"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Friday, October 23, 2015

Synod: Disputes Increase and Francis establishes Congregation For Laity

Synod: Disputes Increase and Francis establishes Congregation For Laity

Francis did not give the exact name of the new dicastery but explained that he has taken up the suggestion made by the nine-member Council of Cardinals

At the start of the plenary session of the Synod this afternoon, Pope Francis announced to the Synod Fathers that he is creating a new Vatican Congregation that will merge together the Pontifical Councils of the Laity and the Family, currently led by Cardinal Stranislaw Rylko and Bishop Vincenzo Paglia respectively. The Congregation will have ties with the Pontifical Academy for Life but the latter will not be absorbed by the new dicastery given that it is an independent body that has people of other religious faiths and non believers working within it.

I have decided to establish a new Dicastery with competency for Laity, Family and Life, that will replace the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family.  The Pontifical Academy for Life will be joined to the new Dicastery,” the Pope said in his statement. “To this end, I  have constituted a special commission that will prepare a text delineating canonically the competencies of the new Dicastery. The text will be presented for discussion to the Council of Cardinals at their next meeting in December."

The Pope has taken up the suggestion made by the C9, the nine-member Council of Cardinals that advises him on the reform of the Curia and the government of the universal Church. This solution was already mentioned at the end of 2013, but it was only in the meetings held in recent months that concrete plans were examined and defined.

This marks yet another step along the path of Curia reform. A reform that is not taking place all at once, but progressively, step by step: first with the creation of the Secretariat for the Economy, then with the establishment of the Secretariat for Communications and now, with the introduction of a new Congregation dedicated especially to the family and laity.

Bishops’ dispute over Communion issue rachets up

 Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich-Freising, left, president of the German bishops' conference, joined other German bishops at a press conference at the Vatican after the opening session of the Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 6. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

ROME — The dispute between conservative Cardinal George Pell of Australia and the more liberal German bishops broke out into the open Wednesday, with the Germans saying they felt “dismay and sadness” that Pell had fostered division in the synod with his recent public remarks.
The German bishops favor a proposal put forth by German Cardinal Walter Kasper to allow divorced Catholics who remarried without an annulment of their first marriage to receive Communion, as determined on a case-by-case basis. Pell and other conservatives oppose the idea, fearing it will dilute the Church’s teaching that marriage is indissoluble.
German Cardinal Reinhard Marx said Pell’s recent remarks that set up the disagreement as a battle between supporters of Kasper and followers of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was unhelpful and “contradicts the spirit of cooperation.”
Late Wednesday in Rome, a spokesman for Cardinal Pell told Crux he was “delighted to learn that Marx has explained that there’s no contrast between the Kasper camp and Benedict XVI,” calling it “a welcome surprise.”
The spokesman said Pell added that “everyone was awaiting the recommendations on the synod to the Holy Father with some interest.”
The spat came in the context of the release of reports from the synod’s small-group sessions, clusters of bishops organized by language that discussed issues related to family life. An English-language group led by Irish Archbishop Eamon Martin summed up the general findings of the entire body: division on hot-button issues.
On the Communion for divorced Catholics issue, “the vote was evenly divided,” the group reported.
Regarding pastoral support to gay and lesbian Catholics, the “group was also divided.”
Other reports also say that the small groups remain unable to find general consensus on several areas, with just three days before the 270 bishops gathered in Rome are expected to vote on a final document that will then be sent for consideration to Pope Francis — who holds the only vote that matters.
During the course of the synod, one notion put forward by several bishops, from both the left and right, is to soften language the Church uses about gays, the divorced, and even couples living together outside of marriage. But ideas about how to do that remain elusive.
Another English-language group, led by Pell, for example, said any changes in language must make “the Church’s teaching more comprehensible and accessible.”
But that same report, in sections about homosexuality, used phrases some gay Catholics say are antiquated and offensive, such as “persons with homosexual tendencies” and “a person with same-sex attraction.”

An Italian-speaking group led by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco called for “direct pastoral attention” to families with gay and lesbian members.
At the same time, however, the group condemned “unjustified economic-legislative pressure for introducing laws treating civil unions as equivalent to marriage.”
A German-speaking group, led by Austrian Cardinal Chistoph Schonborn, wrote that when upholding Church doctrine, ministry has sometimes been “harsh” and “merciless,” especially toward single mothers, gays and lesbians, couples cohabiting, and the divorced and remarried.
“We ask these people for forgiveness,” the report states.
Speaking at a press conference, Marx said that all the members of the group voted in favor of proposals in their report. In the German-speaking group is both the Church’s doctrinal czar, Cardinal Gerhard Muller, as well as Kasper, who is pushing for changes on the Communion issue.
Marx said the German bishops favor easing the Communion rule because of questions they get from young people before marriage: “Will you stay with us when we fail?”
“We have to say yes, we will stay with you when you fail,” he said.
The German-speaking group suggested that these issues be addressed through what the Church dubs the internal forum, rather than through the traditional method of annulments that requires documentation and public testimony from the parties involved. Certain cases, the bishops suggested, could be judged behind closed doors, and require the level of confidentiality normally reserved for confession.
When it comes to the synod’s conclusion, some bishops said concrete action must follow.
A Spanish-language group led by Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga said the synod must produce more than “nice words.”
“We have to propose a generous movement, removing many obstacles from the path so that the divorced and remarried can participate more fully in the life of the Church,” the group said. “They can’t be godparents, they can’t be catechists, they can’t teach religion.”
“We need to show that we’ve heard the ‘cry’ of so many people who suffer and cry out, asking to participate as fully as possible in the life of Church,” it continued.
That sentiment was also shared by Bagnasco’s group, which called for “removing some forms of liturgical, educational, and pastoral exclusion that still exist.”
Other groups appeared to reject the notion of opening up the sacrament. The group led by Pell, for example, wrote that while it supports the pope’s efforts to streamline the annulment process, “the majority without full consensus affirmed the current teaching and practice of the Church.”
At least two groups suggested the creation of a commission to study the question of Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, and one group proposed holding a synod specifically about homosexuality.
On Tuesday, bishops listened to a fiery speech from Moscow Patriarch Hilarion, who implied support for Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed for refusing to comply with a court order to issue marriage licenses, citing her personal opposition to same-sex marriage.
Davis’ supporters say she was jailed because her beliefs, and some synod bishops expressed support for the idea of conscientious objection, although they did not cite her case specifically.
An Italian group led by Cardinal Franceso Montenegro said it affirms “the right to conscientious objection in a context like today, where public authorities try to limit it on the basis of a presumed common good.”
The 10 clerics chosen by Pope Francis to summarize the synod’s thoughts into a single document will present a draft to bishops Thursday, who will then debate the text and submit revisions before a final vote on Saturday.

 Oh no! Climate change, indigenous peoples a focus at Parliament of the World’s Religions

Marie Venner | Oct. 20, 2015 | National Catholic Reporter
Since its centennial celebration in 1993, the Parliament of the World’s Religions has met every five to six years around the world. On Monday, the parliament wrapped up its most recent world meeting in Salt Lake City, returning the event to the U.S. for the first time since that ’93 gathering, held in Chicago, also the site of its first gathering in 1893.
Participants to the parliament expected to number 10,000 and represent 80 nations and 50 faiths. It has always been a very large gathering, regularly running from 6,000 to 9,000 participants. As part of this year’s five-day interfaith assembly (Oct. 15-19), the parliament held sessions on religious dialogue and produced six declarations, addressing issues of climate change; hate speech, war and violence; income inequality; the human rights and dignity of women; emerging leaders among the world’s youth; and indigenous peoples.
The practice of producing joint declarations reaches back to the parliament’s past, including the ’93 assembly, which drew up Toward a Global Ethic. Initially drafted by Hans Kung and eventually signed that year by Chicago Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, Toward a Global Ethic made commitments to a culture of nonviolence and respect for life; solidarity and a just economic order; tolerance and a life of truthfulness; and equal rights and partnership between men and women, in addition to harmony among religions. Reading the text today comes across as almost a prelude to Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.”
The declarations emerging in Salt Lake City prominently addressed climate change and the rights of indigenous people.
The Global Catholic Climate Movement, of which I a member, participated and spoke on the importance of the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold for curbing average global temperature rise. The 1.5 degrees mark, though stiffer than the 2 degrees Celsius figure commonly cited by the United Nations, has been studied by scientists, and endorsed by Pope Francis and a group of nine bishops from four continents bishops during the U.N. climate talks last December in Lima, Peru.
In the declaration on climate change, the parliament said that climate change has already caused extensive, damaging impacts that will continue and become more extreme without changes to human behavior.
“Earth is one interconnected whole. What we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves,” it read.
The declaration recommended action to move toward a post-carbon global economy based on renewable energy, while at the same time achieving “fair energy access for all” in order to eradicate global poverty.
“The future we embrace will be a new ecological civilization and a world of peace, justice and sustainability, with the flourishing of the diversity of life. We will build this future as one human family within the greater Earth community,” the declaration said.
Two of the notables speaking at the meeting on the plight of indigenous peoples were filmmaker and author Steven Newcomb and Chief Oren R. Lyons, Jr. A Native American Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Seneca Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, Lyons has won many awards and serves on the board of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development.
Newcomb, whose 2008 book Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery recently led to a movie on the topic, described how key legal opinions over the past two centuries, and even up through the last decade, have cited a series of three papal bulls commonly called the Doctrine of Discovery. These expressly authorized and “blessed” the seizing of the land and natural resources of the indigenous peoples of North and South America — applying a model like that of Abraham and the Canaanites, pagans in the promised land. To this day, indigenous peoples in the U.S. are generally allowed to occupy but not own land, as they lack the same rights and consideration afforded to others.
Chief Lyons said “while they (the white colonialists) were planting flags, we were planting corn.”
Newcomb emphasized that the planting of flags, repeating declarations and notarizing that this occurred “does not overturn thousands and thousands of years of cultural and spiritual interaction with our lands and territories and all our relations, relatives and all forms of life in ecological systems and waterways. These do not disappear. Indeed, they endure.”
More: “Doctrine of Discovery: A scandal in plain sight” (Sept. 5, 2015)
This year, the parliament as a whole has drafted a declaration calling for action on indigenous survival, which includes a call for the Vatican to publically repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery. The declaration said the need for faith communities to stand and speak with indigenous is necessary for the “good of all humanity and the life of our Mother,” taking action to be cognizant of ways in which our system perpetuates injustice.
“‘Reclaiming the Heart of Our Humanity,’ therefore, will rest upon our collective actions,” the declaration said, which must take place at all levels of society.
The declaration calls for commitments to action on and including:
recognition and respect of indigenous peoples’ rights to exist;
an end to the desecration of sacred sites;
love of our earth, by demonstrating and expressing thanksgiving for all it provides;
rejection of the Doctrine of Discovery and Christian dominion;
and the end of violence against indigenous peoples.
In particular, the declaration calls for an end to violence and subjugation of indigenous women and all women, who instead should be honored “as the Earth’s expression of herself and her beauty of creation made manifest among us. Women are life-givers, healers, leaders, and so much more that is central to the wellbeing of any nation.”
Toward the close of the parliament, Paula Palmer, recipient of a 2014 regional U.N. Association-USA International Human Rights Award, led a workshop that developed out of a call to faith communities that came from two very different organizations — the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and the World Council of Churches, which both urged all people of faith to take a deep look at the Doctrine of Discovery.
Palmer has worked since the 1960s helping indigenous peoples across the world record their history and defend their rights and ecosystems. At the parliament, she conducted the 90-minute experiential workshop, which was developed by the Quaker community and has been conducted in many denominations of Christian churches around the U.S. It gently and concisely took participants through U.S. history and invites reflection on where we are from, on the land and spiritually.
The declarations, books, films and experiential workshops from the parliament, some of which can be carried back to home parishes, offer ways to share the experience, prayer and learning with others.

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