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« Reply #300 on: Oct 14, 2014, 06:15 AM »

Vatican: ‘Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer Christians’

Bishops say although Catholicism does not support same-sex marriage, it must find ways of making gay people feel included

Lizzy Davies in Vatican City
The Guardian, Monday 13 October 2014 14.47 BST      

Is this the modern family according to Francis? From gay relationships to extramarital sex, from divorce and remarriage to civil unions, the Roman Catholic church has signalled it is ready to adopt what some see as a markedly more conciliatory tone towards those in “irregular” familial setups.

While clinging to doctrine that considers gay sex wrong and marriage indissoluble, bishops in Rome for the pope’s extraordinary synod on the family endorsed a midway report which said the church should accompany its teachings “with mercy” and focus on the “positive aspects” of different life models.

The document, known as a relatio post disceptationem, received applause when it was read aloud in the synod hall after a week of discussions, due to continue this week. It does not contain any decisions but offers a significant idea of the gathering’s direction of travel. Some Vatican observers said its change in tone on homosexuality and cohabitation was remarkable.

“The document published today by the synod of bishops represents an earthquake, the ‘big one’ that hit after months of smaller tremors,” wrote John Thavis, author of The Vatican Diaries. “The document clearly reflects Pope Francis’s desire to adopt a more merciful pastoral approach on marriage and family issues.”

Referring to the increasing numbers of people choosing to live together before marriage, or to have civil weddings, the bishops spoke of the need to see “the constructive elements” in those options while not viewing them as an equal substitute for Christian marriage. “In such unions, it is possible to grasp authentic family values or at least the wish for them,” they noted.

In a passage entitled “welcoming homosexual persons”, the bishops said that although the church could not support gay marriage, it needed to explore ways of making gay people feel included. “Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities?” the document says.

“Often they wish to encounter a church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?”

In its catechism, the Catholic church brands “homosexual acts … intrinsically disordered” and the pope, while encouraging a more welcoming stance towards gay people, has said nothing that deviates from that.

The relatio, released on Monday, appeared to be an attempt to balance the two factors. “Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions,” the report says, “it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners.”

The Rev James Martin, a Jesuit author, said the words represented “a stunning change” in the way the church spoke of gay people. “The synod is clearly listening to the complex, real-life experiences of Catholics around the world, and seeking to address them with mercy, as Jesus did,” he told the Associated Press.

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« Reply #301 on: Oct 17, 2014, 06:32 AM »

‘Blind reporting’ of abuse allegations in Catholic church defended by officer

Elizabeth Cullen, a police officer for 28 years, breaks down in tears as she defends the practice to Police Integrity Commission

Australian Associated Press, Friday 17 October 2014 08.50 BST   

A senior police officer at the centre of hearings into the force’s relationship with the Catholic church has broken down in tears while defending the practice of “blind reporting” sex abuse.

Inspector Elizabeth Cullen was a member of the Professional Standards Resources Group (PSRG) between 1999 and 2005, a body that supported the church’s Professional Standards Office (PSO).

But Cullen, a police officer for 28 years, told the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) it was not her role to make direct reports to her superiors at the child protection squad about incidents of abuse being handled by the PSO.

Counsel assisting, Kristina Stern, on Friday asked Cullen if sex abuse victims whose cases were brought before the PSO should have been encouraged to talk to police so they could make an informed choice about making a criminal complaint.

“There was an over-arching factor that their wishes be respected,” she said, referring to abuse sufferers who requested privacy while detailing allegations.

Cullen started to cry.

“What right do we have to presume that they can’t make an informed choice on their own,” she said.

Using a system called “blind reporting”, the information about abuse incidents would be given to police without victims’ details. In some cases, the blind report said the victim did not want police involvement when in fact they did.

Cullen, who attended the PSRG meetings on a monthly basis, said she did not see it as her role to be a conduit of information to police.

She prepared the pro-forma “blind reporting” forms that were used by the PSO to pass information to police. But she told the inquiry she was never present when a complaint was taken down.

Stern asked whether as a police officer she should have taken steps to ensure all information was being given about cases. Cullen replied: “No. I don’t think so.

“It was my understanding that information was given to police on all relevant matters.”

Cullen was shown details of a 2001 case seen by the PSRG that contained information about a serial sex offender.

Asked if she advised the group that more details should be given to police, she replied that just because the PSRG meeting minutes did not reflect her advice, it didn’t mean it was not given.

The process of blind reporting worked, she said, and it was not sensible for her to assess every piece of information brought before the PSRG. If she had information that should be given to police, Cullen said she would advise PSO members, Michael Salmon and John Davoren.

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« Reply #302 on: Oct 18, 2014, 05:56 AM »

Pope Faces Key Test with Vote on Divorcees, Gays

by Naharnet Newsdesk
18 October 2014, 09:03

Pope Francis was set to sort his allies from his enemies Saturday with a Vatican vote on a document drafted at the end of a fierce two-week debate over opening the Catholic Church's doors to remarried divorcees and gays.

The vote and accompanying message to the world's Catholics will close a special synod of bishops from around the world which has seen conservatives clash publicly with liberals over a Francis-backed drive to reform the Church by softening its approach to sinners.

A preliminary report on Monday made waves around the world by suggesting the Church should reach out to homosexuals, who have "gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community", outraging traditionalists who had to be reminded by the Vatican that it was a work in progress.

A fresh report Thursday summed up the reactions of 10 working groups of bishops, which mixed declarations of respect for homosexual people with fierce insistence that any opening up to sinners risked implying the Church sanctioned their behavior.

The final document, which will go to a vote, is expected to take into account at least part of the long list of amendments proposed by the bishops, but will be written by a drafting committee made up of perceived progressives appointed by Francis himself.

The fallout in the corridors of power, which Boston Globe Vatican expert John Allen described as "like a daytime soap opera", has left religious watchers wondering just how close the vote will be -- if the document passes at all.

"The Synod splits over gays and divorcees: there's a risk of an anti-pope vote," read a headline by Franca Giansoldati, Vatican expert for Italy's Il Messaggero daily, which described the vote as "a nasty test for Pope Francis."

"The risks are high. If the amendments are not inserted in the text the biggest surprise could come from the vote. The majority, for now, do not seem to be in favor -- and the count could prove fatal," she said.

- Possible 'revolution' -

Francis has called for the Church to take a more merciful approach to unwed mothers, remarried divorcees and gay people, famously saying of homosexual people, "Who am I to judge?"

German cardinal Walter Kasper, an ally of the pope's who has been pushing for reform, has said he believes the "majority" of those taking part in the synod are open to change.

But critical bishops have said the initial document placed "too much emphasis on the problems facing the family" and should instead focus on the positive aspects of lives lived according to the rules of the Church.

"Many bishops have asked that the document be thoroughly re-written. There have been such a number of negative reactions that the risk is it won't pass the vote unless its heavily revised," Marco Tosatti, who writes for La Stampa's Vatican Insider, told AFP.

"However, such are the number of proposed amendments that it would be extraordinary if it was not overhauled," he said.

The vote will reflect the attitude of the top rungs of the Church towards reform -- and ultimately towards Francis's rule, which has been coloured since his election in March last year by a determination to show the more humane side of the centuries-old institution.

This synod will be followed by a year of further consultations and a follow-up questionnaire will be sent out to diocese around the world. A second, larger synod will then be held in October 2015.

After that, the results will be handed to the 77-year-old Argentinian pope, who will have the final say in outlining the Church's stance on family matters.

Adolfo Nicolas, superior general of the Society of Jesus -- to which Francis belongs -- told the I.Media religious news agency to watch out for a possible "revolution" a year from now.

Source: Agence France Presse

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« Reply #303 on: Oct 19, 2014, 05:50 AM »

Controversial conservative cardinal of St. Louis says he was demoted by Pope Francis

Amanda Holpuch, The Guardian
18 Oct 2014 at 13:27 ET   

Cardinal Raymond Burke, the conservative American who holds the top position in the Vatican’s justice system, on Friday told BuzzFeed he was being demoted.

Burke, a former archbishop of St Louis, has publicly challenged Pope Francis on issues including abortion and homosexuality.

A preliminary report from the church’s extraordinary synod on the family, released on Monday, signalled a readiness to adopt a more conciliatory attitude towards homosexuality, divorce and other “irregular” family situations.

More than 200 bishops contributed to the report, which said: “Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities?”

A day later, Burke expressed concern, and said a great number of synod fathers had objected to the contents of the report. He told the Catholic World Herald Francis was “long overdue” in making a definitive statement about suspected changes in the Catholic church.

“The pope, more than anyone else as the pastor of the universal church, is bound to serve the truth,” Burke told Buzzfeed. “The pope is not free to change the church’s teachings with regard to the immorality of homosexual acts or the insolubility of marriage or any other doctrine of the faith.”

Burke told Buzzfeed he was being transferred from his position as prefect of the supreme tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura to be patron of the sovereign military order of Malta, though he said he had not received a formal order. He assumed his role as chief guardian of canon law in June 2008, having been appointed by Pope Benedict XVI.

Benedict also appointed Burke to the Congregation for Bishops in 2009. Four years later, Francis removed Burke and 13 other bishops from the 18-man group. Days after he was removed from that post, in December 2013, Burke criticised Francis in an interview with the Catholic broadcaster EWTN.

“One gets the impression, or it’s interpreted this way in the media, that he thinks we’re talking too much about abortion, too much about the integrity of marriage as between one man and one woman,” Burke said. “But we can never talk enough about that.”

When National Catholic Reporter asked Burke who told him that he was being removed from the Vatican’s justice system, he replied: “Who do you think?”

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« Reply #304 on: Oct 19, 2014, 05:55 AM »

Catholic bishops veto gay-friendly statements leaving Pope Francis the loser

Final report of Roman Catholic extraordinary synod on the family removes talk of ‘welcoming’ gay people

Lizzy Davies in Rome
The Observer, Sunday 19 October 2014   

Pope Francis appeared on Saturday night to have lost out to powerful conservatives in the Roman Catholic church after bishops scrapped language that had been hailed as a historic warming of attitudes towards gay people.

In the final report of an extraordinary synod on the family which has exposed deep divides in the church hierarchy, there is no mention – as there had been in a draft version – of the “gifts and qualities” gay people can offer. Nor is there any recognition of the “precious support” same-sex partners can give each other.

A paragraph entitled “pastoral attention to people of homosexual orientation” – itself a distinctly cooler tone than “welcoming homosexual persons” – refers to church teaching, saying there can be “not even a remote” comparison between gay unions and heterosexual marriage.

“Nevertheless,” it adds, “men and women of homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and sensitivity.” They should not suffer from discrimination, it adds. But the shift in tone is clear. And, in a potentially stark sign of the discomfort provoked among many bishop, even this watered-down passage failed to pass the two-thirds majority needed for it to be approved.

One hundred and eighteen bishops voted for the text and 62 against. A Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, said the voting numbers had been released at the behest of Francis, who wanted the process to be transparent.

Because the names of the bishops were not released, however, it was unclear whether the paragraph’s failure to pass was due to a protest vote by progressive bishops who had wanted to keep more of the original wording.

At any rate, in a speech to the bishops which received a four-minute standing ovation, Francis showed no sign of disappointment, insisting that disagreement and debate was an intrinsic part of the synod process. “Personally I would have been very worried and saddened if there hadn’t been these … animated discussions … if everyone had agreed with one another or had kept silent in a false and acquiescent peace,” he said.

It was the synod’s other highly controversial subject – considering whether Catholics who have divorced and remarried should be allowed to take holy communion – that included the only other sections to fail to muster the necessary two-thirds majority. Walter Kasper, a German cardinal known in media circles as “the pope’s theologian” because of his closeness to Francis, has been the key backer of a move to allow more people access to the sacraments. But, in an indication of how far his proposal was from gaining a consensus among his global peers, the sections dealing with the thorny issue were guarded and merely noted that there was a clear clash of views. “The question will be further explored,” said the report.

Thomas Rosica, Lombardi’s English language assistant, said the sections without two-thirds majorities had not been “completely rejected”. He stressed that it was “not a magisterial document” but “a work in progress” that provided the basis for another synod next autumn.

The final report will come as a blow to those in and outside the church who had hoped a corner might have been turned in the way Catholic leaders discussed and dealt with homosexuality – even if not even the most optimistic of followers had been expecting a change in doctrine, according to which “homosexual acts” are “intrinsically disordered”.

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, a Catholic gay rights group in the United States, said it was “very disappointing that the synod’s final report did not retain the gracious welcome to lesbian and gay people that the draft of the report included”.

“Instead, the bishops have taken a narrow view of pastoral care by defining it simply as opposition to marriage for same-gender couples,” he told Reuters.

The draft released last Monday had been hailed by some church observers and gay rights groups as “a stunning change” in how the Catholic hierarchy talked about gay people. It had been written with a voice that seemed to echo closely Francis’s own, pragmatically pastoral phrase: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?”

Exploring the idea of extending mercy to people considered to be in “irregular” situations, it asked whether the church was capable of offering gay Catholics “a welcoming home” and “fraternal space”, admitting that despite “moral problems” associated with them, “homosexual unions” provided “precious support” to each other.

No sooner had it been released, however, than leading conservatives began to speak out against the text. One, American cardinal Raymond Burke, criticised a lack of transparency, saying the mid-point report had not reflected the diverse views of the whole synod.

“A great number of the Synod Fathers found it objectionable,” he said in an interview.

Burke, a leading doctrinal rigorist in the church who had vocally opposed any move to ease the ban on remarried divorcees taking communion, is currently prefect of the supreme tribunal of the apostolic signatura, the Vatican’s supreme court. But he said on Friday he was to be demoted to a lesser post. Asked by the National Catholic Reporter who had made that decision, he reportedly responded: “Who do you think?”

Vatican observers say that, by calling the first extraordinary synod in nearly three decades and encouraging the nearly 200 bishops taking part to speak their minds during the fortnight-long gathering, Francis, 77, has embraced a radically more collegiate style of church governance than has been seen for decades. But although the Argentinian wanted to listen to what the bishops had to say, he may not always have liked what he heard.

Ever since his election last March, he has made clear his belief that the church needs to become more inclusive and understanding of real people’s lives if it is to survive, let alone grow.

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« Reply #305 on: Oct 19, 2014, 06:05 AM »

Vatican and Vietnam Edge Closer to Restoring Diplomatic Ties

by Naharnet Newsdesk
18 October 2014, 22:46

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung met Pope Francis in Rome Saturday with both saying they were committed to restoring diplomatic relations.

The country's communist regime broke off diplomatic ties with the Vatican in 1975, but both sides have been working on warming relations since 2007.

The meeting marked "an important step in the process of reinforcing relations between the Holy See and Vietnam," a Vatican statement said after the meeting.

The Vatican said it welcomed the support of the Vietnamese authorities for the Catholic community, which makes up around seven per cent of the country's population of 89 million.

During his five-day visit to South Korea in August -- his first trip to Asia -- the pope called for communist countries Vietnam and China, which do not have formal ties with the Vatican, to accept a "dialogue" with Rome, insisting that Catholics did not view Asia with the mentality of "conquerors."

The Vatican had earlier hailed the "positive developments" from talks between the two sides held in Hanoi on September 10 and 11.

The papal nuncio in Singapore, Leopoldo Girelli, has been the Vatican's "non-resident pontifical representative" to Hanoi since 2011.

The pope is keen for the Church to tap into Asia, a continent where the number of Catholics, currently just 3.2 percent of the population, is rocketing.

Source: Agence France Presse

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