Loiola XXI

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Una posible reforma de la Curia Vaticana. La opinión del jesuita Thomas Reese

Columns • Opinion • Thomas Reese: Signs of the Times

If leaked draft for Curia reform is for real, the Vatican is headed for disaster

Pope Francis talks during an audience with the Roman Curia in the Clementina hall at the Vatican on Dec. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Andreas Solaro, Pool)

(RNS) — If there is any truth to the leaks concerning the Vatican’s forthcoming proposal to reform the Curia, it is going to be a disappointment and a disaster.

A draft of the proposal, expected to be published at the end of June, was obtained by a Spanish weekly, Vida Nueva, and as the Vatican has not pushed back on its analysis, the Catholic News Service and other Vatican reporters are taking it seriously.

There are things to like in the Vida Neuva’s report on the proposal, titled “Praedicate evangelium” (“Preach the Gospel”). The document stresses that the Curia is in service to the pope and the college of bishops, not just the pope. This is an attempt to stop the Curia from seeing itself as a power between the pope and the bishops.

The Curia’s work as service is a point Pope Francis has made strongly in his talks to its members who work in the Vatican. Francis realizes that this will require a change in thinking, a change in the culture of the Curia. It is good that service is emphasized in “Praedicate evangelium,” but putting it in writing will not make it happen.

Francis’ view of the Curia is also represented when the alleged draft holds up the Curia as an instrument of evangelization. Evangelization is at the heart of what the church is about under Francis.

As beautiful as this sounds, this will not work. To attempt it is foolish. Central offices do not sell products; they manage people in the field, who sell the products. Similarly, the Curia, which is a bureaucracy, is not an instrument of evangelization. It should support others in their work of evangelization.

This wrapping everything under the mantra of evangelization reminds me of the 1980s, when most U.S. dioceses renamed their chanceries “pastoral centers.” The name change did not make them pastoral. They continued to do exactly the same things as before.

The alleged draft creates a new dicastery or office for evangelization by combining the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples and the Council for the New Evangelization. Subordinated to it will be the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith.

In the Catholic Church, when you hear that two entities are going to be merged, half the time what is really happening is that one of them is being closed. This happens with parishes all the time. My guess is that this is what is going on with the Council for the New Evangelization. Perhaps this is also what is happening to the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith, which was a doctrinal watchdog under earlier papacies. Is the watchdog being retired?

More importantly, whoever is combining these offices appears not to know what the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples actually does. Its principal job is selecting bishops for Africa and Asia and other so-called mission territories. It has more in common with the Congregation for Bishops than the Council for the New Evangelization and the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith.

The plan described in Vida Nueva also fails to understand contemporary management practices. Many bristle at the idea that the church could learn anything from contemporary multinational corporations, but anyone who has studied the history of the Roman Curia knows that it has borrowed ideas from the secular world, including the Roman Empire, the 14th-century French chancellery, royal courts and absolute monarchs. So why not learn from contemporary international entities?

Let me sketch out an alternative reform plan that attempts to learn from modern corporations.

First, keep and strengthen the Secretariat for Economy (finances). Give it real authority to impose contemporary accounting and business practices on Vatican entities. Disobedience should get people fired. Give it control over all money and investments, including those of the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples.

Second, create a human resources office. Under it would be everything involved in the selection, training, continuing education and advancement of anyone in church ministry. This would include the norms for screening candidates, for running seminaries, and for the selection of bishops. Both clerical and lay ministers, including religious, would be included here.

Once personnel and finances are taken care of, the Vatican would need to decide whether it wants to organize the Curia around geographical regions or product lines. The Curia currently is organized both ways and will probably continue to be, but which is emphasized can make a difference.

In an organization based on geography, each continent could have its own office to deal with its countries’ national bishops’ conferences. The continental offices would have the authority to grant exceptions to general laws and to permit experimentation in local churches. This would encourage “subsidiarity and enculturation” — words the church uses to describe decentralization and adaptation to local conditions.

Currently, the church is split up geographically with the Congregation for Oriental Churches responsible for the eastern churches (mostly the Middle East and parts of India and Eastern Europe), the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples handling the mission territories (mostly Africa and Asia), and the rest (Europe and the Americas) overseen by the Congregation for Bishops.

While these offices have great control over the appointment of bishops, they are given little leeway to modify the church’s three product lines for local conditions.

What are the products lines of the church? Word, sacraments and charity.

In the past, the first two were controlled by the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments. CDF had final say over anything to do with doctrine, teaching and theologians. It also carefully supervised ecumenical and interreligious dialogues. When it came to the Word, it was supreme.

Divine Worship controlled the celebration of the Eucharist and other sacraments, including texts, rituals and translations.

These offices allowed little tailoring of worship or teaching to respond to different cultural and religious conditions. Uniformity in products was prized over adaptation to customer preferences.

Charity, the third product line, is spread across a number of offices in the Vatican, including the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples (Propaganda Fide) and the Council Cor Unum. But the Vatican has little control over what was happening in local Catholic charities, which is probably why so much good is being done on the local level.

Finally, what is missing in all this is an office for research and development. Innovation would not be needed if everyone were listening to the church hierarchy with bated breath, if all our Eucharistic celebrations had standing room only and if the poor were having their needs met. If you live in the real world, you know that our 13th-century products are not selling. Time to get creative.

There might also be an office for liaison and dialogue with government officials and leaders of other churches and religions. And with all the problems in the church, there is a need for a department of justice to investigate and prosecute financial and sexual abuses by bishops, priests and others.

Many of my liberal friends think that the way to reform the Curia is by increasing the role of the laity, especially women. But which laity, which women? There are lots of laity, including women, working in conservative chanceries and seminaries across the country. They are sometimes worse than the clerics.

I am not impressed by the reforms described in the leaks. The only hope is that they will throw the Curia into such chaos so that sometime in the future there can be real reform.


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Sínodo: cuatro desafíos para el´éxito del Sínodo. Por Th. Reese S.J.

 

Four challenges for the bishops at synod on young people

October 1, 2018

6 Min Read

In this photo taken with a slow shutter speed, cardinals and bishops arrive in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican for a meeting marking the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Synod of Bishops, on Oct. 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

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(RNS) — The future of the Catholic Church is with the young, which is why Pope Francis has called bishops from all over the world to meet in Rome Oct. 3-28 for a synod on young people. If the church cannot attract and keep young people, it has no future.

This is the 15th general synod since Pope Paul VI called the first one in 1967 as a way to get advice from bishops. Earlier synods have dealt with topics like the family, priesthood, the laity, evangelization, the Eucharist, religious life, and justice and peace. The process involves speeches and small group discussions and usually concludes with nonbinding recommendations.

The church’s future, especially in the developed world, does not look bright. In the United States, great numbers of people are leaving the church and other religious institutions in their teens. Young people are turned off by scandals in the church, the patriarchal and homophobic attitudes of many in the clergy and the involvement of church leaders in conservative politics. They also find the church irrelevant to their lives and frankly boring.

There are at least four challenges that await the bishops attending the synod, whose official title is the 15th General Synod on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment.

First, the bishops need to acknowledge that they don’t have a clue how to evangelize young people. Many young people say they are “spiritual” but not “religious.” In other words, they are thirsty but don’t like what the church is serving. The clergy needs to listen to the young before speaking to the young. And it needs to be a wide range of young people, not just those going to church.

During the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, there was a lot of talk about the “new evangelization,” but for most bishops it was no more than the catechism of the Catholic Church with a smile. It was Pope Francis who made the new evangelization come alive with his stress on God’s love, mercy and compassion and our need to respond to that love by loving our brothers and sisters.

 

Young people greet Pope Francis during an audience for middle schools belonging to the Cavalieri group, which promotes Christian life for youth, in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican on June 2, 2017. (L’ Osservatore Romano via AP)

Bishops and priests need to follow his example and not be afraid to think outside the box. Lectures will not do it. Young people want to be interactive and involved.

The church also needs to learn how to make the Bible come alive for young people. Many of those who leave Catholicism for evangelical churches say they discovered the Bible there. The Catholic Church has the best Scripture scholars in the world, but their work has not impacted sermons or gotten ordinary Catholics to read the Bible.

Second, besides saying that they are spiritual but not religious, young people say that they want community. The irony is that combining spirituality and community is what religion is supposed to be about, but for young people the church is a bureaucratic institution, not a community. They find parishes stifling, judgmental and unwelcoming. Young people must be welcomed and empowered to create their own small Christian communities. Some of these will undoubtedly be virtual communities.

A significant number of young people, both men and women, would like to take a leadership role in the church, but they find it incredible that the priesthood is closed to women and married men. To become less boring, the church needs new blood.

Third, the church also must be relevant to the needs of young people.

Young people today are sensitive to injustice and inequality. In fact, most young people in the world are poor, exploited and living in areas of conflict. The social justice message of the church will resonate with the young who want to challenge the status quo. The church must be a leader in the fight for justice and in the work of reconciliation.

In addition, these young people are concerned about the environment. They and their children will have to live with the consequences of global warming. Francis has pointed the way, but he cannot do it alone.

Finally and not least, the bishops cannot ignore the clerical sex abuse crisis enveloping the church.

In the past, bishops and Vatican officials claimed this was a local problem in the United States. Then it became an “English-speaking” problem as Ireland and Australia blew up. Then it became a Western problem as Europe was engulfed. Now it is exploding in Latin America. Asia and Africa will be next.

It is tragic that bishops in other countries do not learn from the mistakes made by the American bishops.

The sex abuse crisis is a worldwide problem that deserves the attention of the entire church. Although the pope has called a special meeting in February to deal with this crisis, the problem cannot be ignored by the synod.

 

Bishops listen as Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory speaks during a Mass to repent clergy sexual abuse and to pray for molestation victims, on June 14, 2017, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

At a minimum, the synod needs to recognize the problem, support zero tolerance for any priest who abuses a minor and call for the punishment of any bishop who does not remove abusive priests from ministry. There should be no place for sexual predators in the priesthood, including those who prey on seminarians and nuns.

The church has a message relevant to young people; it is just not getting through. Whether the bishops will rise to these challenges remains to be seen.

The synod is composed of around 300 bishops elected from episcopal conferences around the world plus delegates appointed by the pope.

Those elected from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are:

  • Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
  • Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of the USCCB.
  • Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Conn., a member of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.
  • Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis.
  • Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. [After he was elected, the Vatican pointed out the Chaput attends the synod automatically as one of the 15-members of the council of the synod.]

The Americans appointed by Francis are Cardinals Blase J. Cupich of Chicago and Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, N.J. Tobin has since asked to be excused from the meeting so he could deal with the fallout from the sexual abuse crisis in his archdiocese.

 


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El caso Viganó y la necesidad de una adecuada respuesta por parte del Vaticano. Thomas Reese..

Columns • Opinion • Thomas Reese: Signs of the Times

Doubts about Viganò’s accusations aside, Pope Francis needs a better response

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò listens to remarks at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual fall meeting on Nov. 16, 2015, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

(RNS) — It is hard to know what to think of the bombshell dropped by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who released a scalding letter on Sunday (Aug. 26) calling on Pope Francis to resign. Viganò, the former Vatican ambassador to the United States, claims in the letter that Pope Francis knew that recently resigned Cardinal Theodore McCarrick abused seminarians when he was a bishop in New Jersey but nonetheless didn’t punish the cardinal.

The 7,000-word document also accuses about a dozen Vatican cardinals who served in the papacies of John Paul, Benedict and Francis of being part of the coverup.

It might be easy to write Viganò off as a disgruntled employee. He was denied the job he sought under Pope Benedict XVI — president of the governorate of the Vatican City State — and was sent to the United States as papal nuncio, or representative to the U.S. government and the American church. In a 2012 memo to Pope Benedict, which was leaked to the media, Viganò complained that he was being exiled because he had made enemies trying to reform Vatican finances.

Nuncio to the United States is no minor job, but the head of the Vatican government normally becomes a cardinal.

Viganò became even more unhappy with his job as nuncio after the election of Pope Francis, who ignored his recommendations in the appointment of bishops. And although most nuncios to the U.S. later become cardinals, it became clear that he was never going to get a red hat.

It is worth noting that many of the people Viganò accuses are the same people with whom he had conflicts in the Vatican.

Nor is this the first time Viganò has criticized the pope. He joined Cardinal Raymond Burke and others in criticizing the pope’s document on the family, “Amoris Laetitia,” because they thought it diverged from orthodoxy.

Disgruntled employee? Yes. But many whistleblowers are disgruntled employees.

What is more damning are questions about Viganò’s own record regarding the American sex abuse scandal. During legal proceedings against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, a 2014 letter from Viganò was uncovered in which he told an auxiliary bishop to limit an investigation against the local archbishop and to destroy evidence.

Viganò was certainly not known for transparency and accountability while he was nuncio from 2011 to 2016, but now he presents himself as a born-again defender of the abused.

In the letter, Viganò goes after many former and current officials in the Vatican, including the three most recent secretaries of state: cardinals Angelo Sodano, Tarcisio Bertone and Pietro Parolin. Other Vatican cardinals he alleges knew about McCarrick’s abuse include William Levada, Giovanni Battista Re, Marc Ouellet, Leonardo Sandri, Fernando Filoni, Angelo Becciu, Giovanni Lajolo and Dominique Mamberti.

Given how the crimes of Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionairies of Christ, were ignored during the papacy of Pope John Paul II, some of what Viganò says sounds possible. But no evidence is presented.

Interestingly, John Paul escapes Viganò’s criticism. Viganò implies that McCarrick’s appointment to Washington and as a cardinal was the work of Sodano “when John Paul II was already very ill.” Yet McCarrick was appointed archbishop of Washington in 2000, five years before John Paul died. Was John Paul a puppet during his last five years in office? And if McCarrick’s abuse of seminarians was so widely known in John Paul’s curia, it is hard to believe that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger did not know. Did he tell John Paul?

Viganò claims that Re told him that, sometime between 2009 and 2010, Pope Benedict told McCarrick to stop living at a seminary, saying Mass in public, traveling and lecturing.

But there is no evidence to support the claim that McCarrick was sanctioned by Pope Benedict. McCarrick continued to celebrate Mass, travel and lecture throughout the papacy of Benedict. And on his many visits to Rome, he stayed at the North American College, the residence for U.S. seminarians. Anyone who thinks Benedict would tolerate such disobedience doesn’t know Benedict.

Pope Francis, flanked by Vatican spokesperson Greg Burke, listens to a journalist’s question Aug. 26, 2018, during a news conference aboard the flight to Rome at the end of his two-day visit to Ireland. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, Pool)

Viganò claims that he told Pope Francis on June 23, 2013: “Holy Father, I don’t know if you know Cardinal McCarrick, but if you ask the Congregation for Bishops there is a dossier this thick about him. He corrupted generations of seminarians and priests, and Pope Benedict ordered him to withdraw to a life of prayer and penance.” Since Pope Francis allegedly did not listen to him then, Viganò thinks he should resign.

Viganò released his letter as Pope Francis was wrapping up his visit to Ireland. Journalists asked the pope about it during the press conference on the plane headed back to Rome.

“I will not say one word on this,” the pope said, according to a New York Times video. “I think this statement speaks for itself, and you have sufficient journalistic capacity to reach your own conclusions.”

“When time will pass and you’ll draw the conclusions, maybe I will speak,” said Francis. “But I’d like that you do this job in a professional way.”

Of course, many headlines read: “Pope refuses to respond to accusations of coverup.”

The pope was correct to encourage journalists to examine the Viganò document to see what is true and what is not. The press conference was not the place to do a line-by-line critique of the document. Many reporters have in fact examined the document and found its claims wanting.

But what about Viganò’s claim that he told the pope about McCarrick?

Since the pope is the only other witness to this encounter, only he can verify or deny what Viganò said, and refusing to answer that question does not enhance his credibility. The pope’s media advisers should have told him so immediately after the press conference and responded to the reporters with a clarification before they filed their stories.

The answer could have been, “No, he did not say that to the pope.” Or, it could have been: “Yes, he did say that to the pope, but there is no record of the alleged sanctions by Benedict. The pope disregarded the accusations because Viganò had a history of unsubstantiated accusations. And remember, it was Francis who told McCarrick to spend the rest of his life in prayer and penance and took away his red hat.”

Reporters, like most people, like the pope, but they also have a job to do. The Vatican should not make it difficult.

Just as every diocese in the United States needs to do a full and transparent account of clerical sex abuse and each diocese’s response, so too the Vatican must disclose what it knew, when it knew and what it did or did not do. Nothing less will begin the restoration of credibility to the Catholic Church.

(The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of Religion News Service.)


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Los casos de pederastia del clero en US y la crisis de la Iglesia. Por Thomas Reese jesuita

Why the Catholic Church can’t move on from the sex abuse crisis

Catherine Coleman Murphy, center, and Jack Wintermyer, right, protest along with others outside Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul before an Ash Wednesday Mass in Philadelphia on March 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

(RNS) — Many Catholic bishops and priests are frustrated by the continued coverage of the sex abuse crisis in the media. They believe they have fixed the problem and the church should be able to move on.

They argue that since the widespread mishandling of abuse in the Boston Archdiocese was exposed in 2002, the church in the United States has put in place policies and procedures to deal with abuse.

It’s true that many precautions have been taken. Seminarians and priests, as well as employees and volunteers who work with children, must now go through a police background check. Any accusations of abuse must be reported to law enforcement. In some states, clergy are now mandatory reporters and will be prosecuted if they do not report abuse.

Any accusations of abuse must also be reported to a diocesan lay review board. If the board considers the accusation credible, the priest must be suspended while an investigation takes place. While suspended, he cannot do any ministry. The results of that investigation must be presented to the review board, which then makes a recommendation to the bishop.

If there is sufficient evidence of abuse, the priest is permanently suspended, and the case goes to the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, which decides whether to kick him out of the priesthood. If the case is unclear, the congregation might call for a canonical trial, either in the diocese or in Rome. If the priest is found guilty, he is thrown out of the priesthood, with some exceptions for elderly or sick priests. In any case, he would never be returned to ministry.

Critics say that these policies may be in place, but question whether they are being enforced. To read news accounts and grand jury reports, it doesn’t look like it.

The bishops and their defenders point out that almost all of the abuse cases reported in the news and grand jury reports are old cases. Most of the cases in the Pennsylvania grand jury report, for example, were decades old: Of the 300 priests with accusations of abuse, only two had been accused of committing abuse in the last 10 years. Almost half the priests are dead. All are out of ministry.

The bishops also point to the research done by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, which looked at allegations of clerical abuse between 1950 and 2002. It found that “more abuse occurred in the 1970s than any other decade, peaking in 1980.” It showed that the number of cases plummeted in the 1980s and 1990s, long before The Boston Globe’s expose in 2002.

Figure 2.3.1, “The Nature and Scope of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States,” John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 2004

When the John Jay study was published in 2004, critics predicted that as time went on, victims from later periods would come forward showing that the amount of abuse in the later decades was similar to that of earlier periods. The John Jay study acknowledged that possibility.

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate has continued collecting data on abuse since 2004 and reported 8,694 new allegations from 2004-2017. But, it found, “The distribution of cases reported to CARA are nearly identical to the distribution of cases, over time, in John Jay’s results,” according to Mark Gray of CARA. “The accusations continue to fit the historical pattern.”

If the critics were right, there should have been more abuse cases in later years. “We’d expect the trend to move forward in the last 15 years if reporting delays were evident,” writes Gray on his blog 1964, “but this has not been the case. No new wave of allegations similar to the past has occurred to date.”

Of the 8,694 new allegations recorded by CARA since 2004, only 302 were for abuse taking place between 2000 and 2017, an average of 17 per year for the whole country. This is 302 too many, but nothing like the thousands of cases in the past.

Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, 2018

Critics continue to challenge these conclusions, saying that in time new victims will come forward reporting more recent crimes. The bishops’ defenders argue that the data shows that most bishops were quietly beginning to deal with abusive priests in the 1980s and 1990s. By 2002, negligent bishops such as Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston were the exception.

Despite the data, the public impression is of a church incapable of getting its house in order. Only those who carefully read news stories and grand jury reports will notice the dates of when the abuse took place. If a bishop challenges this impression, he is condemned as just not getting it.

The continuing problem, in other words, is not that the precautions aren’t working. It’s that the bishops have forfeited their credibility. People don’t believe a thing the bishops say, and people are not going to let the church move on. Things might have been different if bishops in the past had been more forthcoming, taken responsibility for their actions and resigned.

Law enforcement officials in at least seven states are now launching their own investigations similar to the one in Pennsylvania.

There is only one way the bishops can begin to regain credibility, and that is to give a full and credible account of past abuse. Each diocese must publish the names of priests credibly accused, what they were accused of, when the diocese learned of the abuse, and what the bishop did.

Such a report should not be done by a chancery monsignor. It must be done by someone with credibility in the community— a retired judge, prosecutor, FBI agent or the like. Only when all the information is out will people begin to believe that the church has got things under control.

There is great opposition from bishops, priests and diocesan lawyers to such a full disclosure. But a smart bishop would get this report out before his attorney general comes knocking. In addition, such full disclosure is important in the healing process for victims of abuse. Bishops hurt them by stonewalling and denying their experience. Now it is time for the bishops to validate their experience by full disclosure.


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Severa crítica de Thomas Reese a los autores de un documento del Vaticano sobre economía.

Vatican document on economic ethics is a dismal read on a timely topic

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Pope Francis is framed by the decoration of a street lamp as he recites the Angelus prayer at the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Nov. 19, 2017. (AP/Andrew Medichini)

When I heard that the Vatican was going to issue a document on economics and ethics, I looked forward to reading it and to recommending it to my friends in think tanks, journalism and academia.

Now that I’ve read “Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones” (“Economic and financial issues”), I can’t recommend it to anyone.

It is not that I have major disagreements with its conclusions. Though I do wish the document had more to say about corrupt politicians, that’s not the reason for my disappointment.

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It is simply horribly written.

We’ve been spoiled, perhaps, by the clarity and beauty of Francis’ writing since he became pope. I presumed that the rest of the Roman Curia would follow his example.

Instead, the document released last week (May 18) reads like it was written by an ivory-tower theologian more interested in being obscure than in communicating with the public. In addition, the English translation reads like it was done by Google translation.

Written by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, “Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones” was supposed to give theological backing to Francis’ views on the economy. With friends like this, Francis doesn’t need enemies.

The problem is not just aesthetic. The issues at the heart of this document are the nuts and bolts of economic equity that Francis has made a major theme, and the teaching here should be clear. Meghan Clark, professor of theology and religious studies at St. John’s University, bemoaned the document’s lack of “accessibility to students, professors, and business people.” She felt this was especially sad because “the document rightly calls for greater attention to ethics and making use of social doctrine in business colleges and universities.”

Despite the bad writing, the document does perform two major functions. For one, “it offers a critique of certain aspects of contemporary finance that reflects Catholic Social Teaching’s approach to markets: valuable as long as they are yoked to the common good, destructive when not,” said Vince Miller, who holds the Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture at Dayton University.

Secondly, “it painstakingly grounds this teaching in the thought of John Paul II and Benedict XVI in addition to Francis,” Miller added. This is important within the church because it challenges “the shallow, yet effective narrative that Francis is somehow a radical departure on these topics,” he said.

While acknowledging that “global economic well-being appears to have increased in the second half of the twentieth century with an unprecedented magnitude and speed,” the authors argue that “at the same time inequalities proliferate between various countries and within them.”

To address this inequality, the document calls for economic strategies aimed at quality of life for all, not just greater profits. Profit is illegitimate, says the document, “when it falls short of the objective of the integral promotion of the human person, the universal destination of goods, and the preferential option for the poor.”

In short, people’s well-being ought to come before gross domestic product.

The authors at the Curia also don’t accept the dogma that the market is always right. Rather, “markets know neither how to make the assumptions that allow their smooth running (social coexistence, honesty, trust, safety and security, laws, and so on) nor how to correct those effects and forces that are harmful to human society (inequality, asymmetries, environmental damage, social insecurity, and fraud).”

“Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones” isn’t content to make generalizations about the morality of market dynamics, however. Its authors appear to be aware of current debates over financial regulation aimed at protecting the public. The complexity of financial instruments and contracts, it notes, “puts the buyers in a position inferior to those who commercialize these products.”

Regulations are important, it maintains, to create healthy interactions that unite freedom with the protection of every person, especially the more vulnerable.

Massive deregulation, on the other hand, “creates space not only for moral risk and embezzlement, but also for the rise of the irrational exuberance of the markets, followed first by speculative bubbles, and then by sudden, destructive collapse, and systemic crises.”

The document see dangers in big banks that manage investments along with traditional banking activities. It criticizes questionable activities of financial advisers, who do not put protecting their clients first. The document considers credit default swaps “gambling on the failure of others, which is unacceptable from the ethical point of view.”

It discusses the manipulation of interbank loans (LIBOR) and concludes that “the fact that this could have happened impunitively for many years shows how fragile and exposed to fraud is a financial system not sufficiently controlled by regulations.”

Offshore banking comes under special condemnation in the Vatican document, noting that it is used to avoid taxes, launder dirty money and hide money stolen from poor countries by corrupt politicians.

These are all crucial, and timely, points. Too bad they are hidden by such bad prose.


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La equivocación del Papa en la cuestión de la pederastia en Chile. Comentario de Thomas Reese

‘I have made serious mistakes,’ says pope. ‘I ask forgiveness.’

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Pope Francis lies down in prayer during the Good Friday Passion of Christ Mass inside St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on March 30, 2018. (AP/Andrew Medichini)

The catchphrase “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” was more memorable than the film “Love Story,” where it was uttered twice. At first the words sounded nice, but on reflection they made no sense at all, especially to a Christian.

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Saying you are sorry is itself an expression of love. It can be an expression of sympathy toward someone who is suffering or it can be an expression of regret for having hurt someone.

What could be more loving?

Lawyers often tell their clients never to say they are sorry lest it be taken as an acknowledgment of guilt and liability. During the sexual abuse crisis, Catholic bishops who followed this legal advice got in lots of trouble.

Authority figures often fear admitting mistakes to avoid undermining their credibility. This is why many in the Roman Curia thought Pope John Paul II was crazy when, as part of the celebration of two millennia of Christianity, he decided not only to celebrate the achievements of 2,000 years of Christianity but also to ask for forgiveness for the sins of the church during the same period. Such an admission, they thought, would weaken the authority of the church. After all, if the church made mistakes in the past, it could make mistakes in the future, so why should people follow it?

Of course, the opposite happened. John Paul gained credibility and respect for his honesty.

In his recent letter to Chilean bishops, Pope Francis has admitted he made “grave errors” in judgment in dealing with the sexual abuse crisis there. He had defended Bishop Juan Barros, who was accused of knowing about the abuse done by the Rev. Fernando Karadima but doing nothing about it. Francis said there was no proof. He even accused the bishop’s accusers of “calumny.”

Eventually, Francis did the right thing and sent Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna to investigate. Scicluna has a reputation for being a dogged investigator who follows the evidence. He is the one who got the goods on the Rev. Marcial Maciel, a sexual predator and founder of the Legionaries of Christ.

Scicluna is one of the few clerics trusted by survivors of sexual abuse. His 2,300-page report based on 64 interviews forced the pope to acknowledge with “pain and shame” the “many crucified lives” of those who were victims of abuse.

The pope admitted he was wrong and apologized. This was not a “non-apology apology,” but a full-throated admission that he had messed up.

“I have made serious mistakes in the assessment and perception of the situation,” he wrote. He said this was due to a “lack of truthful and balanced information,” but it was still his mistake.

“I ask forgiveness from all those I offended,” he said, “and I hope to be able to do so personally, in the coming weeks, in the meetings I will have with representatives of the people who were interviewed.”

The pope has asked the Chilean bishops to come to Rome to assist him “in discerning the short, mid- and long-term measures that must be adopted to re-establish ecclesial communion in Chile, with the goal of repairing as much as possible the scandal and re-establishing justice.”

Popes are not supposed to make mistakes. And if they do, the church tends to wait decades — if not centuries — before admitting it. But Francis from the beginning of his papacy has admitted that he is a sinner like every other Christian. He made a mistake, corrected it, asked for forgiveness. That is what it means to be a Christian.

Catholics should remember that priests and their congregations begin every Eucharist with an admission of sins: “I confess to almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.”

In the Catholic Church, love means always having to say you’re sorry.


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Cuándo aprenderán los USA de sus errores en política int.? Thomas Reese jesuita

Aprenderá USA de sus errores del pasado en política int.? Thomas Reese

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The Vietnam War revisited

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U.S. Marines, weary from battling North Vietnamese, rest at the altar of an abandoned Roman Catholic church south of Con Thien in South Vietnam on May 16, 1967. (AP)

When PBS’ documentary “The Vietnam War” first broadcast back in September, I did not want to watch it. I had lived through the war and did not have the stomach to revisit it in a 10-part, 18-hour film, even if it was by the award-winning documentarian Ken Burns, who had done a similar series on the Civil War.

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I finally got the courage to binge-watch the series on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. It seemed an appropriate time for mourning one of the great tragedies of my generation.

I was an early supporter of the war. I knew what communism had done in Russia, Eastern Europe and China. Communist leaders were ruthless in dealing with their political opponents and religious believers. I also believed the domino theory; if Vietnam fell, so would the rest of Southeast Asia. They needed to be stopped. If they were not, there would be a bloodbath in Vietnam, with Catholics on the chopping block.

Despite my interest in politics while in high school, I was not all that well-informed. My source of news was U.S. News and World Report, a weekly magazine with a conservative bent. Once I entered the Jesuit novitiate in 1962, I was cut off from all news because at that time religious formation involved removing a novice from the “world” so that he could focus on spiritual things.

After a four-year news blackout, I arrived at St. Louis University in the summer of 1966, when all hell was breaking loose in both the world and the church. Over the next two years, I watched English enter the liturgy, the escalation of the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, the Chicago convention riots and the election of Richard Nixon, the sexual revolution, Humanae Vitae and more.

Shortly after arriving in St. Louis, I remember looking at the front page of the Post-Dispatch and thinking, “I am going to ignore stories about Vietnam because by the time I am teaching, it will be ancient history.” I was taking 21 hours a semester and couldn’t do everything.

Looking back, I feel guilty for being so stupid and burying myself in books rather than being part of the historic events of my time. I felt it was better to stay focused on getting through my studies as quickly as possible so I could get to work.

But there was something else holding me back. I was frankly confused. I did not know what side I should be on in the debate about the war. I worried about Catholics in Vietnam, and I thought our military and political leaders must know what they were doing.

Ultimately, like other Americans, I turned against the war but shamefully late in the game. The turning point was reading “Vietnam: A Dragon Embattled” by Joseph Buttinger, an account of the French Indochina war. It became clear to me that we were making all the same mistakes the French did. It was clear that our military leaders did not know what they were doing.

But what makes me angrier is that our political leaders were lying to us. This is clearly documented by the PBS documentary. We hear actual recordings of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Nixon secretly expressing their doubts about the war while publicly saying that we were winning and that with just a few thousand more troops victory would be ours. Meanwhile, the outcome of American elections would determine how many more lives would be lost.

When we finally did pull out, the predicted bloodbath did not take place. The communists curtailed religious freedom and human rights, but their goal was political control, not the suppression of religion. When I visited Vietnam as a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, I found Catholic churches full but restricted in their freedom. One government official with whom we met pointed to a Catholic on his staff and bragged that his son went to Loyola University Chicago.

Rather than being part of an international conspiracy with China and Russia against the United States, the Vietnamese see America as a trading partner and a vital ally in their conflicts with China. The domino theory proved false.

Because of Vietnam, many of my generation will never trust our government or military leaders again, and rightly so. Former President George W. Bush took us into another disastrous war in Iraq based on false intelligence. I confess that I hesitated to condemn his war when I was editor of America magazine. What if there really were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? But thankfully my colleagues were unanimous against it and so was then-Pope John Paul II. I figured, if I was going to be wrong, I would rather be wrong with the pope. He was not wrong.

Former President Barack Obama gave us great hope, but even Obama escalated the failed war in Afghanistan and threw Libya into chaos by overthrowing Moammar Gadhafi without having a credible leader to replace him.

Watching “The Vietnam War” is enough to make you weep, not just for the tragedy that was the war but also for our nation that continues making the same mistakes. The United States has not won a war since 1945, the year I was born, yet we still believe our politicians when they say there is a military solution to a foreign policy crisis. And we believe our military leaders when they say they can win a war if we only give them more time and money and troops. We continue to worry about losing credibility if we withdraw.

No president wants to admit that we have wasted lives and treasure in Iraq and Afghanistan to no purpose. Nixon got us out of Vietnam by lying to us, by telling us that the South Vietnamese were ready to defend themselves. Eventually another president, perhaps Donald Trump, will have to do the same in the Middle East. Meanwhile, we continue to muddle along.

Why are we incapable as a nation of learning from our history and our mistakes?