Ricardo Watti Urquidi, Bishop of Tepic, Mexico, in charge of Mexico and Central America, where the Legion has 44 houses, 250 priests and 115-120 religious seminarians; (bottom right)

    Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop of Denver, in charge of the United States and Canada, where the Legion has 24 houses, 130 priests and 260 religious seminarians; (bottom left)

    – Giuseppe Versaldi, Bishop of Alessandria, in charge of Italy, Israel, the Philippines, and South Korea, where the Legion has 16 houses, 200 priests and 420 religious seminarians. (in Italy 13, 168 and 418 respectively); (upper middle)

    – Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, Archbishop of Concepción, Chile, in charge of Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Brazil and Venezuela, where the Legion has 20 houses, 122 priests and 122 religious seminarians; (upper right)

    – Ricardo Blázquez Pérez, Bishop of Bilbao, Spain, in charge of Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, Holland, Poland, Austria and Hungary, where the Legion has 20 houses, 105 priest, and 160 religious seminarians. (upper left)
    More details:
    The investiture of the five visitors took place on Saturday morning, June 27th in the Vatican, at a meeting with Cardinals Tarcisio Bertone, William J. Levada, Franc Rodé and Stanislaw Rylko. The five were give a letter containing the conclusions for the investigation of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith which lead to Maciel’s being sanctioned in 2006. Each prelate was given a travel budget of 10,000 Euros.
    They are to submit their first report to the Vatican by fall of this year.

    update: these rumors have been percolating in Spanish-language press for some time, in El Universal on June 27, and June 28, and InfoCatolica (picking up on Magister's piece) today. 

    I would say that it is unqualified good news that Archbishop Chaput has been chosen to oversee the Legion visitation in the United States. AmP readers who have been following this story will remember that I reported back in early May that Abp. Chaput would be the Vatican pick. His personal experience of formation in religious life especially qualifies him to examine Legion policy.
    Two things to watch for: finances. The Hartford Courant recently posted an article on the relatives of a deceased woman challenging the donation of her estate (upwards of $7.5 million) to the Legion in the U.S. 
    Second: defections. I'm tracking numerous reports of individual (and groups of) priests, seminarians and consecrated people actively seeking ways to the leave the Legion and incorporate into dioceses, seminaries and other Catholic institutions. More of these will happen depending on what the Vatican investigation reveals.
    Neither of these situations is being helped (from the Legion side of things) by new details which have emerged about Maciel's not double life, but "triple." Especially concerning is the insistence of these sources that current leaders in the movement were aware of Maciel's sins before they leaked to the public or lower members within the Legion.

    update 2: I should be clear that I do not agree with everything claimed in the link above ("new details which have emerged about Maciel's not double life, but "triple""), but merely with the claims that Maciel used Legion money to fund his affair(s?) and that this activity was known to associates who still hold active roles in the movement.

    update 3: CNA confirms/clarifies: "Sources at the Holy See confirmed to CNA the accuracy of Magister’s report and said a public announcement would be made on July 15. Sources also said that contrary to the article, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko was not present at the meeting."

    My exhaustive coverage of this story, as the first large Catholic internet portal to break the news, can be found here.

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    Monday, June 29, 2009

    Cardinal O'Malley forces Caritas to make the right call

    The news broke last week, but I was traveling at the time. It appears to be good news. 

    Michael Paulson of the Boston Globe reports:
    Caritas Christi Health Care, the financially challenged Catholic hospital system founded by the Archdiocese of Boston, is abruptly ending its joint venture with a Missouri-based health insurer at the insistence of Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, who has decided that the relationship represented too much of an entanglement between Catholic hospitals and abortion providers.

    The dramatic development, just days before the joint venture was scheduled to start providing care to low-income residents as part of the state's efforts to establish near universal health coverage here, is a vindication of sorts for a variety of very conservative Catholic critics of the cardinal, who have been arguing angrily and loudly that it would be "evil" for Caritas to partner with a health provider that covers abortion services.

    The development is also a setback for Caritas, because it represents the undoing of one of the most significant steps its new chief executive, Dr. Ralph de la Torre, had announced as part of his efforts to turn around the hospital system's finances. It was not immediately clear last night what the financial impact of the change is on Caritas, but the decision is a stark and public reminder from O'Malley to de la Torre and the general public that moral concerns will trump monetary concerns at the Catholic hospitals.
    I don't quite agree with the tone of the above treatment. I am somewhat aware of the criticisms Cardinal O'Malley has been receiving during this process, but just because some people have been too vigorous in their approach does not mean that the fundamental motivation of others is not a good one. It's in fact a Catholic one: we won't allow our hospitals to become accessories to abortions. Period.

    AmP has been following the Caritas Christi situation for some time. First on March 12: "What is Caritas Christi up to?" and "An update on Caritas-Centene". Then on May 26: "Will the Boston Archdiocese really allow abortion referrals?" And finally on June 9: "Boston Archdiocese-affiliate health-care to offer abortion coverage" (when it looked like the deal would go through). On June 11th there was a report that Caritas was trying to work out a deal that would address the stated concerns about abortion referrals. Phil Lawler also wrote an in-depth history of the situation which is very helpful if you want more details.

    At this point, I think two things are necessary: First, support of Cardinal O'Malley, who I believe is trying his best to do the right thing in a difficult situation. Second, vigilance about the details of the new plan, many of which are given in Paulson's full article treatment in the Boston Globe. There is some concern that Catholic involvement with abortions will still find its way in to the new operating procedures. The case of Caritas Christi is, sadly, the first instance of what is sure to become a more widespread problem as the health care industry reorganizes, often times collapsing Catholic and secular hospitals in with one another.

    If anyone has incisive analysis of the current state of affairs, as well as action items and ideas for how the Catholic community can assist in working out an acceptable solution, I'll be happy to take a look and perhaps present them on AmP.

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    Friday, June 12, 2009

    Friday surprise: Bishop Aymond comes home to New Orleans

    An active week for (arch)bishop installations and appointments, and today no different:
    The Holy Father appointed Bishop Gregory Michael Aymond of Austin, U.S.A., as metropolitan archbishop of New Orleans (area 10,898, population 1,069,428, Catholics 384,994, priests 369, permanent deacons 183, religious 721), U.S.A. The archbishop-elect was born in New Orleans in 1949, he was ordained a priest in 1975 and consecrated a bishop in 1997. (VIS)
    I have more to add, but it will have to wait until after lunchtime today.

    update: Anyone have speculation as to who will replace Aymond in Austin?

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    Tuesday, June 02, 2009

    White House proclaims June to be LGBT pride month

    The proclamation:
    NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists.

    IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.

    BARACK OBAMA
    Full text here at whitehouse.gov.

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    Sunday, May 31, 2009

    Abortionist George Tiller killed during Church service

    The abortionist George Tiller, notorious for his performance of late-term abortions as well as his close ties with Kathleen Sebellius, was killed during a Church service this morning:
    "Dr. George Tiller, who remained one of the nation's few providers of late-term abortions despite decades of protests and attacks, was shot and killed Sunday in a church where he was serving as an usher.

    The gunman fled, but a 51-year-old suspect was arrested some 170 miles away in suburban Kansas City three hours after the shooting, Wichita Deputy Police Chief Tom Stolz said.

    Long a focus of national anti-abortion groups, including a summer-long protest in 1991, Tiller was shot in the foyer of Reformation Lutheran Church, Stolz said. Tiller's attorney, Dan Monnat, said Tiller's wife, Jeanne, was in the choir at the time." (AP)
    I unreservedly condemn this killing. The pro-life movement believes in justice for all and murder is always wrong with no exceptions.
    With that said, some foes of the pro-life movement are already trying to use Tiller's death as an excuse to demonize the pro-life movement as a whole. Even the AP report makes reference to this:
    "Stolz said all indications were that the man acted alone, although authorities were investigating whether he had any connection to anti-abortion groups."
    Any group that would sanction the unlawful killing of someone is simply not a pro-life group.

    The National Organization for Women is especially guilty of this reprehensible, bigoted association of the (as yet unidentified) killer with the non-violent activities of the pro-life movement:
    Saying that women "lost a champion" with the death of Tiller, the pro-abortion National Organization for Women claimed that an "anti-abortion terrorist" must have killed Tiller even though the identify of the shooter has yet to be revealed.

    NOW said "the anti-abortion cause" was behind Tiller's murder and other actions against abortion centers and practitioners even though members of pro-life groups have never been behind any such incident.

    Saying that bringing the person who killed Tiller to justice is "not enough," NOW called on the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security to "root out and prosecute as domestic terrorists and violent racketeers the criminal enterprise that has organized and funded criminal acts for decades."

    "We call on the new attorney general Eric Holder and head of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to treat these murders in the same way they would treat politically-motivated domestic terrorism of any other kind and put the full resources of their two departments behind that effort," they said. (LifeNews)
    NOW should publish a full apology for its unfounded attacks as well as for trying to profit from Tiller's death.

    LifeNews has reported the story, and has also begun listing the pro-life organizations which have condemned the act. SBA List has done so, as has ALL. Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote.org, said:
    “As the late Cardinal John O’Connor said, ‘If anyone has an urge to kill someone at an abortion clinic, they should shoot me. ... It's madness. It discredits the right-to-life movement. Murder is murder. It’s madness. You cannot prevent killing by killing.’”
    The last quote comes from Geoffrey Miller:
    [Tiller] knows the truth now. If the truth has indeed set him free, he will be a most powerful ally to us through his intercessions.
    I pray that this sad event becomes on occasion for the pro-life movement to reveal the depths of its mercy, and for the media at-large to report the story accurately. Murder is never right, of the born or unborn.

    update: President Obama has released a statement on Tiller's death:
    "I am shocked and outraged by the murder of Dr. George Tiller as he attended church services this morning. However profound our differences as Americans over difficult issues such as abortion, they cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence." (6:21 p.m.)

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    Wednesday, April 29, 2009

    Text: Obama's response to tonight's question on Notre Dame, FOCA and abortion

    Tonight during Obama's press conference Ed Henry of CNN asked an excellent question.

    Here is the text of the question and Barack Obama's response:

    CNN's Ed Henry: Thank you, Mr. President. In a couple of weeks, you're going to be giving the commencement at Notre Dame. And, as you know, this has caused a lot of controversy among Catholics who are opposed to your position on abortion.

    As a candidate, you vowed that one of the very things you wanted to do was sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which, as you know, would eliminate federal, state and local restrictions on abortion. And at one point in the campaign when asked about abortion and life, you said that it was above — quote, above my pay grade.

    Now that you've been president for 100 days, obviously, your pay grade is a little higher than when you were a senator.

    Do you still hope that Congress quickly sends you the Freedom of Choice Act so you can sign it?

    OBAMA: You know, the — my view on — on abortion, I think, has been very consistent. I think abortion is a moral issue and an ethical issue.

    I think that those who are pro-choice make a mistake when they — if they suggest — and I don't want to create straw men here, but I think there are some who suggest that this is simply an issue about women's freedom and that there's no other considerations. I think, look, this is an issue that people have to wrestle with and families and individual women have to wrestle with.

    The reason I'm pro-choice is because I don't think women take that — that position casually. I think that they struggle with these decisions each and every day. And I think they are in a better position to make these decisions ultimately than members of Congress or a president of the United States, in consultation with their families, with their doctors, with their clergy.

    So — so that has been my consistent position. The other thing that I said consistently during the campaign is I would like to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies that result in women feeling compelled to get an abortion, or at least considering getting an abortion, particularly if we can reduce the number of teen pregnancies, which has started to spike up again.

    And so I've got a task force within the Domestic Policy Council in the West Wing of the White House that is working with groups both in the pro-choice camp and in the pro-life camp, to see if we can arrive at some consensus on that.

    Now, the Freedom of Choice Act is not highest legislative priority. I believe that women should have the right to choose. But I think that the most important thing we can do to tamp down some of the anger surrounding this issue is to focus on those areas that we can agree on. And that's — that's where I'm going to focus.
    I will refrain from commenting at this point. Do note, however, that Obama makes no comment about the Notre Dame scandal. I'm not quite sure immediately what significance there may be to that omission.

    And props to Ed Henry for playing hardball. I wouldn't be surprised if he's taking hits for it.

    [photo credit: CNN]

    update - video of this question (via the SuzyB blog):

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    Monday, April 27, 2009

    Update: Expert commentary on Glendon's noble refusal

    In reaction to this morning's breaking news story that Mary Ann Glendon has refused the Laetare Medal.

    Fr. Raymond J. de Souza at NCRegister:

    Father John Jenkins likely thought himself very clever. Professor Mary Ann Glendon just took him to school.

    In declining to receive the Laetare Medal alongside President Barack Obama’s honorary doctorate of laws at next month’s commencement, Glendon has refused to participate in the shabby manipulation Father Jenkins attempted to engineer. It is a rare personage who could ennoble an award by refusing to receive it, but Professor Glendon has done just that. The Laetare Medal will now be known best for the year in which it was declined. Glendon chose, to use the apt words of Bishop John D’Arcy in this regard, truth over prestige.

    The significance of Glendon’s refusal is enormous. The most accomplished Catholic laywoman in America — former ambassador of the United States to the Holy See and current president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences — has refused to accept Notre Dame’s highest honor. It is a signal moment for the Catholic Church in the United States. It is a signal moment for the Church’s public witness. It is may even be a signal moment for Notre Dame. What Glendon will not say at Notre Dame will finally be a fitting response to what Gov. Mario Cuomo said there some 25 years ago. [Read on.]

    Ed Peters at Canon Law Blog:

    I see Dr. Mary Ann Glendon's refusal to provide cover for Notre Dame's inexcusable conferral of honors on a prominent pro-abortion politician as an application of Canon 209.1 "The Christian faithful, even in their own manner of acting, are always obliged to maintain communion with the Church", or of Canon 225.2 "According to each one's own condition, [laity] are also bound by a particular duty to imbue and perfect the order of temporal affairs with the spirit of the gospel and thus to give witness to Christ, especially in carrying out these same affairs and in exercising secular functions."

    The evil that ND President Jenkins and his Board of Trustees committed has, Deus laudetur, occasioned one of the most striking displays of episcopal fortitude I can remember, mobilized hundreds of thousands of American Catholics against another quiet surrender to the Culture of Death, and has effected notice to several once great Catholic institutions that it's time, finally, to decide where they stand.

    I say, God bless Ambassador Glendon.

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    Flash: Mary Ann Glendon *turns down* Notre Dame Laetare Medal

    She had been notably silent about accepting the honor, now we know why. She just faxed this letter to the president of Notre Dame at 9:30AM this morning:

    {update - Fr. Jenkins has issued a response.}

    Dear Father Jenkins,

    When you informed me in December 2008 that I had been selected to receive Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal, I was profoundly moved. I treasure the memory of receiving an honorary degree from Notre Dame in 1996, and I have always felt honored that the commencement speech I gave that year was included in the anthology of Notre Dame’s most memorable commencement speeches. So I immediately began working on an acceptance speech that I hoped would be worthy of the occasion, of the honor of the medal, and of your students and faculty.

    Last month, when you called to tell me that the commencement speech was to be given by President Obama, I mentioned to you that I would have to rewrite my speech. Over the ensuing weeks, the task that once seemed so delightful has been complicated by a number of factors.

    First, as a longtime consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the president an honorary degree. This, as you must know, was in disregard of the U.S. bishops’ express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” and that such persons “should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” That request, which in no way seeks to control or interfere with an institution’s freedom to invite and engage in serious debate with whomever it wishes, seems to me so reasonable that I am at a loss to understand why a Catholic university should disrespect it.

    Then I learned that “talking points” issued by Notre Dame in response to widespread criticism of its decision included two statements implying that my acceptance speech would somehow balance the event:

    • “President Obama won’t be doing all the talking. Mary Ann Glendon, the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, will be speaking as the recipient of the Laetare Medal.”

    • “We think having the president come to Notre Dame, see our graduates, meet our leaders, and hear a talk from Mary Ann Glendon is a good thing for the president and for the causes we care about.”

    A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision—in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops—to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.

    Finally, with recent news reports that other Catholic schools are similarly choosing to disregard the bishops’ guidelines, I am concerned that Notre Dame’s example could have an unfortunate ripple effect.

    It is with great sadness, therefore, that I have concluded that I cannot accept the Laetare Medal or participate in the May 17 graduation ceremony.

    In order to avoid the inevitable speculation about the reasons for my decision, I will release this letter to the press, but I do not plan to make any further comment on the matter at this time.

    Yours Very Truly,

    Mary Ann Glendon

    [source: First Things - which appears to be inundated with traffic...]

    {update - Fr. Jenkins has issued a response.}

    update: LifeNews adds a little context. update 2: expert commentary posted here.

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    Wednesday, April 22, 2009

    Breaking: Bishop D'Arcy says Jenkins "simply wrong" about Obama invitation defense

    You can only push a good bishop so far, you can only stretch the truth so much (underlining mine):

    My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

    Recently, Father John Jenkins, CSC, in a letter of response to Bishop Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix, who had written him, critical of the decision to invite President Obama to speak and receive an honorary degree of law at Notre Dame, indicated that it was his conviction that the statement “Catholics in Political Life” (USCCB) did not apply in this matter. Father Jenkins kindly sent me a copy of his letter, and also at a later meeting, asked for a response.

    In an April 15th letter to Father Jenkins, I responded to his letter.

    Now the points made in his letter have been sent by Father Jenkins to the members of the Notre Dame Board of Trustees and have been publicized nationally, as well as locally in the South Bend Tribune. Since the matter is now public, it is my duty as the bishop of this diocese to respond and correct. I take up this responsibility with some sadness, but also with the conviction that if I did not do so, I would be remiss in my pastoral responsibility.

    Rather than share my full letter, which I have shared with some in church leadership, I prefer to present some of the key points.

    [For Bishop D'Arcy's six devestating points, click here. He continues:]

    In my letter, I have also asked Father Jenkins to correct, and if possible, withdraw the erroneous talking points, which appeared in the South Bend Tribune and in other media outlets across the country. The statements which Father Jenkins has made are simply wrong and give a flawed justification for his actions.

    I consider it now settled — that the USCCB document, “Catholics in Public Life,” does indeed apply in this matter.

    The failure to consult the local bishop who, whatever his unworthiness, is the teacher and lawgiver in the diocese, is a serious mistake. Proper consultation could have prevented an action, which has caused such painful division between Notre Dame and many bishops — and a large number of the faithful.

    That division must be addressed through prayer and action, and I pledge to work with Father Jenkins and all at Notre Dame to heal the terrible breach, which has taken place between Notre Dame and the church. It cannot be allowed to continue.
    I ask all to pray that this healing will take place in a way that is substantial and true, and not illusory. Notre Dame and Father Jenkins must do their part if this healing is to take place. I will do my part.

    Sincerely yours in our Lord,
    Most Reverend
    John M. D’Arcy

    Read my comments here.

    (and once again, AmP Twitter carried this story a full hour ago.)

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    Tuesday, April 21, 2009

    Breaking: Robert Carlson is the next Archbishop of St. Louis!

    As reported on American Papist last night (and rumored back in March), Bishop Robert Carlson of Saginaw, MI has been named the 10th bishop of St. Louis.

    St. Louis Archdiocesan website:
    Bishop Robert J. Hermann, Archdiocesan Administrator for St. Louis, called Archbishop-elect Carlson “a very energetic, articulate, warm and gifted pastor and administrator. He thinks and works with the Church he loves, and will continue to build upon the legacy of his predecessors here in St. Louis.”Archbishop–elect Carlson was installed as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Saginaw on February 24, 2005 at the direction of Pope John Paul II. A native of Minneapolis, MN, he was ordained to the priesthood on May 23, 1970 for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. He was later ordained as an auxiliary bishop for his home archdiocese on January 11, 1984 and went on to serve as Bishop of Sioux Falls, SD, from 1994 to 2005.
    Follow the day's events & more info:

    Updates to follow....

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    Tuesday, March 31, 2009

    *Breaking: Pope Sends Apostolic Visitors to the Legionaries of Christ*

    As predicted, the Legion website has published a press release this morning. This post will be updated constantly.
    The press release consists of three things:
    1) a letter from Director General Fr. Alvaro Corcuera, LC
    2) a letter from Secretary of State Cardinal Bertone, saying that the Vatican will undertake a visitation of the Legion
    3) a short Q&A of four questions written by the Legion
    Here is the introduction posted on the Legion website:

    "Rome, March 31, 2009. We wish to share with Regnum Christi members and friends two letters announcing an Apostolic Visitation to the institutions of the Legionaries of Christ. We also have included some questions/answers. This is the beginning of a process in which the Legion will fully and gratefully cooperate. We invite our readers to accompany us with prayers that this special help from the Holy Father will assist the Legion and Regnum Christi to love Christ and serve His Church."

    [Read the 3 sections here.] [Read only the Alvaro letter.][Read only the Bertone letter.]

    Catholic News Service coverage has little to add:
    Details of the visitation were not made public in the announcement. Jim Fair, the order's U.S. spokesman, said the order knew little more than what the letter stated. "We know they're going to be visiting. We'll cooperate and prepare. But all we know is what's on the site."

    No other press has picked up the story at this point. I doubt anyone else has anything to add.

    update: Having had a chance to read the press release, I have a few questions:

    • Why did it take three weeks after the Legion knew an apostolic visitation would be taking place for them to notify their members? Why was this statement clearly delayed for so long?
    • Why did Cardinal Bertone not mention the Legion's charism? It has been the subject of much discussion recently and he did not take the opportunity of reassuring them.
    • If the Holy See is so close to the Legion, why has it chosen to undertake an extensive visitation of all their institutions? Why is the gravity of this decision not acknowledged by the Legion?
    • How does this apostolic visitation help the Legion - what are its goals? Apostolic Visitations have recently been called when organizations within the Church are feared to be incapable of fixing their own problems. What are the Legion's "current difficulties" if the only person at fault was Maciel?

    [photo: CNA]

    update 2 - George Weigel, in a Reuters interview:

    "[he] said the investigation will have to discover who within the order was complicit in Maciel's web of deceit. Eventually the pope will have to decide if the Legionaries should be reformed or dissolved, he said."

    update 3 - I found these comments on the press release by "Cassandra Jones" to be insightful.

    Complete coverage and backstory here.

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    Sunday, March 29, 2009

    Flash: Dolan on ND decision: "They made a big mistake"

    From the Deacon's Bench, the soon-to-be Archbishop of New York weighs-in during an interview taped today (video here):

    "They made a big mistake ... in an issue that is very close to the heart of Catholic world view, namely, the protection of innocent life in the womb, [Obama] has unfortunately taken a position very much at odds with the Church." - Archbishop Timothy Dolan

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    Thursday, March 26, 2009

    Bishop Olmsted tells Fr. Jenkins Obama invitation "public act of disobedience to US Bishops"

    Here is a screen capture of the letter that the Bishop of Phoenix Thomas Olmsted sent to Notre Dame President Father Jenkins yesterday (on the Feast of the Annunciation) and has now permitted to be published today:
    These are very strong words from Bishop Olmsted, especially these two lines:

    "It is a public act of disobedience to the Bishops of the United States."

    "I pray that you come to see the grave mistake of your decision, and the way it undercuts the Church's proclamation of the Gospel of Life in our day."

    Mike Phelan, Director of Marriage and Respect Life for the Diocese of Phoenix, introduced the letter this way:

    "Due to the fact that the invitation by Notre Dame’s president, Fr. John Jenkins, to President Barack Obama to give the commencement speech at Notre Dame’s May graduation is a public act causing widespread public scandal due to the US President’s clear support of policies which fail to protect and even attack innocent human life, Bishop Olmsted has given permission to release the attached email text publicly."

    And now you have it, too. My comprehensive coverage of the Notre Dame scandal is available here.

    Welcome, new readers, don't forget to follow my Twitter updates and join the AmP Facebook Fanpage.

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    Flash: Abp. Burke clarifies he was misled about Communion interview agenda

    I was worried about something like this happening. Looks like Randall Terry lied to Archbishop Burke about how his interview would be used, and Burke has issued a statement today to clarify:
    ROME, Italy - In response to the March 25, 2009 press conference of Mr. Randall Terry in Washington, D.C., the Most Reverend Raymond L. Burke, Archbishop Emeritus of Saint Louis and Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, issued the following statement:

    “Recently, Mr. Randall Terry and some of his associates visited me in Rome and asked to videotape an interview with me to share with pro-life workers for the purpose of their encouragement. The interview was conducted on March 2, 2009.

    “Sadly, Mr. Terry has used the videotape for another purpose which I find most objectionable.

    “First, Mr. Terry issued a media advisory which gave the impression that I would be physically present at the press conference during which he played the videotape, when, in fact, I was in Rome.

    “Second, I was never informed that the videotape would become part of a press conference.

    “Third, I gave the interview as a Bishop from the United States to encourage those engaged in the respect life apostolate, not as the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.

    “Fourth, I was never informed that the videotape would be used as part of a campaign of severe criticism of certain fellow bishops regarding the application of Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law.

    “If I had known what the true purpose of the interview was, I would never have agreed to participate in it.

    “I am deeply sorry for the confusion and hurt which the wrong use of the videotape has caused to anyone, particularly, to my brother bishops.”
    Once again, this situation could have been avoided if Abp. Burke's assistants had done their homework. (News flash, people: USE GOOGLE.) After all, Terry advertised this DC press conference several days in advance ... and yet no one in Rome apparently took notice of the things Terry was claiming (Second news flash, people: USE GOOGLE to keep tabs on what the media is saying about your boss). Rome shouldn't be the last one to know.

    I was surprised that Abp. Burke had consented to giving Terry an interview, but I naively presumed that Abp. Burke knew what he was getting into, and was aware of Terry's hardcore approach to pro-life activism.

    That said, Abp. Burke is not taking back his words. He is taking back the way they were used by Terry.

    update: Michael Sean Winters pounces on the opportunity to snipe Abp. Burke: "... the Archbishop does not retract the statements he made in the interview but he does voice regret at the way the interview is being used. That is what passes, in this age of moral relativism, for an apology."

    No sir, yours is what passes, in this age of liberal journalism, for an attack.

    Ph/t: Whispers.

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    Wednesday, March 25, 2009

    Abp. Burke in interview says pro-aborts are to be denied communion

    Flash: Abp. Burke clarifies he was misled about Communion interview agenda

    This is very newsworthy.

    Terry Randall of Operation Rescue went to Rome recently and conducted an interview with Archbishop Burke, who is completely uncompromising in his interpretation and application of Canon 915. He hits the ground running:

    "Mr. Terry: For the umpteenth time, I and the others are asking, under Canon 915 what should or should not be done?

    Archbishop Burke: The Canon is completely clear, it is not subject in my judgment to any other interpretations. When someone is publicly and obstinately in grave sin we may not administer Holy Communion to the person. And that, basically, for two reasons: number one, to prevent the person himself or herself from committing a sacrilege, and secondly, to protect the sanctity of the Holy Eucharist. In other words, to approach, to receive our Lord in Holy Communion, when one insists on remaining in grave sin, is such a violation of the sanctity of the Holy Eucharist, so that Communion must not be given to people who are publicly, obstinately, in grave sin.

    And that's just a start. Read the full transcript here.

    Archbishop Burke will address the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on May 9th.

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    Exclusive: Director of ND Alumni sends email to club leaders

    I have received a copy of the email, which I post in full:

    Dear Club Leaders:

    As you know, the University recently announced President Barack Obama will be the principal speaker and recipient of an honorary degree at Notre Dame’s Commencement ceremony this May. President Obama will be the ninth U.S. president to be awarded an honorary degree by the University, and the sixth to be the Commencement speaker. Here is the press release about the announcement.

    Many alumni, parents, and friends of the University have expressed their opinions about the selection of the Commencement speaker. We welcome their feedback and appreciate the passion the Notre Dame family has for Our Lady’s University.

    As leaders of ND clubs, classes, and alumni groups, you may receive phone calls, e-mails, and letters from alumni, parents and friends regarding the Commencement speaker.

    If alumni, parents or friends would like to express their opinions to the University regarding this issue , please ask them to send an e-mail to the Alumni Association at ndalumni@nd.edu . They will receive a timely response.

    The Alumni Association also welcomes you to share your personal views on this issue, but requests that any communications be sent outside the structure and distribution lists of the Notre Dame club, class or alumni group that you represent.

    Here are a few University observations about the selection of the President as the Commencement speaker:

    The University does not support President Obama’s positions on specific issues regarding the protection of human life, including abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Notre Dame’s positions on these issues are firm and unwavering. The invitation to the President to be the Commencement speaker shouldn’t be taken as condoning or endorsing his positions that contradict the teachings of the Catholic Church.

    Rather, the University has invited the President to campus for what he’s done for racial equality, and for his stands on poverty, health care, immigration, education, infectious disease, and seeking peace. These are causes dear to the heart of Notre Dame, and he has elevated these causes and made them his own.

    It adds special significance that the Notre Dame family will hear the Commencement address from our first African-American president, a man who has spoken eloquently on the issue of race in this nation.

    That said, presenting a Commencement speaker with an honorary degree does not imply approval of all a person thinks or does. We recognize that the University has differences with the President on specific issues of protecting life, and we hope his visit to campus will provide an opportunity t o address our concerns in a dialogue that can deepen over time, and ultimately lead to better policies for protecting life. A policy that is never discussed is policy that is never changed, and we’re going to get more discussion on these issues because of his visit to Notre Dame.

    Also, I want to mention that Fr. Hesburgh spoke last Friday evening (3/20) to a group of alumni, parents, and friends who had gathered on campus for the Academic Recognition Weekend. Someone in the group raised the question: what did Fr. Hesburgh think of the University’s announcement of Obama as Commencement speaker? “No speaker who has ever come to Notre Dame has changed this University, he explained. We are who we are. But, quite often, the very fact of being here has changed the speaker.”

    Do we expect President Obama to reverse his stance on life issues after visiting campus? No, but we do expect that the national attention drawn to these matters by virtue of his being here will open up the conversation around these critical issues—and shed light on Notre Dame’s and the Catholic Church’s firm opposition to abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

    Your devotion to Notre Dame is greatly appreciated. Thank you for your support and all you do for Our Lady’s University.

    For Notre Dame,
    Charles F. Lennon Jr. ’61, ’62 M.A.
    Executive Director, Notre Dame Alumni Association

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    Notre Dame news nibbles

    A busy day here at AmP, so I'm switching on the stream-of-consciousness to fit all this in quickly...

    Just checked - another 20,000 signatures on the petition ... past 120,000 now. My earlier outside estimate that the petition could pass 250k is now far too conservative. This is because the story has gone mainstream as I noted late yesterday. Just look at this updating Google News search. In the coming days, watch for a move to organize a live (peaceful) protest/march at the actual commencement in May.

    I have been informed that a response from ND students will be forthcoming today - so stay tuned.

    Don't forget to vote in today's new AmP Poll: "What do you think of Notre Dame's invitation to Obama?"

    Coming-into-the-Church-on-Easter Newt Gingrich had this to say when the ND news broke:
    "It is sad to see notre dame invite president obama to give the commencement address Since his policies are so anti catholic values" [on twitter, of course.]
    Last night in Obama's white house press conference ... we witnessed total incoherence and tiresome double-speak when the question of embryonic stem cells came up. Dan Gilgoff has commentary (scroll down for the transcript of the exchange). Kmiec should be embarrassed about the position he took last week in an exchange with Robby George. Gilgoff moderated that debate and can't avoid agreeding with the side of reality (George, against Kmiec).

    Thomas F. Roeser in the Chicago Daily Observer is imploring Bishop D'Arcy to consider employing the "nuclear option" of removing Notre Dame's Catholic identification (after D'Arcy announced he was boycotting the commencement exercises). I don't think it will happen in this case, but down the road ... next time .... somewhere else .... it's worth reading up on the possibility.

    Over at The Catholic Thing, Fr. James Schall, S.J. talks about Charles Krauthammer on President Obama's embryonic stem cell decision. Only he's not talking about just him. Read it and see why. Good stuff.

    I think William McGurn was just brilliant in his analysis of the situation in yesterday's Wall Street Journal.

    If you're trying to find signs of hope, here's a little glimmer: "Several representatives of leading national pro-life groups held a meeting with President Barack Obama's top White House faith office staffer on Tuesday." However: "Pro-life groups aren't expecting much from Obama given his pro-abortion record." Still, we can at least try to hold him accountable to his promise of reducing abortions. Sadly, I think that's where we are at for now.

    One last thought: it'd be very nice to top 700 twitter followers today. Yes it would. On busy days I'll tend to update twitter more often rather than spending the extra time for a full-out blog post. Like this one.

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    Monday, March 23, 2009

    Bishop D'Arcy to Release Statement on Notre Dame/Obama Controversy?

    update 2: OSV is reporting this statement of Bp. D'Arcy will be released tomorrow morning.

    Meanwhile, the petition has over 46,000 signers as of 10pm EST. Can someone say "Ignition Switch"?

    Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Browntold the AP that the University is resolute in its decision.

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    Weigel, Schall, Garnett, others weigh-in on Obama invitation

    Update: 20,000 sign ND petition, ND switchboards overwhelmed

    As of 10AM, over 18,000 signatures have been gathered at http://www.notredamescandal.com/.

    {update - 3,000 more have signed as of 12:00pm EST}

    {update 2 - I'm told the petition is receiving 250+ votes every 3 minutes! CatholicVote.com is on board. }

    LifeNews reports:

    After LifeNews.com reported on the news, the switchboards at Notre Dame rang off the hook and eventually the volume of calls became too much to handle.

    The voicemail message boxes for the university's president, vice-president, provost, assistant provost, and public relations director were all full by the end of the day on Friday. Operators suggested that callers try again today to reach top Notre Dame officials.

    Papists, you are not alone in considering Notre Dame's invitation of Obama to be inappropriate.

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    Fr. Jenkins responds to criticism

    In a Notre Dame Observer interview:
    Jenkins made clear the University is not honoring the president for his stances on these issues, but for his leadership.

    "The invitation of President Obama to be our Commencement speaker should in no way be taken as condoning or endorsing his positions on specific issues regarding the protection of life, such as abortion and embryonic stem cell research," Jenkins said.

    These "crucial differences" in positions on the protection of life are not being ignored in extending the invitation to the president, Jenkins said, but rather can be used as a catalyst for dialogue. (More.)
    I'll respond later.

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    Thursday, March 19, 2009

    Rumor: John Paul II to be beatified on April 2, 2010?

    CNA (website seems to be having problems today):
    Pope John Paul II could be beatified on April 2, 2010, according to a report in the Polish newspaper Dziennik, which claims the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints has already made the decision.

    At the beginning of this month, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow said the beatification process of Pope John Paul II was about to be concluded and that Benedict XVI himself wanted to close the process “as soon as possible” because that “is what the world is asking for.”

    The beatification process of John Paul II began on June 28, 2005, two months after the death of the Pontiff thanks to a dispensation granted by Pope Benedict. The dispensation waived the normal five-year waiting period after a person dies that the Church requires before a cause for canonization can be opened.
    April 2nd, of course, would be the fifth anniversary of the late Holy Father's passing.

    Tom McFeely reports on the rumors in the Italian press, which are corroborative.

    Here is the website for the Cause of John Paul II, Servant of God.

    Mark the calednar and buy your plane tickets!

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    Report: LC "town hall meeting" with vocations director

    On March 9th I posted news forwarded to me by a member of Regnum Christi about the first-ever Interactive Teleconference hosted by Legion vocations director Fr. Anthony Bannon.

    Fr. Bannon was one of the figures instrumental in the founding and expansion of the Legionaries and Regnum Christi in the United States, and has been with them for more than thirty years.

    Here are my observations of the conference call he conducted last night, numbered for convenience:
    1. There was a moderator of the conversation that introduced Fr. Bannon. People calling-in were given the option of submitting a question. Some of these questions were submitted to Fr. Bannon by the moderator (scroll down). It was promised that every question would eventually receive a response from Fr. Bannon or one of his assistants.
    2. Fr. Bannon began with a clarification of what the call was, and was not. He said it was not a news conference and he would not be discussing or answering questions about the "unexpected events" and "total surprise" of the "serious failings of the father founder" which he went on to say were "difficult to accept, but accept them we must." [These parts felt recited and measured.]
    3. He said the time was not yet mature to discuss these matters and promised that the Legion was in constant contact with the Holy See. He said there were facts that still need to be investigated. Prudentially and without rushing. He promised they were working on it.
    4. [This sounded more ad-libbed] He emphatically stated that "we’re deeply sorry and apologize to anyone who has been hurt or scandalized by these actions. Our directors are quietly trying to get in touch with possible victims." He went on to apologize again for the scandal caused to "you."
    5. "Many of you have gotten in touch with us to say you are praying for us, so let me express my gratitude for your prayers over these past weeks."
    6. "One of the main reasons that you have supported us is our fidelity to the Holy See. That part of our spirituality is not about to change nor will it ever I hope."
    7. He promised that anything the Holy Father saw as appropriate (in terms of taking action), "we will do that and do it happily."
    8. [It was evident at this point that he was in fact going to discuss the situation at some length.]
    9. "First point, our trials have been a blessing. You have been very kind to us." He said the Legion has received many accolades including from many quarters in authority in the church.
    10. He said the apostolates were growing tremendously. "All of this is good." But at the same time: "We are human and this is therefore a danger. We can get overconfident, begin to feel superior." He said there was a real danger of "losing the focus" and that "the present situation has helped bring us back."
    11. He continued: "This experience of weakness has brought us back to the core of what we are doing as priests. We must review our actions to make sure no one except Christ is at the center of our lives. A better awareness that it is Christ we are following, and no one and nothing else."
    12. These points are perhaps the most interesting of what he said: "Our constitutions were approved 25 ½ years ago. It was like the church took our charism out of our hands. Received from God, and taken out of our hands and our founder’s hands. For those 25 years, not even he could change them without going through a process."
    13. [I'm paraphrasing:] The church has guaranteed ours as a valid charism, and protects it. It is a valid path to holiness. Regnum Christi was approved in similar fashion 4 years ago.
    14. We work to do what the church has approved in order to make it a reality. [At this point it felt rather distinctly that he was reading from a prepared statement. Though perhaps rephrasing things in his own words. It was very fluid.]
    15. He concluded by saying, in effect, "We want to make sure we are what we are supposed to be, in what the Church has approved."
    16. (I forget exactly how long this opening statement took to complete, but I believe it was about 8 minutes.)
    17. Next, he overviewed the situation of Legionary formation in the United States. "Vocations are up this year" was the bottom line. But he spoke at length and in great detail. He talked a lot about how happy the seminarians are.
    18. He said formation of Legionary priests faces two challenges: fostering commitment to the vocation they have chosen on the side of the seminarians, and providing for the financial needs of their education on the side of the formators.
    19. At this point, the moderator came back on the line and asked five survey questions of the listeners, which I paraphrase: a) how vital is the work of the legion to the future success of the Church? b) in addition to vocations, what are you most interested in -
      Youth family programs; Schools/education; Work with poor abroad? c) what age group are you in? d) have you ever met a legion priest or seminarian? e) are you interested in a future teleconference?
    20. Following this, roughly 30 minutes of the moderator asking questions from the listeners while Fr. Bannon responded. The questions: a) “how come the Legionaries aren’t assigned to parishes like regular priests?” b) “Should parents be allowed to see those in the novitiate more often?” [Fr. Bannon explained that the novitiate is "Almost like a year or two of contemplative life."] c) "how has the economic downturn affecting the legion in the way you operate?" [Fr. Bannon said it has affected them as much as anyone else, so seriously. They are looking to expand their donor base, I gathered] d) "how much time does the Legion spend supporting human life and against abortion, etc?" e) why does it take so long to reach ordination?" [The gist of Fr. Bannon's answer: because they are not ordained until they are ready to act as priests.] f) "We’re in a period of spiritual warfare. What should we do and what is the Legion doing?" [Here it was interesting to note that I believe Fr. Bannon slipped at one point into saying "John Paul II told the founder ... I mean, told us ..."] g) "do the Legion receive funds from anyone besides private donors? Do the dioceses?" [This question, perhaps because he did not understand it, I don't think Fr. Bannon ended up answering. He spoke about collaboration between the Legion and local dioceses instead.]

    I've not posted most of the spiritual insights and attitudes that Fr. Bannon expressed. I had the impression I was in the presence of a holy man, very dedicated to his mission of forming priests.

    He often thanked the listeners for supporting the Legion. He said "God’s providence is always there, and he will bless and help us" and asked that "we may have the perseverance to do what we need to do". He prayed that he could "Serve you and serve souls better" and promised to pray for the listeners in his prayers and Masses. He said God was very present to us now.

    Afterwards the moderator returned to the line and thanked everyone, saying he thought it was an excellent way to be "close to you." People whose questions were not answered were invited to leave a voicemail.

    I'm not sure that I have any commentary to add except one observation: it's a pity that this conversation had to be conducted about such pressing issues as the formation of seminarians, the financial stress of our times and on the Legion, and the future of the Legion in relation to the Church ... without any up-front discussion of the Maciel scandal. Clearly it is on people's minds, clearly they are looking for answers, and Fr. Bannon could not (read, is not allowed at this point to) give any.

    Let us pray for priests and seminarians of the Legion, for the consecrated lay members of Regnum Christi, and for Maciel's victims, that a forthright solution will be pursued to these too-long-festering wounds.

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    Tuesday, March 17, 2009

    Blowup in Madison: Bp. Morlino Dismisses Feminist Pastoral Associate

    Madison, WI is what I'd call a "battleground diocese": a conservative Bishop overseeing a diverse Catholic community which includes a fierce strain of dissenting instigators.
    The problem with being on the front lines, of course, is that you get attacked frequently. That's the case here.
    Right now some dissidents are trying to claim that Ruth Kolpack, a pastoral associate at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Beloit WI, is a martyr because Bishop Robert Morlino dismissed her.
    The anti-hierarchical spin machine is in full-tilt right now, with National Catholic Reporter leading the charge.
    Here's an example of a dissenting Catholic blog introducing a call to organize protests:
    "Make Your Voice Heard: This is like what happen to the choir directors last year and why I stopped going to church the lying and not being truthful of the real reason of wanting to get rid of the more Liberal wing of the church. Anyway, I hope those who live near enough to make their voice heard will speak up in this woman’s defense." [errors in original]

    Meanwhile, here's (what I understand to be) a staff memo from Call to Action:

    Please write to the Papal Nuncio today! See address at right.

    Support Ruth and the more than 30,000 other Catholic lay ministers in our country who can be fired at any time by a priest or bishop without due process!

    We are pursuing options for Ruth but in the meantime, our canon lawyer has encouraged us to send hundreds of letters to the Papal Nuncio, the Vatican's Representative in the U.S. He keeps files of the letters he receives and passes the information along to the Vatican. In the long term, this raises the issue of church worker justice in the eyes of the Vatican. Please see the information at right for his address.

    If you live in Wisconsin, please consider joining CTA/Madison at local protest vigils this weekend to show your support for Ruth and the thousands of men and women like her who give their lives to our church. (Local Catholic Reporter)

    This sort of activity has a long history in Madison, as Fr. Z covered in October of last year.

    So what's happening in this latest episode? Here's some local reporting:

    The firing came in a meeting with Bishop Robert Morlino. Kolpack said Morlino asked her to renounce her master’s thesis, make a profession of faith and take a loyalty oath.

    ... Morlino was in Janesville on Saturday for an unrelated meeting. About 45 people came to meet him to protest the firing.
    The protesters held placards that said “Hear Ruth out!” and “Who would Jesus fire?”
    Morlino walked up to the group and offered to talk to them later in the day.
    “You don’t know the whole story,” Morlino said.
    “I’m certainly sorry we have division in the church, but there it is,” the bishop said. “… If anyone is willing to talk respectfully at 3:30, I’ll be there.”
    Several people interrupted Morlino as he spoke, although there was no shouting.
    “You weren’t respectful to her,” someone called out.
    Kolpack was present but did not participate in the protest.

    ...Kolpack said her thesis discussed the evil that can come of blind obedience. She said she can understand how that could be a red flag for the bishop.
    “But if he would’ve read the whole paper, he would’ve understood it... he didn’t give it a chance,” she said.
    The thesis also criticizes the church’s language of worship, which refers to God with words such as “he” or “Father.”
    Kolpack said that’s harmful.
    “I’m concerned about women, about young girls, who grow up in a patriarchal, male-dominated society. What does it do to their self-esteem?” she said.
    Kolpack said she came to these beliefs as she studied feminist and liberation theology at St. Francis Seminary, where she earned her master’s degree in divinity in 2003. She said that 2003 thesis was never a problem, until now.

    ...Kolpack responded: “The pope speaks infallibly in matters of faith and morals. Bishop Morlino is not infallible. … The Holy Spirit speaks through everyone.”
    As a representative of the church, if he would publicly display disregard for church teachings, that would be grounds for dismissal, King said.
    Morlino did meet with protesters for about 15 minutes but said he could not get into personnel matters, protester Jim Andrews said.
    Morlino said the issue was less about the thesis and more about “a certain mentality in the way of teaching,” Andrews said.
    Morlino did agree to meet with St. Thomas parishioners at some future date, Andrews said. (GazetteXtra) [More from Beliot Daily News]

    I think it's pretty clear that we don't know the whole story yet. The diocese is claiming her civil and canonical rights were not violated:

    "You can be assured that the canonical and civil rights of each individual have been upheld absolutely. The Church takes this very seriously. I cannot make statements regarding Ms. Kolpack [director of communications of the Diocese], as they could injure her good reputation. The statement went on to say that church personnel "must uphold the faith and morals of the church" ... through what they publicly teach and claim to believe, what they associate themselves with, and by their actions."

    Scanning the National Catholic Reporter coverage, here is one perhaps revealing paragraph:

    "She's been through four priests, and we always knew she would be there. She's the heart and soul behind everything that goes on. Our priest is only 40 percent, so she was responsible for sacramental work as well. People converted and were brought back to the Catholic faith were crying because their friend was dismissed. Five- and six-year-olds were crying because they lost their teacher."

    First of all, she better not have been doing "sacramental work" (according to the technical terminology). Something like that ought to get you fired. Second, as you can see from this excerpt, NCR is playing up the "sob story" card big-time. I mean, crying five-year-olds?!

    My primary observation at this point is one of reactions. I think one's reaction in these situations should be to support the bishop's decision while charitable enquiring into his thinking. As the reporting points out, Morlino is perfectly willing to discuss it with them.

    The reaction of these Madison dissenters, however, is to blow up and plan mass protests.

    ... which makes me think that this is all they really wanted to do in the first place.

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    Thursday, March 12, 2009

    Exclusive: Legion discontinues controversial "Prayer for Fidelity"

    I have it on good authority that the "Prayer for Fidelity" said by Regnum Christi members has been officially discontinued.

    This communique originated from Fr. Scott Reilly, the Legionaries of Christ Territorial Director in Atlanta, Georgia.

    Fr. Reily appears to be a catalyst in making information known within Regnum Christi. He was one of the first priests to begin informing various Regnum Christi sections about Maciel's misdeeds.

    I am also told that a new prayer is being composed, although I do not know who is responsible for that task.

    Here is the text of the discontinued prayer, with parts I found interesting in bold:

    Lord Jesus, you have entrusted to us the mission of furthering the Legion and Regnum Christi, and making them grow healthy and vigorous for the good of all people and of your Kingdom. This mission comes to us as an utterly free, unforeseen, mysterious reality, out of all proportion to our abilities.

    Since the Legion and the Movement will be vigorous and will flourish as long as the spirit of our founder is present and active in our lives and behavior, we ask you to open our eyes to the urgency of learning, assimilating and passing on the doctrine, spirit, apostolic methods, genuine traditions, discipline and lifestyle of the Legion and Regnum Christi, just as our founder has made them known to us, since this is our responsibility.

    Lord, help us to adhere totally to the charism you inspired in our founder.

    You have chosen to give us a role in your plan of salvation, and we have the possibility of fulfilling it, step by step, for the good of the Church and of humanity, or of making it fail deplorably. So, we ask from you what you ask of us: faith, great faith in your work, love for it, trust in its mission, docility, loyal collaboration, humility, a sense of responsibility, and fidelity. Amen.

    An encouraging move.

    update: welcome, SpiritDaily readers, my complete coverage of the Legion scandal is documented here.

    Photo source.

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    Breaking: RNC head Steele says abortion is a "choice"

    In an interview with GQ, Michael Steele, the new head of the Republican National Committee says abortion is a choice.

    This is very dissapointing news, if it turns out to accurately portray his view on abortion:

    How much of your pro-life stance, for you, is informed not just by your Catholic faith but by the fact that you were adopted?
    Oh, a lot. Absolutely. I see the power of life in that—I mean, and the power of choice! The thing to keep in mind about it… Uh, you know, I think as a country we get off on these misguided conversations that throw around terms that really misrepresent truth.

    Explain that.
    The choice issue cuts two ways. You can choose life, or you can choose abortion. You know, my mother chose life. So, you know, I think the power of the argument of choice boils down to stating a case for one or the other.

    Are you saying you think women have the right to choose abortion?
    Yeah. I mean, again, I think that’s an individual choice.

    You do?
    Yeah. Absolutely.

    Are you saying you don’t want to overturn Roe v. Wade?
    I think Roe v. Wade—as a legal matter, Roe v. Wade was a wrongly decided matter.

    Okay, but if you overturn Roe v. Wade, how do women have the choice you just said they should have?
    The states should make that choice. That’s what the choice is. The individual choice rests in the states. Let them decide.

    Do pro-choicers have a place in the Republican Party?
    Absolutely!

    As a Catholic, Mr. Steele should know better.

    More from CMR and Politico.

    Photo: GQ.

    update: Steele, under fire, walks back 'choice' remark (read to the bottom for Tony Perkins comment)

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    Wednesday, March 11, 2009

    First Take: Video of Bp. Lori at CT Catholic Rally

    You're getting this content practically as it is uploaded:
    Broadcasting Live with Ustream.TV

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    First take: Photos from today's Hartford, CT Catholic Rally

    From the front lines (courtesy of the Knights of Columbus):




    I've uploaded a few more photos to a dedicated AmP Flickr photo set.

    Elizabeth Ela of (KofC-run) Headline Bistro was twittering live updates from the rally all morning.

    Early crowd estimate: 2-3 thousand!

    update - more photos added to the AmP Flickr photo set.

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    Tuesday, March 10, 2009

    Flash: Anti-Catholic CT pulled! Update: Rally still a GO!

    UPDATE - THE RALLY IS STILL A GO!

    Looks like they didn't want this one blowing up in their face:

    controversial bill that would change the way the Catholic church governs itself has been pulled and a public hearing planned Wednesday on the issue postponed until its constitutionality can be determined.

    The hearing had been expected to draw hundreds of people, many of whom where angry about what they view as the state's inappropriate and perhaps unconstitutional incursion into church affairs.

    At a press conference this morning at the legislative office building, Tom Gallagher of Greenwich, who has long advocated that lay people be given greater responsibilities within the church, said he has asked Rep. Michael Lawlor and Sen. Andrew McDonald, co-chairmen of the legislature's judiciary committee, to put off the hearing until Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has reviewed the matter.

    Lawlor and McDonald agreed. "At the request of the proponents who are advocating this legislation, we have decided to cancel the public hearing for tomorrow [and] table any further consideration of this bill for the duration of this session,'' the lawmakers said in a joint statement. (Hartford Courant)

    Caught 'em red-handed. Well done, everyone. Remain vigilant. {update - rally still a go!}

    The two proponents of the bill are now trying to claim that they were simply following Connecticut legal precendent which employs specific legislation for particular religious institutions.
    In other words, what began as a precedent for their actions has now also become their justification. In fact, they are trying to claim that they believe this precedent of preference "doesn't seem right."
    Well no kidding - then why in the first place did they introduce a bill that took advantage of the precedent?
    Because it was useful to their ulterior purpose of coercing the Catholic Church in Connecticut.

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    Breaking: Cardinal Pell becomes first Cardinal to recommend Legion intervention

    As I previewed yesterday, Cardinal George has gone on the record with the UK Catholic Herald:
    Cardinal George Pell has become the first senior Church figure to call for outside intervention to tackle the crisis afflicting the Legion of Christ.

    The cardinal, speaking in Oxford last week, said a Church authority external to the Legion should investigate its founder's corruption and re-examine its charism.

    He said: "I think there should be an intervention, perhaps a visitation or something like that. I don't know what the facts of the matter are, the alleged corruption, if that's the word, on the part of the founder, to what extent there was a cover-up, to what extent the whole rationale of the order [should be] re-examined, but I think it should be sponsored by some extra-Legionary Church agency."

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    Monday, March 09, 2009

    Expected: Cardinal Pell to call for Vatican oversight of Legion

    I'm hearing reliable reports that during Cardinal Pell's recent visit to England he said on the record that he thinks the Legion can't possibly be expected to sort out its own affairs and that some sort of Vatican involvement is needed, probably in the form of an apostolic visitation.

    Stay tuned....

    Related: "Cassandra Jones" pens a lengthy summary of the Maciel scandal in Spero News Forum and claims that the Legion is delaying its response due to an internal debate over its "charism".

    update: as expected: "Cardinal backs intervention in Legionaries crisis".

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    Posted: LC donor invitation to "town hall meeting" with vocations director

    Forwarded to me by a member of Regnum Christi. This was sent out to select members this morning:


    After the image cut-off the phone number and details are given, along with the text "We look forward to you joining us! ~ Sincerely yours in Christ, Fr. Anthony Bannon, LC."

    Can you guess what the questions from donors will be about? Notice that the questions follow after updates on vocations and the contributions of the Legion to the Church. Good news first, bad news last, I guess.

    Fr. Bannon used to be the North American territorial director of the Legion and is among those who strongly denied charges brought against Maciel, claiming they were an attack by surrogates on John Paul II.

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    Breaking: Pope Benedict to visit Holy Land in May

    The announcement:
    "...the Holy See Press Office today announced that, "accepting the invitation of the king of Jordan, of the president of Israel, of the president of the Palestinian National Authority and of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries, His Holiness Benedict XVI will make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land from 8 to 15 May, visiting Amman, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth".
    AP Video:

    NYT coverage here.

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    Saturday, March 07, 2009

    Alert: New Connecticut Bill Attacks Church Independence

    Update: Anti-Catholic CT pulled! Rally still a GO!

    Connecticut lawmakers moved this week to directly attack the self-governing rights of the Catholic Church.

    The Diocese of Bridgeport is calling on Catholics across the state to mobilize and "fight the irrational, unlawful, and bigoted Proposed Bill #1098/2009":

    This past Thursday, March 5, the Judiciary Committee of the Connecticut State Legislature, which is chaired by Sen. Andrew McDonald of Stamford and Rep. Michael Lawlor of East Haven, introduced a bill that directly attacks the Roman Catholic Church and our Faith.

    This bill violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. It forces a radical reorganization of the legal, financial, and administrative structure of our parishes. This is contrary to the Apostolic nature of the Catholic Church because it disconnects parishes from their Pastors and their Bishop. Parishes would be run by boards from which Pastors and the Bishop would be effectively excluded.

    This bill, moreover, is a thinly-veiled attempt to silence the Catholic Church on the important issues of the day, such as same-sex marriage.

    The State has no right to interfere in the internal affairs and structure of the Catholic Church. This bill is directed only at the Catholic Church but could someday be forced on other denominations. The State has no business controlling religion. (source: Bridgeport Diocese)

    Here's what you can do:

    We urge you to call and e-mail Sen. McDonald and Rep. Lawlor:

    Senator Andrew McDonald:
    Capitol phone: (800) 842-1420; Home phone: (203) 348-7439
    E-mail: McDonald@senatedems.ct.gov

    Representative Michael Lawlor:
    Capitol phone: (800) 842-8267; Home phone: (203) 469-9725
    E-mail: MLawlor99@juno.com

    We also ask you to come to Hartford this Wednesday, March 11, to be present at the public hearing. Details on bus transportation will be available on Monday. If you would like to attend, contact your Pastor.

    Even though it is named "An Act Modifying Corporate Laws Relating to Certain Religious Corporations" the bill in fact names the "Roman Catholic Church or congregations" in the state as the only party in question.

    On top of it being an outrageous violation of the First Amendment it is also particularly anti-Catholic, and the politicians who have introduced and supported this bill should be strongly rebuked not just by Catholics, but by all Americans who hate religious discrimination and "hate legislation."

    One particularly-offensive line in the bill (underlining mine):
    "The corporation shall have a board of directors consisting of not less than seven nor more than thirteen lay members. The archbishop or bishop of the diocese or his designee shall serve as an ex-officio member of the board of directors without the right to vote."
    That's right - archbishops and bishops under this bill would be stripped of their power to govern.
    The General Counsel of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says "I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a bill that’s so blatantly unconstitutional. It targets the Catholic Church explicitly and exclusively, and attempts to use the civil law to alter Church governance, particularly to divest the bishop of authority." Tom Hoopes calls it the "Miter-box Bill", because bishops should just box their miters if it passes.

    The blog Catechism on Call says:
    Right now we don’t know who sponsored this bill. The Catholic Key Blog notes that the dissident Catholic Group “Voice of the Faithful” has often promoted the idea of “trusteeism” or lay members hiring and firing pastors. But, to be fair, we don’t have evidence they are behind this legislation.
    Regardless of where this idea came from - we do know who was willing to put it into practice. One wonders if the Church could take some sort of legal action in response to this unlawful intrusion. You can keep up to date on the bill's progress here. Paul's comment on Fr. Z's blog here is very helpful if you want to get a handle on the the legal in's and out's of the situation.

    I'm happy to see the Diocese of Bridgeport rallying Catholics. I have not yet seen any activity on the Connecticut Catholic Conference website or the Archdiocese of Hartford or the Diocese of Norwich. The Knights of Columbus are headquartered in New Haven and will be very active I'd wager. I'll be chasing down these threads next.

    update: Here (forwarded to me) is the justification for the bill given by one of the legislators who introduced it, Mike Lawlor:

    ... the current state statutes governing Roman Catholic corporations ... were enacted in 1955. SB 1098 is a proposal to make changes in that law, which was suggested by parishioners who were the victims of theft of their funds in several parishes, and these parishioners feel that the state's existing Roman Catholic Corporate laws prevented them from dealing with the misuse and theft of funds.

    I agree with you that the whole notion of having a statute governing the church seems like an intrusion on the separation of church and state, but the current law does that already. Perhaps we should repeal the whole thing, but if we are going to have a corporate law of this type, it probably should make sure there cannot be deception of parishioners.

    The Diocese of Bridgeport's statement responds to this claim of financial improprieties:

    The Pastors of our Diocese are doing an exemplary job of sound stewardship and financial accountability, in full cooperation with their parishioners.

    For the State Legislature — which has not reversed a $1 billion deficit in this fiscal year — to try to manage the Catholic Church makes no sense. The Catholic Church not only lives within her means but stretches her resources to provide more social, charitable, and educational services than any other private institution in the State. This bill threatens those services at a time when the State is cutting services. The Catholic Church is needed now more than ever.

    We reject this irrational, unlawful, and bigoted bill that jeopardizes the religious liberty of our Church.

    Connecticut: "keep your state out of our church!"

    update 2: for the newest updates on this story, click on this tag.

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    Friday, February 27, 2009

    Breaking: Obama moving to overturn conscience regulations

    LifeNews:

    The White House quietly announced on Friday that President Barack Obama is starting the process of overturning protections President Bush put in place to make sure medical staff and centers are not forced to do abortions. The move is the latest that will add to Obama's growing pro-abortion record.

    Existing federal laws already make it so doctors and hospitals are not required to perform abortions. Because those laws aren't always followed, the Bush administration added additional protections.

    Now, the Obama administration is Starting the process to remove them.
    LA Times: 'Conscience' rule on abortions may be overturned

    update: NARAL is happy. That's never a good thing for the unborn children of America.

    Ph/t: AmP reader Colleen.

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    Wednesday, February 25, 2009

    Abp. O'Brien says Legion "stifles the free will of its members and lacks transparency"

    Still no official statement from the Legion today.

    Archbishop Edwin O'Brien, however, has become the first bishop to comment about the Maciel scandal, in an interview with his Archdiocesan newspaper The Catholic Review. I'll quote the first part of the article in full:
    Concerned that the Legion of Christ stifles the free will of its members and lacks transparency, Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien told the religious order’s director general that he cannot in good conscience recommend that anyone join the Legion or Regnum Christi, its affiliated lay movement.

    In the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Legion of Christ is affiliated with Woodmont Academy in Cooksville. Regnum Christi is also active in several parishes.

    The archbishop’s action came in the wake of revelations that Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legion of Christ, fathered a daughter while serving as leader of the international religious order.

    Pope Benedict XVI had previously removed the Mexican priest from public ministry in 2006, asking him to lead a life of prayer and penance after Father Maciel faced allegations of sexual abuse of seminarians and financial irregularities.

    “It seems to me and many others that this was a man with an entrepreneurial genius who, by systematic deception and duplicity, used our faith to manipulate others for his own selfish ends,” Archbishop O’Brien told The Catholic Review in a telephone interview following his Feb. 20 Rome meeting with Father Alvaro Corcuera, director general of the Legion.

    “Father Maciel deserves our prayers, as every Christian who dies does, that he’ll be forgiven and we leave the final judgment to God as to what his life and death amounted to,” Archbishop O’Brien said.

    Saying that the Legion’s founder “leaves many victims in his wake,” the archbishop called for the “full disclosure of his activities and those who are complicit in them or knew of them and of those who are still refusing to offer disclosure.”

    He added that the finances of the order should be opened to “objective scrutiny.”

    Archbishop O’Brien said he has grave concerns that the Legion fosters a “cult of personality” focused on Father Maciel.

    “While it’s difficult to get a hold of official documents,” Archbishop O’Brien said, “it’s clear that from the first moment a person joins the Legion, efforts seem to be made to program each one and to gain full control of his behavior, of all information he receives, of his thinking and emotions.”

    The archbishop said many members who leave the order suffer “deep psychological distress for dependency and need prolonged counseling akin to deprogramming.”

    Saying that “I know that there are good priests in the movement” and acknowledging that Legion members are in full accord with the theological teachings of the church, the archbishop also said some of the practices of the movement are unhealthy.

    “This is not about orthodoxy,” he said. “It is about respect for human dignity for each of its members.”

    The archbishop noted that he has heard reports that the movement claims that the first duty of a Legionary is to love the Legion.

    Such policies subject a person’s use of reason not to one’s own judgment, Archbishop O’Brien said, but to a spiritual director.

    “It’s been said that the founder is alone called ‘nuestro padre’ (‘our father’) and that no one else can have that title,” Archbishop O’Brien said. “All are bound to identify with him in his spirit, his mind, his mission and in his life. This would suggest that the very basis of the Legion movement should be reviewed from start to finish.”

    The second part of the article adds some scattered comments from Jim Fair, the US spokesman for the Legion.

    Last June Archbishop O'Brien demanded that the Legion become more transparent or he would expel them from ministry in his archdiocese. At the time, O'Brien's "initial hand was stayed by Vatican intercession" and at last check-up (in August), the Legion appeared to be complying.

    update: more on Abp. O'Brien's dealings with the Legion in this June 12th, 2008 interview with John Allen.

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    Expected: A clarifying statement for the Legion today

    If CNA is right, we should have it today.

    update: well, it didn't appear in today's VIS, that's for sure.

    update 2: if the statement is coming from Europe, it's already almost end-of-business there.

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    Monday, February 23, 2009

    Update: Legion of Christ to respond to scandal on Tuesday

    CNA gets the scoop:
    Vatican officials confirmed to CNA on Monday that the leadership of the Legion of Christ will release a major statement in response to the controversy surrounding the double life of its founder and the future of the order. The statement will be released on Tuesday “or Wednesday at the latest.”

    ... According to the Vatican source, the forthcoming document will address “the difficult circumstances created by the recent discovery of the double life led by Fr. Maciel and the need to restore peace, trust and apostolic vitality within the spiritual family he founded.”

    The document “will also sketch the concrete future steps the leadership of the Legion of Christ will take to achieve these goals.”

    Asked if the document will be “final,” the source told CNA that it will be a foundational document that will be decisive in determining future action. “I would say it is a definitive document... it is too soon to tell if it will be, indeed, final,” the source said.

    The Vatican contact also added that, despite the fact that he has read the document, “I prefer not to anticipate any of its content, I think it will speak for itself.”
    I'm not sure if an embargoed copy will be made available. NB: I don't break embargoes.

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    Abp. Dolan: The Reaction

    {see my complete coverage of Abp. Dolan's appointment here.}

    Episcopal appointments never occur in a political or ecclesiastical-political vacuum:

    Making his highest-profile U.S. appointment since his 2005 election, Pope Benedict XVI chose a conservative who is likely to stress the church's stand on social issues like abortion. - Dan Gilgoff

    Dolan, a St. Louis native, is virtually guaranteed to rise to the rank of Cardinal in the next consistory — a formal meeting of the College of Cardinals — at the Vatican. - TIME

    The new head of the New York Archdiocese served for seven years as rector of the Pontifical North American College, the U.S. national seminary in Rome, and was a student there himself in the 1970s. In addition, he was assigned for two years to the staff of the apostolic nunciature, or Vatican embassy, in Washington. - CNS

    Archbishop Dolan's move to the New York Archdiocese will more than triple the number of Catholics under his pastoral care -- from about 700,000 in Milwaukee to 2.5 million in New York. - CNS

    In Milwaukee, he proved a prodigious fund-raiser, staving off the bankruptcy that seemed to beckon as the priest sexual abuse scandal, and earlier efforts at a cover-up, led to lawsuits. He closed a $3 million budget deficit last year, and started a fund-raising campaign that he says is more than halfway to its goal, with $57.5 million in pledges. He has combined shrinking parishes and reached out to young people over beers, and recruited new seminarians — the Milwaukee archdiocese expects to ordain six men this year, as opposed to a single ordination a few years ago. - NYT

    The appointment marks the first time in the 200-year history of the archdiocese that power will be transferred from a living prelate to his successor in a post that Pope John Paul II once called “archbishop of the capital of the world.” - Laurie Goodstein

    While Pope Benedict XVI’s appointment of Archbishop Timothy Dolan to New York hardly marks a dramatic break with key picks under recent popes, it may confirm an intriguing pattern-within-a-pattern under Benedict when it comes to the most important jobs in the United States.
    In a sound-bite, one might call it a choice for “the center-right with a human face.”
    In essence, that means leaders who are basically conservative in both their politics and their theology, but also upbeat, pastoral figures given to dialogue. It’s a pattern with across-the-board consequences for both the substance and the style of American Catholicism, and one that could carry particularly interesting implications for relations between church and state in the Age of Obama. - John Allen

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    Abp. Dolan - First Take

    The most notable bits of Dolan coverage I've read so far ... from my feeds to your screen:


    His first words to New York:
    In a statement, Archbishop Dolan addressed New Yorkers, saying, "My brother bishops, priests, religious women and men, seminarians, committed Catholics of this wonderful Church, I pledge to you my love, my life, my heart, and I can tell you already that I love you, I need so much your prayers and support, I am so honored, humbled, and happy to serve as your pastor."
    His reputation:
    "Best known for his contagious, energetic enthusiasm, love for priesthood -- and, of course, media-savvy -- Dolan will be installed as head of the nation's second-largest local church on Easter Wednesday, 15 April, in the nation's best-known house of worship."
    Revealing story:
    “I was at the vespers when he was installed as [arch]bishop. And there’s a part where the bishop knocks on the door. Most do it timidly. Tap, tap. Not him — ‘Bang! Bang!’ It echoed through the cathedral and let everyone know that Timothy Dolan was there.”
    Dolan was informed of the appointment "9, 10 days ago", reports Rocco:
    "As opposed to his appointments as an auxiliary of St Louis and archbishop of Milwaukee when he was told that the Pope "would like [him] to" take the post, he added that Archbishop Pietro Sambi "was quite factual" in that the nuncio to Washington told him that "the Pope had appointed me" to New York -- in other words, that he had little choice but to accept."
    update: Archbishop Dolan is strongly pro-life:
    For the pro-life movement, Dolan has been a strong friend and ally and has been called a "hero" by leading pro-life advocates.
    "It bothers me if any politician, Catholic or not, is for abortion," Dolan has said. "Because in my mind, we're talking about a civil right, we're not talking about a matter of Catholic Church discipline. We can't allow the noble pro-life cause to be reduced to a denominational issue."
    Last year, Dolan took House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice-President Joe Biden to task for misrepresenting Catholic pro-life teachings.
    update 2: Fr. James has posted excerpts of an interview he conducted with Abp. Dolan.

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    Official: Timothy Dolan to become next NYC Archbishop!

    iiiiiiiiiiitttttttttssssssss DOLAN!

    The official announcement, we are told by the Associated Press, will be made at 6AM EST, when the Vatican publishes its daily news bulletin.

    Whispers sources say Dolan will make his first public NYC appearance at 8AM Mass in St. Patrick's Cathedral, with an 11AM press conference.

    I wrote a post last week about these rumors, and refer you back to it for all the interesting Dolan tidbits I've assembled. Good catch-up reading.

    I'll make two additions now: I'm currently holding a letter from Archbishop Dolan, and one of my brothers was baptized by him. ;)

    update - it's official:

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    Thursday, February 19, 2009

    Published: RC director encourages members to offer "spiritual bouquets"

    Someone has created a website to offer "Spiritual Bouquets" for LC priests and RC consecrated members. I'm told it began as a Facebook group and crossed-over onto a full website. The individual who registered the website lives in Connecticut, near where the Legionaries of Christ are based in the United States.

    This email was sent by a national-level director of Regnum Christi to their women members:

    Many of you have told me about the beautiful initiatives of individuals and local sections and cities to support your local legionaries, consecrated, and the Church as a whole during this difficult time. Thank you for your love for Christ and the Church!

    One city decided to start a website to gather a spiritual bouquet in gratitude for the vocations of the Legionaries of Christ, and Consecrated members. It is http://www.spiritualbouquet.net/. I wanted to share it with you in case you’d like to participate, and in any case, to encourage you to pray for the perseverance of all priests, consecrated and religious, and for Our Church. Below is a message from the organizers:

    “Let us join the thousands of other Regnum Christi Members from around the world by offering up a spiritual bouquet for the Holy Catholic Church and especially for the Legionaries of Christ and the Consecrated Men and Women of Regnum Christi in gratitude for their vocations and as a means for their perseverance in faith.

    You can include the number of Masses, Rosaries, Holy Hours and sacrifices that you would like to offer up on the website. The website will keep a runny tally of all the prayers and sacrifices offered. (This is a continuous spiritual bouquet so you can later go back and offer more if you would like.)

    The spiritual bouquet will then be sent to Pope Benedict XVI, Fr. Alvaro and the Legionaries of Christ priests and Consecrated Men and Women of Regnum Christi so they could see the continuous number of prayers and sacrifices offered for them and the whole Catholic Church.

    Not our will, but God’s Will be done. Let us entrust this into the hands of Our Mother.”


    God Bless, you are all in my prayers.

    Yours in Christ and the Movement,

    [name]

    Note how "movement-centric" this innitiative is, with no mention of those outside the movement who have suffered, beginning with Maciel's own victims. This is how the petition reads:

    "Considering the painful times that we suffer together as the Mystical Body of Christ and a Regnum Christi family, please join in gathering and assembling spiritual flowers. This spiritual bouquet of prayers and sacrifices will be offered especially for the Legionaries of Christ and the Consecrated Men and Women of Regnum Christi in gratitude for their vocations and as a means of perseverance in faith. Not our will but God's Will be done."

    The website also contains a quotation from a speech Pope Benedict XVI made during his visit last year to the United States. I will quote a line from this speech (that appears on the website):
    Charisms are bestowed by the Holy Spirit, who inspires founders and foundresses, and shapes congregations with a subsequent spiritual heritage."
    Maciel certainly left a heritage.

    update: from "Dominus Flevit" in the comments:

    The spiritual bouquet is quite revealing. The immediate, overriding concern of the LC leadership is clearly the retention of its priests and RC consecrated members ("perseverance").

    The leadership realizes what the Deep Denial crowd does not: A significant number of LC priests are likely to head for the exits over the next several years, if not sooner. Some of them (Fr. Berg?) may even make noisy exits. That in turn will shake what remains of the faith RC members have in the Movement.

    This catastrophe could be averted with a thorough and credible housecleaning, including identification and removal of all LCs who knew or should have known of Maciel's double life. Sadly, the LC leadership doesn't look capable of taking the steps necessary to salvage credibility.

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    Wednesday, February 18, 2009

    Breaking: NW province of Jesuits files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

    More precisely, the Oregon province of the Society of Jesus:

    Associated Press:

    Confronted by scores of lawsuits alleging sex abuse by priests, the Jesuits of the Oregon Province have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The petition was filed Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Portland. The province of the Roman Catholic order listed assets of less than $5 million and liabilities of almost $62 million.

    More from the Oregonian.

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    Pelosi gets more than a photo-op ... a talking-to

    breaking: the Vatican has released a statement following the meeting which just took place:

    Following the General Audience the Holy Father briefly greeted Mrs Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, together with her entourage.

    His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church’s consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in cooperation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development.

    Well, now! {update - this was also included in today's Vatican bulletin.}

    update: Pelosi's follow-up statement, notable for its absences:

    Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued the following statement today following a meeting at the Vatican with his Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI:
    "It is with great joy that my husband, Paul, and I met with his Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI today.
    "In our conversation, I had the opportunity to praise the Church's leadership in fighting poverty, hunger, and global warming, as well as the Holy Father's dedication to religious freedom and his upcoming trip and message to Israel.
    "I was proud to show his Holiness a photograph of my family's Papal visit in the 1950s, as well as a recent picture of our children and grandchildren."

    But what did you think of what the Pope said to you, madame speaker? Or was this a unilateral meeting?

    For reactions:

    update 2: more details emerge, or rather, the lack of them:

    "No journalists were at the 15-minute encounter and news is sparse since the Vatican and the speaker's offices have not released any photos. However, according to their statements it appears the pope and the politician attended two different get-togethers."

    I don't think that's necessarily the case. Typically, the visitor gets a chance to make a statement/gesture, then the pope gets to do his thing. The Vatican communique and Pelosi's follow-up could both be describing the same brief meeting, in other words.

    Some reports are saying there were not even any photographers present - which would surprise me.

    update 3: on a related note, it appears Pelosi and Archbishop Niederauer had their meeting:

    Michael Voris of Real CathlicTV reports today in his daily Vortex column that this meeting between Pelosi and Archbishop Niederauer took place quietly and clandestinely on Sunday, February 8th in a private residence in San Francisco. Realcatholictv.com confirmed this fact with both the Archdiocese of San Francisco and Pelosi’s office in DC. (PewSitter)

    I haven't seen any behavioral change in Pelosi since then.

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    Today: Pelosi meets the Pope

    Associated Press photo, taken during Pope Benedict's visit to Washington DC last year:

    I'm not prone to hyperbole, but when I see this photo, the first thing I think of is "Kiss of Judas."
    Nancy Pelosi, in her record of public service, has continually worked against the common good of humanity as proclaimed and defended by the Catholic Church. She is a vigorous supporter of abortion on demand, and has even claimed that her activity in this regard is a defensible action in light of Church teaching. She touts her Catholic credentials (especially around election time), yet shows no desire to ever act on her Catholic convictions (presuming she has a clue what those are). If you need to read more, I've written scores of posts about her.

    What does she want out of her meeting with Pope Benedict? Street credit. She wants the photo-op to wave in front of her conscientious Catholic questioners, to say "see, the pope doesn't have a problem with me - why do you?"And you know what? She'll probably get what she wants. Evil often does.

    Deal Hudson makes two suggestions to salvage this:

      • Benedict XVI should use the opportunity of the visit to make a strong public statement about the attack on unborn life being waged by the new Congress and the new administration.
      • Pelosi's ordinary, Archbishop Niederhauer of San Francisco, should issue a public statement strongly critical of Pelosi as a Catholic politician. He should include a statement that if she presents herself for communion he will deny it to her.

    The Anchoress says: "Truthfully, there is no down side to this meeting." But I have to disagree: clearly, while grace can make good things come of it, you can't get around the reality that for many Catholics who are unsure about these issues, they will take Pope Benedict's obligation to meet with a U.S. representative as a tacit support for her radical dissenting views on the protection due human life, etc. Again, if the pope doesn't think it's important (so they will falsely conclude), why should I? Even political writers are aware of what is at stake with this meeting.

    Pewsitter.com has an online petition (~2,000 signatures, currently) asking for communion to be withheld from Pelosi which they explain here. Their goal is 1 million signatures. It's a bit of an 11th hour solution.

    Let's pray for Pope Benedict today, and for Nancy Pelosi, and for the children in the balance.

    update: full update on what happened today ... here.

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    Monday, February 16, 2009

    Magister: "The Legion Is in Disarray. Betrayed by its Founder"

    Noted Vatican analyst Sandro Magister picks up on the Maciel scandal:

    "New revelations about the second life of Fr. Marcial Maciel. He was not only guilty of sexual abuse, but also had a lover and a daughter. The Legionaries of Christ are in danger of collapse. Some are calling for an apostolic visitor. Or for direct intervention by the pope"

    Read Magister's column here.

    Most of what Magister says I've already published at some point. A few of his observations:

    [Fr. Corcuera's] authority has been deeply shaken. Fr. Corcuera was always extremely close to the founder. The latter's misconduct inevitably reflects back on him, and on other leaders in the congregation. In part for reasons of personal conduct, therefore, the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ no longer seems to be capable of managing its own recovery. Some of the priests who are highly respected in the congregation – Thomas Berg, Richard Gill, and Thomas Williams – see no solution other than an authoritative intervention by the Holy See.

    ... In order to overcome the latest resistance, in 2006, it took a direct order from Benedict XVI to require Fr. Maciel to retire to a penitential life. The secretary of state at the time, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, defended the founder of the Legionaries to the end.

    Magister's covering of this story is significant because he is widely read inside the Vatican.

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    Saturday, February 14, 2009

    Document: Legionary internal talking points

    The author of "Ex LC Blog" has posted the Legionary of Christ/Regnum Christi internal talking points, saying "The following was sent to every member of Regnum Christi by Legion of Christ Superiors yesterday by email or fax."

    {update: several RC members have emailed me saying they have not received this. So it's unclear precisely how widely these talking points have been distributed.}

    Actually, this has been circulating among Legionary territorial leaders and section leaders at least since Feb. 9th, when I first saw it. Because it is already available on the internet, I will now provide the full PDF file below (click here to view the document full-screen in your internet browser):

    There are so many interesting lines and attitudes in the document that I will not try to excerpt any of them here. But for those who want to pursue the topic further, the document is available to you.

    I think plenty of what we have been hearing over the past 10 days from individual LC/RC members is explained by referencing this memo. Note how they rarely stray from the party line, and do not in fact seem to know anything beyond what this document puts forward.

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    Friday, February 13, 2009

    Flash: Nancy Pelosi to meet with Pope?

    Drudge has a newsflash:
    Rep. John Culberson, TX claims the "stimulus" bill must be urgently voted on today -- because Speaker Nancy Pelosi is leaving at 6:00 PM for an 8 day trip to Europe!

    Culberson made the charge on Houston's KSEV radio.

    Pelosi is hoping to lead a delegation to Europe; there's a meeting with the Pope and an award from an Italian legislative group.

    Calls to Pelosi's spokesman went unreturned.

    In the rushing, Democrats have now broken their promise to have the public see the $790 billion bill for 48 hours before any vote.
    It's been five months since Pelosi promised to meet with her Archbishop. In the meantime, she has found plenty of time to advocate family planning (abortion/contraception/etc) ... and now she plans to meet the pope?!

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    President of Mexican Bishops calls on LC to apologize

    It's taken some time for me to get up to speed with the Maciel situation in Mexico. There is sadly very little cross-over between English and Spanish language journalism. The results of my search, however, do not disappoint.

    To begin with, the President of the Mexican Bishop's Conference (CEM) has called on the Legionaries to apologize to Maciel's victims (underlining mine):

    The Legionaries of Christ will have to ask pardon from the sex-abuse victims of Marcial Maciel, because this would be a sign of reconciliation, said Carlos Aguiar Retes, the president of the Mexican Bishops' Conference. In a statement yesterday, he condemned the fact that Maciel, a priest from Michoacan, led a double life. The president of the Bishops' Conference (CEM) said that yes, the Legionaries should ask pardon from those who denounced Maciel, founder of the Legionaries, for having sexually abused them, "because it certainly helps a lot when a person accepts his responsibility, for this is the principle of reconciliation. In this case the priest has already died and the congregation should make the apology as an institution. This is the principle of reconciliation." (All translations by a reliable AmP reader. Original Spanish text here.)

    Archbishop Retes continues (underlining again mine):

    For Aguiar Retes, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ "was a public person who had his freedom and, lamentably, we now know about this conduct." The Legionaries, the ecclesiastical leader added, have confronted this situation. They were the ones who made the information public. "No other source made this information public," he said, and he clarified that "this revelation was a very great act of courage, which hopefully will help them purify themselves internally." This situation will not affect the works of the religious order which Fr. Marcial Maciel founded, because they have spoken with the truth and "the truth purifies, and since they are doing this with transparency, that will help a lot to heal the wound, since it is undoubtedly a very serious wound."

    Sadly, I do not share the Archbishop's view of the matter at present, unless there are LC Spanish-language apologies and acts of transparency which I have missed.
    Nonetheless, I completely agree with Abp. Retes that accepting responsibility, apologizing and speaking the truth in full transparency are the appropriate actions in this situation - actions that will heal this "very serious wound." I think the Legionary leadership has a long way to go still.
    Here is more from Archbishop Retes, as well as a quick overview of what is being talked about south of the border. This from the Spanish-language magazine Proceso {my comments in brackets}:

    The Catholic Church "did not hide" the sexual affairs of the priest Marcial Maciel, according to astatement made today by Carlos Aguiar Retes, president of the Mexican Bishops' Conference (CEM). {I believe there have been charges in Mexican media that this was a Church cover-up}

    In this way, the highest authority of the Mexican Catholic hierarchy – which brings together more than 100bishops from the country – distanced itself from the signs which were indicating that the Church always covered up for the controversial founder of the Legionaries of Christ.

    In the press conference, Aguiar Retes made this clarification because the Legionaries themselves last week made public the news that Macielhad "at least" one daughter. In last week's edition of the magazine"Proceso," Javier Bravo, the spokesman for the Legionaries in Mexico, did not wish to clarify how many children Marcial Maciel had, nor how many mistresses. {See the incredible lack of transparency at work here? If Maciel had only one mistress, the LC spokesperson should deny multiple affairs. If Maciel had more, the LC spokesperson's silence on the question probably evens out to the same thing in the end.}

    The most widely spread version of the story is that he had a daughter who currently lives in Spain, although also it has come to light that over the course of decades he maintained sexual relations with various devoted women. {There is not a source given for this claim. Again, I am unable to definitively dismiss this rumor because the Legion remains silent on these typs of follow-up questions.}

    A third article in Proceso drops a bomb:

    Javier Bravo, spokesman for the Legionaries in Mexico ... revealed that, even before the death of Marcial Maciel last January 2008, the Vatican already had in its possession an ample documentation about the amorous affairs of Maciel. [He also said that] the Vatican was planning on making this information public, and indicated this to Father Alvaro Corcuera, successor of Maciel at the head of the Legionaries. {note plural "amorous affairs", again.}

    This is simply stunning news if it is true. It contradicts what the Legion has been saying that they found out first and went to the Vatican. It also contradicts the claim that the Legion spontaneously brought this information to its rank-and-file members.
    For if the Legion's hand was indeed "forced" by an understanding that the Vatican was going to make this known anyway, then the Legion was actually granted permission by the Vatican to spread the news in their own way first (and we are witnesses to how that has worked out).
    Most of these above-cited stories have only been out a day or so.
    And I must say, once again, these confusions will continue to exist as long as the Legion maintains its silence.

    {update: it's probably best to take this post with a couple more grains of salt than usual. I'm operating in a language that I don't speak natively and I don't have as sure a grasp on the reliability of sources.}

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    Thursday, February 12, 2009

    Posted: "Grisez's Response to a Critic and a Friend" {AmP Exclusive}

    Dr. Germain Grisez, who has already posted an open letter and a follow-up on these pages, now responds to what he describes as "the nastiest critic and the only serious effort at counterargument that I’ve seen".
    Read his response here.

    update: Dr. Grisez's interventions, in addition to being cited on EWTN's The World Over, have also made it into Canada's Western Catholic Reporter.

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    Noted: Georgia Students/Parents Informed re: Maciel

    The Archdiocese of Atlanta newspaper:

    The most visible presence for [the Legion in Georgia] is Pinecrest Academy, a 900-student independent Catholic school in Cumming. Five Legionaries of Christ priests are on the board of directors of the school, according to its Web site.

    School officials met with a large group of parents on Thursday, Feb. 5, to discuss the news about the order’s founder, Father Marcial Maciel.

    I'm being informed that similar parent-teacher (and then student) conferences are being held at Legion schools across the United States. I haven't heard about any specific content being discussed beyond what the Legion has already admitted to regarding its founder.

    One member's account of the response:
    "The reactions [RC member Vigil] has seen range from “bewilderment, (in) others anger at feeling duped, and (in) still others a certain holy detachment and faith that makes you wonder if they are in denial since unwavering praise of ‘Father Maciel’ was never far from their lips,” he wrote in an e-mail.

    ... Vigil said that despite the scandal, the Catholic practices entailed in his commitment as a member of Regnum Christi are solid and he looks to the Holy See for ongoing evaluation of the soundness of its spirituality."
    Silence is often construed as consent - but is the silence from Rome this time actual consent?

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    What the head of the Legion is saying to members

    This Sunday I was invited to attend a Sunday Mass of healing celebrated by Fr. Alvaro Corcuera, the General Director of the Legionaries of Christ (and direct successor to Marcial Maciel) at a local Catholic parish.

    I have published my observations here.

    I have also published the widely-distributed thoughts of a Regnum Christi member who was in attendance.

    Taken together, they provide both an internal and third-party view of what Fr. Alvaro is saying about the Maciel situation.

    This information is especially helpful because public, official statements by the Legionaries have - up to this point - been very scant.

    Fr. Alvaro often speaks of the Legionary as a family. I publish this with a hope that the promises he has made within the family will also be abided by outside the family.

    update: welcome, UK Telegraph readers. Complete information about the Maciel scandal here.

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    The Maciel scandal in Mexico

    I am sitting on several important updates on what is happening in Mexico with regards to the Maciel scandal. They are very significant and I will strive to have them published sometime today. So stay tuned.

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    Wednesday, February 11, 2009

    Maciel admission timed for SSPX controversy?

    Many people have been asking what prompted the Legionaries to choose this time for publicly acknowledging the veracity of allegations against their founder Maciel.

    Joan Desmond, a widely-published Catholic journalist, is hearing a consistent answer:

    Contacts in Rome, who sought to protect their sources during this sensitive time and would not go on the record, report that the on-going controversy over Bishop Williamson - one of the four schismatic bishops whose excommunication was lifted by the pope, but who still denies the existence of the Holocaust ... continues unabated and has made it difficult to work out an intervention by the Vatican. Only the Americans in the Legion have broken ranks in a noticeable way, attracted the public support of prominent Catholics, and appear committed to commencing a thorough house cleaning of the Legion, followed, possibly, by the "re-forming" of the order with new superiors in place.

    My contacts assert that the convergence of these two big news events--the outrage prompted by the Bishop Willliamson affair, followed shortly afterwards by the new revelations regarding Father Maciel's "double life" -- was no accident: the order's superiors and their ecclesial allies took advantage of the crisis surrounding Bishop Williamson to minimize the impact of the new disclosures regarding Maciel. The Mexican superiors, I'm told, believe the present tempest will blow over and the Legion will pull itself together and go on as before. (The Cathoholic - updated 3:30pm)

    It certainly seems that amidst the hubbub surrounding the SSPX story, coverage of the Maciel scandal has been slim-to-none, except for the notable exceptions chronicled on these pages.
    update: welcome, New Advent readers. Complete coverage of the Maciel scndal here.

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    CNS reporter gushes over Maciel's legacy in Mexico

    Catholic News Service has finally published something regarding the Maciel scandal: a glowing report of Maciel's legacy in his hometown of Cojita, Mexico.

    And when I mean glowing, I do mean glowing. Only two paragraphs talk at all about what Maciel did, the second and the last. Here's one paragraph:
    So when allegations of sexual abuse of young men surfaced against the priest and, more recently, the acknowledgment by the Legionaries of Christ that their founder fathered a child, many in Cotija failed to allow the news to negatively color their views of the late Father Marcial Maciel Degollado.
    Let's be clear: these are "allegations" of sexual abuse of young men only in the sense that we do not know which ones are true. Some of them are true.

    There are 49 words in the above paragraph. The other ~800 are devoted to praise.

    The article ends this way:
    "I think that God should be the final judge," said Rosa Maria Rangel, who runs a cheese store. She added that few in Cotija held negative opinions of Father Maciel, prompting one young employee to object. When asked why she held a negative opinion, Leobardo Medina, 26, responded, "For what he did."
    Again, we need to be clear: no one is claiming to know definitively the final state of Maciel's soul. We are only, in fact, just learning the full extent of his grave earthly sins. It shouldn't be surprising that a man as powerful as Maciel, who was synonymous with the Church to the people who knew him, and about whom these allegations only recently were admitted to as being true in any form ... should end up having "few negative opinions" among the general populace at this point.

    Finally, Leobardo (why the masculine word ending if she is a woman?) has it right: one can hold a negative opinion about Maciel "For what he did." We can have negative opinions about people known to have gravely sinned against and injured their fellow men and women.

    Let's review what Maciel did:
    • Broke his priestly vows in having a sexual relationship with a woman, whom he conceived a child with
    • Evidently misused Legionary funds - monies given to him in trust by the Church
    • Sexually abused young boys in his charge, over an extended period of time
    • Betrayed his fellow Legionary brothers and consecrated lay women through his actions
    • Deceived the members of the movement whenever he did any of the above things

    Any man who does these sorts of things, and dies without ever publicly repenting or seeing to the good of the order he left behind, would give me cause to form a negative opinion about him.

    (Oh, and by the by - the story's author, David Agren, has written for Regnum Christi. I mean, you'd think that factoid would be worth a disclosure, would you not?)

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    John Haldane says "Time for 'God's Rottweiler' to show his bark – and his bite"

    John Haldane, Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews and Consultor to the Pontifical Council for Culture in the Scotsman:
    [Pope Benedict is] a gentle man and not at all the strict and harsh disciplinarian suggested by the tabloid title "God's Rottweiler". In view of recent events, however, it may be that some barking and biting are now called for.

    ...it has been revealed that the founder of another traditionalist Catholic movement, the Legionnaries of Christ, fathered at least one child by a girl of 15 when he was 68. Marcial Maciel had long been the subject of accusations of sexual predation, but his movement produced hundreds of priests and he found favour with John Paul II.
    I've come across these rumors that the woman Maciel impregnated was 15 at the time she became pregnant. Currently, however, I do not find them credible and have strong private evidence that she was not a minor. Once again, however, the Legion's secrecy makes it impossible to definitively dismiss these rumors, so in all likilihood they will continue to spread.

    Anyway, Haldane continues:
    ... [Maciel's] movement, however, was not reformed. Benedict had acted, but the Vatican had not followed through, and members of the Legionnaries behaved as if it were business as usual. So, again, the charge arises: did the Vatican not care or did it not know. Either way, its failure imperils Pope Benedict's project of reform, renewal, and restoration.
    Yes - the current situation is a wound to the universal Church that does not promise to heal itself.

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    Tuesday, February 10, 2009

    Dr. Grisez's Comment on Fr. Berg's Letter {AmP exclusive}

    Dr. Germain Grisez, Flynn Professor of Christian Ethics at Mount Saint Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland, has published his official comment on Fr. Thomas Berg's letter to Regnum Christi members.

    Dr. Grisez asks that this comment, published first here on AmP, be widely distributed.

    Important links:

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    Monday, February 09, 2009

    Text: Letter of Legionary priest in Mexico

    "I am a Legionary of Christ" by Juan Pedro Oriol.

    What this is: "An open letter published in the leading Mexican journal Reforma. It is a letter by a Legionary priest recounting his vocation experience and asking for forgiveness."

    Thanks to an AmP reader for a quick translation from the Spanish (the original spanish text is available at the end of the post linked above).

    We should be aware that, while this story is breaking mostly on English-language blogs in the United States, the Legionaries have an even more active presence in Mexico, where Maciel was born.

    [Photo credit: Religion en Libertad]

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    Sunday, February 08, 2009

    Vatican leaves door open for Legionary intervention

    The substance of this CNA article is that the Vatican is not considering "immediate" action in the wake of the Legionaries' crisis, but the anonymous official does leave the door open:
    The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, headed by Cardinal Franc Rodé, is not considering an immediate intervention in the crisis generated by the recent announcement that the deceased founder of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, Fr. Marcial Maciel, led a double life and fathered a child in the 1980s.
    Cardinal Rode appears a great friend of the Legion. More:
    An official from the Congregation who spoke with Catholic News Agency explained Saturday morning that the dicastery – usually known by its short, inaccurate older name, the Congregation for Religious – has no immediate plans to intervene in the Legion of Christ. However, the official said that intervention could happen in the future in “case of necessity.”
    Well - I think we are there...
    The official explained that the dicastery usually intervenes in religious congregations in two circumstances: when it is requested by the organization itself, or when the internal crisis of an organization is perceived by the Holy See as “impossible to solve by internal means.”
    Interesting that the Legion has evidently not asked for an intervention itself, and George Weigel's piece lays out a strong argument that the Legion cannot solve this problem by internal means.

    Interesting:

    Finally, the official highlighted that the fact that the dicastery is not announcing an intervention “in no way implies a lack of sense of the gravity of the issue.”

    “It just means that any step should be decided according to the principles of charity, prudence and justice, moved by the well being of those affected and the common good of the Church, and not in a rush to respond to short-sighted pressure.”

    First of all, it's good that the official wishes to convey an appreciation of the gravity of the issue, because up until this point, no official Legionary spokesperson has done so.

    Second, the pressures facing the Legion are far more than "short-sighted." I would argue that what has been short-sighted is the response of the Legion to this crisis. At minimum, it would appear to me that the members of Regnum Christi and the Legion are not being well served by their leadership in the short-term, and frankly, that's where they are living.

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    George Weigel calls for Vatican intervention in Legionary scandal

    George Weigel has published an important letter in First Things calling for specific, immediate action to be taken by the Vatican. He finds the official Legionary response, up to this point, to be completely inadequate.

    He asks how the good of Legionary members can be saved:
    It can only be saved if there is full, public disclosure of Fr. Maciel’s perfidies and if there is a root-and-branch examination of possible complicity in those perfidies within the Legion of Christ. That examination must be combined with a brutally frank analysis of the institutional culture in which those perfidies and that complicity unfolded. Only after that kind of moral and institutional audit has been conducted, and has been seen publicly to be a clean audit, can the Legion of Christ, and the broader Church, face the questions of the Legion’s future
    How should this be done specifically? In concrete terms:
    ... as the flailings and failures of the past ten days have made clear, that audit cannot be conducted by the Legion leadership, which is likely beset by a maelstrom of internal and external pressures. It must be mandated by the pope, and it must be conducted by someone responsible to the pope alone—not responsible to the relevant parts of the Vatican bureaucracy, not responsible to the cardinal secretary of state, but responsible to the pope alone. There is simply no other way open to an accounting that will be both scrupulously honest and publicly credible.

    To take an image from corporate law, the Legion of Christ must be immediately put into receivership: A personal delegate, appointed by the pope, must be empowered to take over the governance of the Legion of Christ and to conduct the moral and institutional audit required. The papal delegate would be instructed to report his findings, both interim and final, to the pope alone, and he would be instructed to make recommendations (again, to the pope alone) addressing the possible futures, including dissolution or dissolution-and-reconstitution, of the Legion.
    Weigel goes on to respond to the questions that his proposal may raise.
    Weigel is by far the most prominant Catholic intellectual and Church expert to call for a Vatican intervention in the internal affairs of the Legionaries.
    More as I find it....

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    Noted: Zenit picks up two Legionary letters

    Just to keep abreast of the situation, the Legionaries' premier international news service Zenit has copied Fr. Berg {update - link fixed} and Fr. Alvaro's (the superior of the congregation's) letters. It still surprises me that there has been no official follow-up from the Legion answering the questions that are still unanswered.

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    Saturday, February 07, 2009

    Former LC/RC Spokesman for North America apologizes

    Jay Dunlap was hired by the Legionaries of Christ in 1998 to respond to the first public allegations of Maciel abuse published in the Hartford Courant and later the National Catholic Reporter:

    It is now clear that Father Maciel did in fact abuse his power and abuse young people in his charge. I personally apologize to his victims and to anyone who was misinformed by statements I made, in this forum and in others. How awful for victims to be taken from their families as children, suffer such abuse, and then to be disbelieved!


    This paragraph threw me for a loop (underlining mine):
    Last month, Cardinal Franc Rode, prefect of the Vatican office that oversees religious congregations like the Legionaries, appeared in several Latin American countries encouraging Legionaries and Regnum Christi members to carry on their service to the Church. He did so fully aware of what Father Maciel had done and what the Legionary leadership was doing in response.
    Wait - hold on a second. Cardinal Rode knew what Father Maciel had done? If the cardinal knew a month ago, how did the Legionaries just find out about it? It still seems like we are dealing with conflicting timelines.

    More:
    The Holy See has the extremely difficult task of trying to keep numerous Legionary institutions from collapsing.
    I trust the Holy See realizes that it cannot fulfill this task by only working behind the scenes. Some public statement is necessary.

    Conclusion:
    The survival of these institutions and the good work they have done depends now upon the sustenance of the Holy Spirit, if the organization can be purged of any elements of the culture of deception which enabled Father Maciel to get away with so much for so long. That purging appears to be underway.

    Appears? What information is this based on? I would agree that the most recent statements of Legionary priests have been an improvement upon the ones being made at first, but the leadership of the LC is still maintaining a stony silence.

    Despite all my questions, I found this to be a good apology.

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    Thursday, February 05, 2009

    Photo: Meet Obama's faith-based initiatives appointee


    [Photo: Mike Theiler/European Pressphoto Agency.]

    The news:
    President Barack Obama has named a 26-year-old Pentecostal minister to head the White House office that coordinates outreach to religious and community organizations.

    The White House will announce formally today that Josh DuBois will head the revamped White House Office for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, created by an executive order to be signed by President Obama this morning. (ABC)
    Michael Paulson wrote on article on DuBois here in July '08 and Laurie Goodstein did one on Jan. 28th.

    Considering that DuBois has worked closely with Obama it's safe to presume that he shares Obama's liberal views on abortion, although I haven't been able to find anything explicit. {update - I found something:
    At a recent house party in Cincinnati, 15 Catholic voters packed into a small living room. They snacked on cookies and punch as Mr. DuBois played a DVD of Sen. Obama sitting in front of a fireplace talking about the role of faith in politics. When the short video ended, Mr. DuBois led a discussion about how religious voters can come to terms with voting for a pro-choice Democrat.

    “Abortion is certainly a deeply moral issue, but so is struggling to afford decent health care for your family, or straining to put food on your table,” he recalls telling the group.
    Oh ... this argument sounds sadly familiar.}

    I'm not encouraged by this appointment. And, on a tangent, it's amazing to me that one can write pages and pages about a "figure of faith" like DuBois and barely talk at all about what he actually believes.

    It's like talking about someone recently appointed the new head of the "Government Climate Control Council" and forgetting to mention if the person believes in manmade global warming or not. Seriously - wha?!

    update: Josh runs a blog on Barack Obama's website.

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    Wednesday, February 04, 2009

    Maciel Meltdown: Day 2

    The latest (from newsest --> oldest):

    "We cannot deny the existence of these facts but we cannot go into detail as we respect the privacy of those involved... We have learnt recently of certain aspects of his life that are very hard to understand, aspects of his life that are not appropriate to the life of a priest." (source)

    • Andrew Sullivan picks up my reporting, but gets all the interpretation wrong, as I explain
    • Whispers posts on the recent developments and fills in some of the backstory
    • Associated Press, briefly: "Spokesman Jim Fair ... declined to comment Wednesday about claims on blogs that Maciel fathered a daughter ... The order's Rome headquarters declined to comment."
    • UK blogger Damian Thompson: "The question for this wealthy and well-connected order is: what next? And no one seems to know the answer."
    • Reuters covered the story this morning: "News reports and blogs in the Catholic media have said that Maciel, a Mexican, had lived a double life for many years and members of the order had been told privately that he had an affair and fathered at least one child."

    This post will be updated throughout the day. Stay tuned.

    Yesterday's comprehensive coverage of this story can be viewed here (scroll down the page).

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    Photos: Chicago Cathedral Fire & Cleanup

    This story began my reporting today. It seemed appropriate to bookend with these:







    [Photos 1-3: AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast. Photo 4: AP Photo/Chicago Sun-Times, Brian Jackson]

    The cause? Still unknown:

    About a dozen fire trucks responded to the church at State and Superior streets, near Northwestern University. Firefighters did an "excellent" job keeping the fire from spreading, Langford said, adding that the cause of the blaze was under investigation.

    Archdiocese officials said the five cardinals' hats, or galeros, suspended from the ceiling were drenched but remain intact. Each hat had been raised after a cardinal's death.

    The fire started in an attic area where major repairs were being made. The cathedral had been closed for six months to undergo major structural repairs and had reopened at the end of August, church officials noted. The current work was being done on support beams. (CNN)

    Perhaps I'm being overly dramatic, but after covering the Marciel and SSPX stories so intensly over the last couple days, this Catherdral fire struck me as a metaphor for the trials the Church is currently undergoing. Cardinal George, when asked about his reaction to the fire, said today:
    "Chicago has always bounced back from fires, and I think we'll bounce back from this one," he said.
    Well, the Church has always bounced back from fires, too, and I know she'll bounce back from this one.

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    The other story: Pope Benedict and the SSPX

    My intensive coverage of the Maciel situation put all other stories on the back burner in the past 48 hours.

    But there is something else important happening: the ongoing controversy surrounding Pope Benedict, the SSPX, and Bishop Richard Williamson.

    It's another complicated situation, so I'll try to summarize and shed some lights on where things stand now:

    Liberal Catholic theologian Hermann Haering's call for the pope to step down, I think, is preposterous.

    Things got more serious when German Chancellor Angela Merkel rebuked Pope Benedict and asked him to "clarify unambiguously that there can be no denial and that there must be positive relations with the Jewish community overall."

    The pope's brother, Fr. Georg Ratzinger, shot back: "[the pope] doesn’t need me to defend him. But it angers me how unjust and badly informed the people who are attacking him are."

    I'd of course, agree with Fr. Ratzinger. Of course Pope Benedict supports positive relations with the Jews. He's been working for that his entire ecclesiastical and papal career!

    So how did we get here? Two things: a) bias against the Church and b) admittedly poor handling by the Vatican. This is not the first time the Vatican has badly bungled the handling of a delicate situation, and it is frustrating - to say the least - that this still regularly happens.

    Vatican expert Sandro Magister explains:

    A few days after the events, the lifting of excommunication from the four Lefebvrist bishops is increasingly manifesting itself at the Vatican as a double disaster, of governance and of communication. In the disaster, Pope Benedict XVI found himself to be the one most exposed, and practically alone.

    {Magister reviews Pope Benedict's deep theological understanding and teaching about the issue of SSPX reconciliation, etc.} But little or nothing of this {papal explanation} was stated in the decree issued on January 24 by the Holy See. In the "vulgata" diffused by the media, with this decree the Church of Rome was simply clasping the Lefebvrists to its bosom.

    {Now the twist:} Then, to make the misunderstanding worse, there came the uproar over an interview with one of the four bishops granted clemency, Richard Williamson of England, in which he supported ideas denying the Holocaust.

    In the media all over the world, the news read as follows: the pope clears a Holocaust denier bishop from excommunication, and welcomes him into the Church.

    Magister's hypothesis (underlining mine):
    The question comes naturally: was all of this really inevitable, once the pope had decided to lift the excommunication of the Lefebvrist bishops? Or was the disaster produced by the errors and omissions of the men who are supposed to implement the pope's decisions? The facts point to the second hypothesis.

    The decree revoking the excommunication bears the signature of Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the congregation for bishops. Another cardinal, Darío Castrillón Hoyos, is the president of the pontifical commission "Ecclesia Dei," which, ever since its creation in 1988, has dealt with the followers of Lefebvre. Both of these cardinals have said that they were taken by surprise, after the fact, by the interview with Bishop Williamson, and that they were never aware that he was a Holocaust denier.
    At this point Magister goes on to describe one failing after another. Two main points:
    • "The media release of the decision also seems to have been entirely negligent. The Vatican press office limited itself, on Saturday, January 24, to distributing the text of the decree, in spite of the fact that the news had already leaked out a few days earlier, and a fiery controversy was already growing around the statements denying the Holocaust made by Williamson.... And yet, if nothing of this was done, it was not the fault of the Vatican press office and its director, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, but of the offices of the curia from which they receive their orders. These offices of the curia converge in the secretariat of state."
    • "So then, throughout the entire affair of the lifting of the excommunications for the Lefebvrist bishops, the secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, despite his highly active and outspoken nature, distinguished himself by his absence. His first public comment on the question came on January 28, during a conference in Rome at which he was speaking. But more than words, what were lacking from him were actions equal to the gravity of the situation. Before, during, and after the issuing of the decree. Benedict XVI was left practically alone, and the curia was abandoned to disorder. The fact that Benedict XVI has given up on reforming the curia is now before the eyes of all. But it is conjectured that he compensated for this non-decision by entrusting the leadership of the offices to a tough, dynamic secretary of state, Bertone. Now this conjecture has also been shown to be lacking. "
    Magister's final point:

    "Bertone's personal devotion to Benedict XVI is beyond all doubt. Not so that of the other curia officials, who continue to have free rein. It is possible that some of them deliberately oppose this pontificate. It is certain that most of them simply do not understand it, do not measure up to it."

    Wow, that's alot to take in. Given this state of affairs, it should not surprise us that there has been no official Vatican reaction to other current controversies - notably the Maciel meltdown. Quite simply: they have their hands more than full.

    Magister's analysis jives with John Allen's Jan. 30th column: "The Lefebvrite case: What was the Vatican thinking?":
    On the lecture circuit, I'm sometimes asked for my opinion about the Vatican's communications strategy. My glib answer generally is, "As soon as they have one, I'll be glad to tell you what I think of it."

    The line usually draws a few chuckles. However, this week's furor over the lifting of the excommunication of four traditionalist bishops, including one who's a Holocaust denier, offers a reminder that the lack of PR savvy in Rome is actually no laughing matter. {Read his entire column.}
    While the Vatican Information Service released a brief communique on the subject today, they are also taking more drastic measures, including, apparently, demanding that Bishop Williams recant.

    It's pretty evident that Vatican officials from top to bottom really dropped the ball on this one, and gave the detractors of the Church a clear opportunity of working against her in the court of common opinion. I say this because it's nothing new for people to attack the Church in public, it is something out of the ordinary for Vatican officials to be so pell-mell in their response, up to and including pointing the figure at one another.

    (I think it's worth noting, as Whispers does here, that the release of Bp. Williamson's Swedish TV interview might have been timed to embarrass the pope. Nonetheless, Williamson's record is far older than this interview and the situation could have been avoided altogether.)

    I hope this is a serious reality check. And maybe it's time to hire a couple research assistants. I know how to use Google pretty well.

    And because Pope Benedict is so very alone on this - and unjustly being attacked - I would ask readers to sign this petition to publicly support him.

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    Two LC priests to appear on EWTN this Friday

    This Friday (8pm EST) Fr. Thomas Williams and Fr. Jonathan Morris will be appearing on EWTN's The World Over with Raymond Arroyo. Both priests are well-known authors and TV commentators.
    I understand that the show was planned long before the news came out about Marcial Maciel's pattern of sin and deception. You can watch a live stream of the EWTN feed online here.
    As it stands, this appearances may provide the first opportunity for two prominent Legionary priests to answer questions that have been raised in light of the Maciel revelations, especially if no official response is published by the Legion in the next 48 hours. I'll be watching.

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    Breaking: Chicago Cathedral in Flames

    Fox News:

    The Chicago Fire Department is battling an early morning fire at Holy Name Cathedral, one of the city's landmark churches and the seat of Cardinal Francis George.
    Flames could be seen at three points of the building, including on the roof of the church.

    Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford says the fire hasn't yet spread from the roof to the church's sanctuary but there's a lot of water inside the building.

    Langford says no injuries have been reported as firefighters continue to try to extinguish the blaze on a bitterly cold Chicago morning.

    More:
    The fire was raised to a still-and-box alarm at 5:39 a.m. and further escalated to a 2-11 alarm at 5:55 a.m., according to Rodriguez, who said no injuries have been reported as of 6:10 a.m., but the roof was still burning.

    Flames are coming from the roof of the church, according to a witness on the scene. At least six fire department engines -- three with ladders -- and two ambulances are on the scene .... The rectory is being evacuated, according to police, who said a CTA warming bus is being requested. Police and fire remain on the scene.
    No comment until we have more info.

    update: visit this link for the latest news reports on this story.

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    Tuesday, February 03, 2009

    Edward Peters on what won't, should and could happen to the LCs

    My father, canon lawyer Edward Peters, speaks about the Maciel meltdown and the future of the Legion. I'm excerpting some of the most important points. You can read the rest of his blog entry here.
    • The Legion should (if it can, and I'm not sure it has the self-possession to do this) identify every official who knew of Maciel's canonical crimes or who suspected them, but did nothing (let alone cooperated with them!) and expel them under 1983 CIC 696. Canonical crimes by a number of persons might well have been committed here (see e.g. 1983 CIC 1389); these should be pursued.

    It is almost impossible that Maciel acted alone, without the abetting of at least some associates.

    • Everyone, within the Legion and without, who has publicly attacked the motives and/or character of Maciel's accusers and of Legion critics should, just as publicly, apologize. (Tom Hoppes, a layman who edits the Legion's National Catholic Register was the first, and so far the only, Legion official to offer any apology for the LC's treament of it's critics.)

    If this were any other institution, apologies would be publicly demanded of them. This is a first step towards reconciliation, and an essential stage to begin if the public is to ever trust LC leadership again.

    • the Legion could dissolve itself... the LC priests who might wish to remain together could dissolve the Legion, and reconstitute themselves as a new institute under a dramatically new form of governance (not simply with the correction of some strange points in the Legion rule as occurred under Benedict XVI) and with a substantially new charism.

    This is essentially what I've spoken about in terms of "refounding" the order. Others have made the point that the way of life approved by John Paul II remains in effect. Without addressing that issue directly (I need to do more research), this seems an insuffitient solution for the enormity of the sins perpetrated by the founder, as well as the "structures of sin" he established (and others apparently participated in) which allowed his misdeeds to go undiscovered and unpunished until after his death.

    • What must not happen: Any more language whatsoever from Legion leadership that tries to spin this disaster. Today's pathetic first response must not be repeated.

    We'll be watching.

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    NYT confirms Maciel story: "Founder Led a Double Life"

    The story I highlighted this morning has been picked up by the New York Times:

    The Legionaries of Christ, an influential Roman Catholic religious order, has been shaken by new revelations that its founder, who died a year ago, had an affair with a woman and fathered a daughter just as he and his thriving conservative order were winning the acclaim of Pope John Paul II.

    .... Now the order’s general director, the Rev. Álvaro Corcuera, is quietly visiting its religious communities and seminaries in the United States and informing members that their founder led a double life, current and former Legionaries said.

    I've alluded to allegations that Maciel mispent Legionary monies to fund his double life:
    Father Fichter, once the chief financial officer for the order, said he had informed the Vatican three years ago that every time Father Maciel left Rome, “I always had to give him $10,000 in cash — $5,000 in American dollars and $5,000 in the currency of wherever he was going.”

    Father Fichter added: “As Legionaries, we were taught a very strict poverty; if I went out of town and bought a Bic pen and a chocolate bar, I would have to turn in the receipts. And yet for Father Maciel there was never any accounting. It was always cash, never any paper trail. And because he was this incredible hero to us, we never even questioned it for a second.”
    Statistics:
    The Legionaries, founded in 1941, have grown as the church in many countries has shrunk. It has 800 priests in 22 countries, and 70,000 members worldwide, many of whom are lay people in its affiliate, Regnum Christi.
    AmP published this story at 9AM EST today, confirming rumors that had been circulating privately for many days, and online the evening previous. I will continue to provide comprehensive coverage, as we await the official response of the Legion, public fall-out, and possible Vatican intervention.

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    Legionary reaction to Maciel revelations adequate?

    This morning I confirmed rumors that have been circulating the Catholic blogosphere for several days that Legionaries of Christ founder Fr. Marcial Maciel fathered at least one child and was guilty of leading a "double life."

    In that post I said:
    "....the Legionaries of Christ have some hard decisions to make with regards to how they respond to this crisis concerning the founder. The eyes of the world are on them, and the prayers of the universal Church are with them. It is somewhat encouraging to see that the current head of the LC's personally saw to it that a thorough investigation took place. Now let's hope they follow through on their discoveries."
    I went on to say:
    "... there remains a serious charge to be made about how the Legion has handled the allegations of misconduct against Maciel up to this point. Something along the lines of renouncing Maciel as their spiritual founder or perhaps spiritually "re-founding" the order might well be the appropriate response. For a start."
    Unfortunately, the first response from a Legionary-affiliated official is deeply dissapointing:
    CNA contacted Legionaries of Christ spokesman Jim Fair, but received no specific confirmation of any allegations.
    “We’ve learned some things about our founder’s life that are surprising and difficult to understand,” Fair told CNA on Tuesday.
    “We can confirm that there are aspects of his life that weren’t appropriate for a Catholic priest.
    “Obviously he had human feelings but it remains true that through him we received our charism, which has been approved by the Church.
    “Our commitment remains and we‘re going to go forward and love Christ and serve the Church,” he remarked.
    Fair continues:
    Asked to verify the specific allegations, Fair replied:
    “Fr. Maciel died over a year ago and obviously whatever has happened is between him and God and God’s judgment and mercy, so we’re going to let him take care of that.”
    “I know that there have been rumors about are we somehow denouncing him. Obviously we are not. Fr. Maciel was and always will be the father of the legion.
    “One of the mysteries of our faith is that God sometimes works through flawed human beings.”
    Canon Lawyer Edward Peters (my father, for new readers) responds in a post entitled "Memo to the Legion: We are NOT idiot children":
    "Is this how the Legion of Christ, even today, is going to act when confronted with grave questions of Maciel's whole life? Is Legion leadership really going to continue talking to the Catholic world as if it were inhabited by idiot children? If so, and notwithstanding my deep sadness for the fine Legionaries I know, there really is no hope for the institute."
    I agree. The leadership of the Legion is at a crossroads. They owe it to the souls they serve to forthrightly admit the failings of their founder publicly and then fully confront the consequences of these revelations internally.

    Also, regardless of what the Legionaries do, the Vatican can well be expected to say something as well. This is a pastoral crisis for the members of the Legionaries and Regnum Christi. Rome has the authority and power to compel the Legionaries to change their ways, starting today, and Pope Benedict has already involved himself before in LC affairs, as I outlined in my first post.

    update: and by the way, lest we forget, this is how the Legion announced his death: "[we] announce the departure of [our] beloved founder, Father MARCIAL MACIEL, LC to heaven on January 30, 2008."

    Announcing that your founder is in heaven may need to be revised, in other words. Make no mistake: I pray that he is. But presuming that he is, as a community of Christian believers, does not seem prudent here.

    update 2: Phil Lawler has excellent commentary on the Legionary reaction at Catholic Culture.
    update 3: The New York times has picked-up the story.

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    Pro-abort Daschle out as HHS possibility

    I blogged about this situation earlier this week. Today's news:
    Tom Daschle has withdrawn his nomination to be Health and Human Services secretary.

    That's according to a joint White House statement from President Barack Obama and his former nominee.

    Obama said Tuesday he accepted the withdrawal "with sadness and regret."

    Daschle has been battling for his nomination since it was disclosed he failed to pay more than $120,000 in taxes.

    He said he's withdrawing because he's not a leader who has the full faith of Congress and will be a distraction. (AP)
    Video:


    I wonder who Obama will pick next? Any speculation?

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    Legionaries founder Maciel fathered children, internal investigation reveals

    Welcome, Daily Dish readers - my latest coverage of Legionary founder Marcial Maciel is available here on one page - or scroll down this page for the original story.

    {update 3: Canon Lawyer Edward Peters on what won't, should and could happen to the LCs}

    {update 2: the New York Times has picked-up this story, adding confirmation to this report}

    {update 1: see also my follow-up post: "Legionary reaction to Maciel revelations adequate?"}

    {original story, 9AM EST:}
    Reports of this story have been circulating for several days now, and some figures have even made a veiled mention of its imminent publication.
    They involve new revelations of misconduct by the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Marcial Maciel.
    I'm now receiving multiple confirmations that members of the Legionaries of Christ and its lay branch Regnum Christi are being informed of the findings in their private meetings this week.


    Like it or not, the news is quickly becoming public.

    The Ex LC Blog is claiming that Marcial Maciel is being renounced as the spiritual founder of the Legionaries of Christ, at least in some chapters, due to recent details that have emerged as the result of an internal investigation by the Legionaries {update - this claim is now disputed, of Maciel being "renounced as the spiritual founder, the allegations of misconduct have been confirmed}:

    Today, Fr. Scott Reilly, LC, Territorial Director in Atlanta, Georgia, announced to all those who work in the Territorial Direction of the Legion of Christ, that Marcial Maciel had a mistress, fathered at least one child, and lived a double life. For this reason, the Legion is renouncing him as their spiritual founder.

    Life after LC provides a more comprehensive picture:

    Rumblings began last week about how the Legionaries were gathered in bits and bobs to inform them that the founder was indeed guilty of "certain accusations." The rank and file were told in various places -- some on retreat, others in special meetings. There are some consistent details about the Official Explanation that are trickling in:

    1) Maciel fathered a child who is now in her early 20's;
    2) Maciel offered some money illicitly to his own family;
    3) The current head, Alvaro Corcuera, entertaining his own suspicions, demanded that the case be reopened several years ago;
    4) The health of the Legion depends on denouncing him as founder and moving on.

    I have heard more details in addition (a second child, etc), but in this situation, I tend to think we've already learned enough to make an evaluation. Anything further is simply prurient interest.
    Suffice it to say that Pope Benedict's disciplinary actions against Maciel and interventions in Legionary practice were fully justified, and that the Legionaries of Christ have some hard decisions to make with regards to how they respond to this crisis concerning the founder. The eyes of the world are on them, and the prayers of the universal Church are with them. It is somewhat encouraging to see that the current head of the LC's personally saw to it that a thorough investigation took place. Now let's hope they follow through on their discoveries.

    Other points to consider:
    • There are many good and holy Legionary priests. I have been privileged to know several. The sins of the founder ought never be visited upon their heads, ever. Similarly, the Legionaries of Christ serve the Church in many important ways, these good things they have done must never be ignored.
    • People who entered the Church through contact with the Legionaries of Christ or Regnum Christi, or whose faith life is closely identifiable with the movement, ought not to have their faith in the one true Church of Christ be shaken by the personal faults and failings of Marcial Maciel.
    • However .... there remains a serious charge to be made about how the Legion has handled the allegations of misconduct against Maciel up to this point. Something along the lines of renouncing Maciel as their spiritual founder or perhaps spiritually "re-founding" the order might well be the appropriate response. For a start.
    Related AmP posts from the archives (if you are unaware, I've been covering this for a long time):

    The mainstream media is sure to have a field day on this one. In this storm of coverage, we must not lose sight of our duty as brothers and sisters in Christ to support one another in prayer, and especially to reach out to those hurt and surprised by this news who are part of the Legionaries and Regnum Christi. In these situations we can often become confused and angered, but let us not miss this opportunity to perform spiritual and personal acts of mercy. In all this, a frank admission of the facts at hand are key to moving forward.

    I will be providing continuing coverage of this story as it develops, and will especially await the official response from the Legion.

    {Digg this story, if you want.}

    updates (most recent updates at top):

    • 4:00pm - a full work day after I broke this story, it's starting to get serious attention from other blogs. Rod Dreher weighs in, and notes the strong denial of these allegations that has come from some circles for a long time. Fr. James Martin, SJ, meanwhile speculates over on the America blog what it could mean for the Legionaries to renounce their founder: "It would be as if the Dominicans said, "We're through with St. Dominic."" (Well, Maciel ain't no St. Dominic...)
    • 3:45pm - CNA has managed to track down the Legionary spokesman, Mr. Jim Fair:

    “We’ve learned some things about our founder’s life that are surprising and difficult to understand,” Fair told CNA on Tuesday. "We can confirm that there are aspects of his life that weren’t appropriate for a Catholic priest." Jim Fair goes on to deny that the Legion will denounce Maciel. We'll wait and see about that one. And I agree with Life after RC that this is an inadequate, deeply troubling initial response which I blog about here.

    • 2:30pm - Tom Hoopes, editor of LC-owned National Catholic Register, in Amy's combox:

    "All I want to say is, I’m sorry. I want to say it here, because I defended Fr. Maciel here, and I need to be on the record regarding that defense: I’m sorry, to the victims, who were victims twice, the second time by calumny. I’m sorry, to the Church, which has been damaged. I’m sorry, to those I’ve misled. I did it unwittingly, but this isn’t a time for excuses.

    The Church gave me great, great good in Regnum Christi. The Church did bring justice, and did penalize this man. Thank God for the Church. I seek repentance and forgiveness, and I leave it at that."

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    Monday, February 02, 2009

    U.S. Women Religious to receive Apostolic Visitation

    Recently, the Vatican concluded a comprehensive examination of the seminaries and houses of formation for Priests and male religious. Now it has been announced that a similar procedure will take place for religious sisters in the United States. The Associated Press:

    The Vatican has begun a first-ever comprehensive study of women's religious orders in the United States, four decades into a steep decline in the number of Roman Catholic sisters and nuns in the country.

    The study, ordered by a Vatican congregation in December and announced Friday in Washington, will examine "the quality of the life" of 59,000 members in more than 400 Catholic women's religious institutes, said Sister Eva-Maria Ackerman, a spokeswoman for the study, which is called an apostolic visitation.

    For those interested, Cardinal Franc Rode, who will oversee the Vatican-side of things, has a lengthy text on the topic. There is also an official website for the program.

    How the process will work:

    First, Mother Clare will solicit voluntary input from the superiors general through inviting them to make personal contacts with her in Rome or in the United States. During the second stage, the major superiors in the United States will be asked for information such as statistics, activities and community practices. Selected on-site visits will be made during the third stage. During this time, the sisters will have an opportunity to share with the visitation teams their joys and hopes, challenges and concerns about their lives as women religious in the Church today. The final stage will be the compilation and delivery of a comprehensive and confidential review by Mother Clare to Cardinal Rodé. (PDF file)

    My initial reactions:
    • Check-ups are always a good thing. Broadly speaking, however, female religious orders have not exhibited the same set of problems as many seminaries and houses of formation for male religious did (particularly in recent decades). Nevertheless, accountability to the Vatican and attentiveness to the needs of and concerns about female religious should yield good fruit.
    • The initiative appears well-run at the outset. The website, transparency of the process, etc., are welcome changes of pace from the (sadly) more typical situations of bureaucracy and inneficiency that plague these sort of huge undertakings.

    But that's just me. I'd especially be interested to hear what people closer to the process are thinking, especially religious sisters, although obviously many cloistered orders and sisters in their postulancy stage don't always have access to the internet (or time to fritter away on humble blogs like my own). Still, it's worth a shot.

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    Sunday, February 01, 2009

    Bad news brewing?

    update 3: Legionaries founder Maciel fathered children, could be renounced as spiritual founder.

    So Patrick Madrid says:
    I'm sorry to tell you that some shocking, saddening news about a prominent figure in the Church will soon become publically [sic.] known, perhaps as early as Monday or Tuesday.
    I'm not sure that I see the wisdom of pre-announcing bad news. Best to just let it come, no?

    I mean, I find Mondays distressing enough ... and they always come pre-announced.

    update: through various sources, I now know what this rumor is about. It doesn't pertain to any currently serving member of the Church. And it will be no big surprise to long-time AmP readers. Carry on.

    update 2: I agree with the critique that I handled this information poorly. I violated one of my own rules about reporting "pure gossip." I will provide coverage of the story if/when it actually breaks. My apologies. - AmP.

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    Friday, January 30, 2009

    Breaking: Pro-life, devout Catholic named new RNC chair!

    I'm hearing that it happened just minutes ago: Former Maryland Lt. Gov. (and former state party chairman) Michael Steele has been elected as the new chair of the Republican National Committee.

    So who is he?!

    CollegeNews tells us:

    "Steele is a staunch social conservative: devoutly Catholic, pro-life, anti-embryonic stem cell research, etc."

    Sounds like my kind of guy!

    And no Kmiec-style justifications needed to support him.

    update: WaPo blog:

    The Republican National Committee elected Michael Steele as its first African American chairman today in Washington, a decision that came after an excruciating series of ballots that displayed a level of drama rarely seen in national politics.

    On the sixth and final ballot Steele bested South Carolina Republican party Chairman Katon Dawson 91 to 77.

    "It's time for something completely different and we are going to bring it to them," Steele said after his victory. "This is our opportunity. I cannot do this by myself."

    update 2: I love seeing outcomes so surprising that the media doesn't quite know how to handle it. Associated Press finally has a short breaking news update out the door.

    Remember - you read it on AmP first!

    update 3: FoxNews has his biography:
    "He spent three years as a seminarian in the Order of St. Augustine in preparation for the priesthood, but ultimately chose a career in law instead."

    I'm impressed.

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    Wednesday, January 28, 2009

    Breaking: Israel's chief rabbinate severs Vatican ties

    This is a complicated story, but the latest development has become especially noteworthy:

    Israel's chief rabbinate severed ties with the Vatican on Wednesday to protest a papal decision to reinstate a bishop who publicly denied 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust.

    The Jewish state's highest religious authority sent a letter to the Holy See expressing "sorrow and pain" at the papal decision. "It will be very difficult for the chief rabbinate of Israel to continue its dialogue with the Vatican as before," the letter said. Chief rabbis of both the Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews were parties to the letter.

    The rabbinate, which faxed a copy of the letter to The Associated Press, also canceled a meeting with the Vatican set for March. The rabbinate and the state of Israel have separate ties with the Vatican, and Wednesday's move does not affect state relations.
    Pope Benedict XVI, faced with an uproar over the bishop, said Wednesday he feels "full and indisputable solidarity" with Jews and warned against any denial of the full horror of the Nazi genocide.

    The remarks were his first public comments on the issue since the controversy erupted Saturday. (AP)

    Obviously there are many layers here, many different things going on at once.

    I tend to dislike jumping into stories in "real-time" when there is a significant chance that a little more time will clarify the situation. In the meantime, I've been reading a lot of coverage which I'll quickly summarize from memory:
    • the disputed Swedish TV interview, it appears, was conducted without the knowledge of the Holy See, so there's very little chance the excommunication-lifting announcement went forward with a knowledge that such an incendiary episode had recently taken place
    • the relationship between the Holy See and the four bishops in question is not directly a Jewish-Christian dispute, but the comments in question have overflowed into it
    • Bp. Bernard Fellay, the Superior General of the SSPX, has attempted to gag the offending Bp. Richard Williamson after his anti-semitic comments were made public. The SSPX is now faced internally with a very important decision as to which side they take in the debate
    • My gut reaction is to say that Israel's Rabbis are not handling this affair well, and that Pope Benedict is doing his very best to save a situation complicated by disadvantaged intel

    Hopefully that sheds some light on the situation.

    (oh, and for those who are interested in the original question regarding the ins-and-outs of the original lifting of the excommunications, see Ed Peters' comprehensive treatment of the variables.)

    Papists - please populate the comment box with thoughtful comments and links to informed opinion.

    I'll be watching this story as it develops.

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    Monday, January 26, 2009

    Video: "Pelosi says birth control will help the economy"

    {updated: video added below.}

    What a fine example of a Catholic witness in public office:

    ... not!

    The sordid details:

    Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi boldly defended a move to add birth control funding to the new economic "stimulus" package, claiming "contraception will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government."

    Pelosi, the mother of 5 children and 6 grandchildren, who once said, "Nothing in my life will ever, ever compare to being a mom," seemed to imply babies are somehow a burden on the treasury.

    The revelation came during an exchange Sunday morning on ABC's THIS WEEK.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: Hundreds of millions of dollars to expand family planning services. How is that stimulus?

    PELOSI: Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children's health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those - one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: So no apologies for that?

    PELOSI: No apologies. No. we have to deal with the consequences of the downturn in our economy. (Drudge)

    Pelosi has said so many stupid things before that I didn't think she could shock me still. Well, I was wrong.

    What especially gets me about this statement is her obstinance ("No aplogies. No."). She makes no excuses for her radical contraceptive solution and doesn't even have the good taste to qualify her commitments for such bald-faced legislation. Instead, she's dead-set on this solution. An evil solution.

    Once again, I can't help but note that she's long overdue for her promised sit-down with her bishop.

    143 days, 5 hours, 02 minutes, 33 seconds....

    update: even from an economic point of view, this advice is just plain stupid.

    update 2 (video):

    update 3: Bill Donohue:
    "We have reached a new low when high-ranking public office holders in the federal government cast children as the enemy. But at least it explains their enthusiasm for abortion-on-demand."

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    Tuesday, January 20, 2009

    Breaking: Kennedy Suffers Seizure at Inaugural Lunch

    A traumatic day:
    Sens. Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd both were removed for medical emergencies during President Obama's celebratory inaugural luncheon on Tuesday.

    Kennedy suffered a seizure at the end of the lunch, and a Republican House leadership member said a series of convulsions lasted a while.

    ...Last summer, the Massachusetts Democrat was diagnosed with a life-threatening brain tumor. A source close to the event told FOX News that Kennedy smiled at his friend Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, indicating to both that he was OK. (Fox News)

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    Thursday, January 15, 2009

    Breaking: Vatican report on US Seminaries released

    CNS is first to press:

    An apostolic visitation team concluded that U.S. Catholic seminaries and houses of priestly formation are generally healthy, but recommended a stronger focus on moral theology, increased oversight of seminarians and greater involvement of diocesan bishops in the formation process."

    This visitation has demonstrated that, since the 1990s, a greater sense of stability now prevails in the U.S. seminaries," the report said. "The appointment, over time, of rectors who are wise and faithful to the church has meant a gradual improvement, at least in the diocesan seminaries."

    The report, sparked by the sexual abuse crisis that hit the U.S. church, concluded that seminaries appeared to have made improvements in the area of seminarian morality, most notably with regard to homosexual behavior.

    "Of course, here and there some case or other of immorality -- again, usually homosexual behavior -- continues to show up," the report said. "However, in the main, the superiors now deal with these issues promptly and appropriately."

    The report was dated Dec. 15 and signed by Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, head of the Congregation for Catholic Education, which deals with seminaries. It was published on the Web site of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to coincide with National Vocation Awareness Week, which began Jan. 12.

    You can read the entire report here online (warning: PDF file).

    The Catholic Key has early, and helpful commentary.

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