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Commentary: The pope’s next steps on sexual abuse in Chile

Denver, Colo., May 18, 2018 / 12:13 pm (CNA).- After meeting with him for three days, and reading his reflections on the problem of clerical sexual abuse in their country, 34 Chilean bishops submitted their resignation to Pope Francis Friday.

The pope is unlikely to accept all their resignations. He is likely to accept resignations from those at the center of Chile’s sexual abuse scandal, and those whom he has accused of destroying documents, mishandling abuse-related investigations, and moving priests accused of malfeasance from parish to parish, rather than handling the problem.

It is, for any Catholic, discouraging to read that shepherds, entrusted with the salvation of souls, would do such things. But to American Catholics it is not surprising- the illusion that bishops are above such things was shattered for most U.S. Catholics by the sexual abuse scandals of 2002.

Sexual abuse is not unique to the Catholic Church. In fact, there is not even evidence that sexual abuse is more likely to occur in a Catholic setting than in another context- in the U.S., children are sexually abused in public schools with startling regularity, and an appalling number of children are sexually abused or assaulted by their own family members.

But when the Church is implicated in a scandal like this, she loses the credibility to decry the evil of sexual assault against children. She also diminishes, to many people, the claim that grace fosters righteousness. Sexual abuse in the Church is a counter-witness to the Gospel’s claims, and a foil to the evangelical witness of Catholics striving for holiness.

Because of what she claims, moral behavior is expected of the Church and her leaders. When those leaders harm children, or fail to take such harm seriously, they give real and dispiriting scandal.

It is refreshing that Francis chastised the Chilean bishops for “serious negligence,” and for the clericalist attitudes that fostered it. Accepting the resignations of negligent bishops, and perhaps subjecting some of them to canonical trials, may begin to restore the credibility of the Church in Chile- a place where parishes have been set to fire and protests outside the apostolic nunciature have been violent.

Accepting some resignations might also help to restore the pope’s credibility on this issue- damaged by years of fervently denying some parts of the problem, by his accusations of “calumny” against victims, and by the revelation that he was informed of credible allegations against a sitting bishop in 2015, and did not act until a media spectacle earlier this year compelled him to.

But accepting resignations won’t solve systemic problems regarding sexual abuse in the life of the Church. Nor, actually, would penal trials, undertaken through a process for allegations of episcopal negligence established by Francis in 2016, and not yet put to use. Such trials might restore justice and repair scandal in individual cases. They might even serve to reform offenders, which is among the purposes of criminal justice. But the issue of clerical sexual abuse is broader than individual cases.

It is encouraging that Francis has called for systemic change for the Church in Chile - a systemic change that is likely needed in many parts of the world. It is particularly encouraging that Francis has noted the role seminaries play in preventing abuse, especially by screening out candidates with immature or gravely disordered sexuality.

The call for change is familiar to Americans, who have become accustomed to measures designed to place child protection at the fore.

In 2002, the U.S. bishops promulgated norms for addressing allegations of sexual abuse, and a “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”

Those documents emphasized the importance of referring allegations to civil authorities, and  called for background checks for adults in regular contact with children, training designed to promote vigilance about unseemly situations, and lay review boards involved, mandatorily, in the process of investigating allegations that minors or vulnerable adults have been abused.

Of course, such measures are themselves subject to abuse, to overreach, to scapegoating, or to becoming a procedural veneer aimed at restoring credibility, without being taken seriously enough to prevent the scourge of child abuse. The U.S. approach is not perfect, and some parts are in need of rather serious reform.

Nevertheless, without a plan to change the praxis and culture of the Church, replacing negligent bishops won’t prevent the possibility of sexual abuse in Chile, or anywhere. Those Chilean bishops who remain in office must return to their country and begin developing their own plan - it must be thorough, direct, and just - and then they must have the humility to implement it seriously.

Other regions in the Church would be wise to begin doing the same - no place is immune from the problem of sexual abuse.

But the Chilean bishops are not the only ones with work to do after their historic meeting with the Holy Father. In the Church, the pope exercises supreme, full, immediate, and universal power. He is a figure without parallel in any other institution. He always has the authority to act, and the buck usually stops with him.

The pope thus has questions to answer about his own responsibility for the Chilean abuse scandal. Of course, he has apologized for his “serious errors” in judgment, and now he has called for change in Chile. But do victims- and parents- deserve that he account for those serious errors?

Is it yet understood how he could have received credible allegations in 2015, and discounted them until a media scandal in 2018? Was the pope misled? How? What has he learned from his own “serious errors?” How will he ensure they are not repeated?

The pope told the Chilean bishops that “unacceptable abuses of power, of conscience and of sexuality” have diminished the prophetic vigor of the Church in Chile. He’s right. Guilty bishops may never again be credible prophets in their own homelands.

But this scandal, compounded by so many sexual abuse scandals of the past, has diminished the prophetic vigor of the Church globally, and the pope has the responsibility to address that. To do so, he likely needs to address his own role in the scandal, and speak transparently about what happened, and why. He needs to demonstrate more than contrition- he needs to give witness to reform of the judgment that caused “serious errors.”

John Henry Newman wrote that God chose men, not angels, to be his priests and bishops, in part so that the entire world could see grace working through sinners, and transforming them. The Church, and the world, need the witness of God’s grace, and the witness of real and authentic transformation.

May the pope, who prayed that all victims of abuse would encounter Christ’s love, give prophetic witness to his own transformative encounter with the Lord.

 

This commentary reflects the opinions of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Catholic News Agency.

All Chilean bishops present resignation, await decision from pope

Vatican City, May 18, 2018 / 06:44 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At the close of their 3-day meeting with Pope Francis, all the bishops of Chile asked victims of the country's abuse scandal for forgiveness and presented written resignations to the pope, who must decide whether to accept or reject them.

In a written May 18 statement, the bishops thanked Pope Francis for his “paternal listening and fraternal correction,” and asked forgiveness for the pain caused to victims, the pope, the People of God and the country due to their “serious errors and omissions.”

The statement was read aloud to the press in Spanish by Bishop Juan Ignacio González of San Bernardo, a member of Chile's national commission for the protection of minors, and in Italian by Bishop Fernando Ramos, auxiliary bishop of Santiago and secretary of the Chilean bishops’ conference.

In the statement, the bishops thanked Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Spanish Msgr. Jordi Bertomeu for the in-depth investigation of the crisis they carried out earlier this year.

They also thanked victims for their “perseverance and courage, despite the enormous personal, spiritual, social and familial difficulties they have had to face, many times in the midst of incomprehension and attacks from their own ecclesial community.”

They asked for the victims' help going forward and said that at the end of their last session with the pope May 17, each of the active bishops presented a written resignation and will await the pope’s decision on whether to accept or reject it.

In comments to the press, González said that for now, the bishops will return to their dioceses and will continue their work as usual until hearing from the pope, who will either reject their resignation, accept it immediately, or put it into effect only once a new bishop is named.

The May 15-17 gathering between the pope and the 34 Chilean bishops, two of whom have already retired, was called for by Pope Francis himself last month following Scicluna and Bertomeu's investigation into abuse cover-up by Church hierarchy in Chile, resulting in a 2,300-page report. To date, that report has not been made public.

The investigation was initially centered around Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, appointed to the diocese in 2015 and accused by at least one victim of covering up abuses of Chilean priest Fernando Karadima.

In 2011, Karadima was convicted by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of abusing minors and sentenced to a life of prayer and solitude. Allegations of cover-up were also made against three other bishops – Andrés Arteaga, Tomislav Koljatic and Horacio Valenzuela – whom Karadima's victims accuse of knowing about Karadima’s crimes and failing to act.

Pope Francis initially defended Barros, saying he had received no evidence of the bishop's guilt, and called accusations against him “calumny” during a trip to Chile in January. However, after receiving Scicluna's report, Francis apologized and asked to meet the bishops and more outspoken survivors in person.

In a scathing letter that was leaked to Chilean television station T13 May 17, Pope Francis skewered the Chilean prelates for a systematic cover-up of abuse involving not only the destruction of documents, but superficial investigations that led to moving accused abusers to other schools or parishes where they had access to children.

Although victims of the Chilean abuse scandals have often been dismissed and accused of making up stories to attack the Church, the pope's letter - which he gave to the bishops during their 3-day meeting - appeared to side with the victims based on the conclusions of Scicluna's report.

In his footnotes, Pope Francis noted how the investigation found that while some religious had been expelled from their orders due to “immoral conduct,” blaming their “criminal acts” on simple weakness, they were then transferred to other parishes or dioceses and given jobs where they had “daily and direct contact with minors.”

The reference was likely not only to Karadima, but to other religious orders in which scandals have recently come to light, including the Salesians, Franciscans and the Marist Brothers.

In the letter, Francis said there had also been serious flaws in handling cases of “delicta graviora,” meaning “grave offenses,” which “corroborate with some of the worrying information that some Roman dicasteries have begun to be aware of.”

These errors, he said, have to do particularly with the reception of complaints and “notitiae crimini,” or information on the crimes, which “in not a few cases have been classified very superficially as improbable,” despite bearing signs of being a serious crime.

In some cases, the pope wrote, it took months for complaints to be investigated, and in others they were not investigated at all. In still other cases, he said, there was clear evidence of “very serious negligence in the protection of children and vulnerable children on the part of bishops and religious superiors.”

Pope Francis said he was “perplexed and ashamed” to have read statements saying Church officials investigating abuse allegations had been pressured, and that in some cases, documents had been destroyed by those in charge of diocesan archives.

These actions, Francis said, constitute “an absolute lack of respect for canonical procedure and, even more, reprehensible practices which must be avoided in the future.”

The problems, the pope said, do not belong to just one group of people, but are the result of a fractured seminary process.

In the case of many abusers, problems had been detected while they were in seminary or the novitiate, he said, noting that Scicluna's investigation contained “serious accusations against some bishops or superiors who sent priests suspected of active homosexuality to these educational institutions.”

In the letter, Pope Francis stressed the need to recognize not only the damage done, but also the underlying causes that led to abuse and cover-up, and to identify ways to repair the pain and suffering many have endured.

He said the problem is not isolated, but everyone is responsible, “I being the first,” and that no one can be exempted by “moving the problem onto the backs of others.”

“We need a change, we know it, we need it and we desire it,” he said, and encouraged bishops to put Christ at the center. He said in recent history, the Chilean Church has lost this focus, putting itself at the center instead of the Lord.

“I don't know what came first,” he said, “if the loss of prophetic strength resulted in the change of center, or the change of center led to the loss of the prophecy that was so characteristic in you.”

He cautioned the bishops against assuming an attitude of “messianism,” in which they seek to promote themselves as “the only interpreters of God's will.” Francis also warned the prelates not to fall into an “elite psychology,” which he said can overshadow the way issues are handled.

“An elite or elitist psychology ends up generating dynamics of division, separation and closed circles that lead to narcissistic and authoritarian spiritualities in which, instead of evangelizing, the important thing is to feel special, different than others, thus making it clear that they are interested in neither Jesus Christ or others,” he said.  

Messianism, elitism and clericalism, Francis continued, “are all synonyms for perversion in ecclesial being; and also synonymous with perversion is the loss of the healthy conscience of knowing that we belong to the holy People of God, which precedes us and which – thanks to God – will succeed us.”

Prayer and sincere recognition of one's failings are necessary for grace to work, he said, adding that this saves a person from “the temptation and pretension of wanting to occupy spaces, and especially in a place that does not correspond to us: that of the Lord.”

The pope stressed that removing people from office “must be done, but it is not enough, we must go further.”

The problems the Chilean Church faces are wider, he said, and because of this “it would be irresponsible on our part not to delve into the roots and structures that allowed these specific events to happen and to be perpetuated.”

“It would be a serious omission on our part not to know the roots,” he said, and “to believe that only the removal of people, without anything more, would generate the health of the body,” calling that “a great fallacy.”

“There is no doubt that it will help, and it is necessary to do it, but I repeat, it is not enough, since this thought would dispense us from the responsibility and participation that corresponds to us within the ecclesial body,” the pope said.

Pope Francis closed his letter asking the bishops to guard against the temptation of wanting to “save their skin” and their reputations, explaining that “the severity of events does not allow us to become expert hunters of scapegoats.”

“All this requires us to have seriousness and co-responsibility to take on the problems as symptoms of an ecclesial whole, which we are invited to analyze, and which also asks us to seek all the necessary mediation so that they are never perpetuated again.”

International Theological Commission document proposes lived synodality

Vatican City, May 18, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA).- A newly released document from the Vatican’s theological advisory commission seeks to explain and advance “synodality,” a concept of particular importance to Pope Francis.
 
The document “Synodality in Life and Mission of the Church,” approved March 2 by the International Theological Commission aims at “pointing out the theological roots of synodality, and to push for a reform that shapes the Church in view of synodality,” one of the theologians who drafted the document told CNA.
 
Msgr. Piero Coda, rector of Italy’s Sophia University, was a member of the sub-commission of the International Theological Commission that drafted the document.
 
Approved by a large majority by the Commission and after that by the pope, the document was published on the International Theological Commission’s website at the beginning of May.
 
The International Theological Commission is a body linked to the Congregation for the Catholic Education, the Vatican’s “ministry of education,” which oversees curricula and studies at Catholic schools and universities.
 
The commission is composed of 30 members, and divided into three subcommission of 10 people.

Msgr. Coda told CNA that “the issue of synodality is ancient as the Church is, so much that St. John Chrysostom, one of the fathers of the Church, stressed that “synod” is the name of the Church, that is that the Church is ‘syn-odos’, walking together.”
 
The concept of synodality is generally understood to represent a process of discernment, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, involving bishops, priests, religious, and lay Catholics, each according to the gifts and charisms of their vocation.  

The new document proposes to give new impetus to  the concept of synodality through structural reforms, including requiring that every diocese establish a diocesan pastoral council composed of priests, religious, and laity. The document also raises the possibility of establishing new procedures for the convocation of the Synod of Bishops, in order to more frequently involve broader Catholic representation in episcopal deliberations
 
After the Second Vatican Council, Blessed Pope Paul VI established the Synod of Bishops, and a greater awareness of the concept of synodality made its way in the Catholic Church.

However, “the notion of synodality, though ancient, has had little attention in Western theological Western discourse. Theological discourse has mostly focused on a series of necessary issues, like that of the primacy of the Pontiff,” Coda said
 
Msgr. Coda said that “synodality was among the three topics proposed for the publication of [a new] document. The set of three topics was: religious freedom in the current international context; the relation between faith and Sacraments, with a special attention to marriage; and synodality.”
 
Synodality immediately garnered consensus, and the document was quickly drafted.
 
Regarding the document’s suggestion to modify the processes of the Synod of Bishops, Msgr. Coda said that “there is no practical suggestion, an eventual new procedure must be invented.”
 
However, he added, “the document raises the issue of a major involvement of the local Churches.”
 
Msgr. Coda explained that “currently, the Synod of Bishops gathers a representation of Bishops from many different episcopal conferences, but the topics discussed at the synod are not always previously discussed with the local Churches.”
 
So, the document proposes “that the bishop will be able to hear from the People of God about possible topics of discussion, before synod assemblies.”
 
According to Msgr. Coda, Pope Francis already adopted a new kind of procedure in that direction when he convoked the pre-Synod of Youth to prepare the 2018 Synod on Youth.
 
The document also proposes that the establishment of diocesan pastoral councils is made mandatory, which means that the proposed reforms are not only theological, but also structural, explained Msgr. Coda.
 
“A reform that has no impact on institutions and structures and is merely theological is no more than noise,” the monsignor underscored.
 
Msgr. Coda noted that “the establishment of presbyterial and pastoral councils was promoted in the Second Vatican Council’s discussion, in order to advance an ecclesiology of communion,” and that this request now needs to be carried forward.
 
He said that the Diocese of Rome’s 1993 diocesan synod established that in “the Church of Rome, the diocesan councils are not only hoped for, but they are mandatory. I do not now how this has been actually put into effect, but this provision is cited in the Diocesan Synod’s final book.”
 
The example of the Church of Rome is important because, Msgr. Coda said, “since the beginning, Rome had this central role as the chair of Peter and Paul. It has always been a prototype for all the Churches. Even the College of Cardinals is born out of the synodality lived in the Church of Rome.”
 
Msgr. Coda said that the theological commission’s document is “not revolutionary, but a normal development” in theological discourse. “A theologically rooted stance on synodality was missing [from the ITC’s work], but there are no ruptures with the past. The document enters the discussion with a certain authoritativeness, and works as a stimulus to propose this reality within the local churches.”
 
The issue of synodality is crucial for ecumenical dialogue, and not by chance it was discussed  recently in the Orthodox -Catholic International Theological Commission, and has been mentioned several recent ecumenical documents.
 
However, Msgr. Coda added, theological discussion has “helped us to understand that synodality and primacy are interdependent."

"In the Church, an exercise of authority with no interaction makes no sense.”  Neither, he said, does theological or pastoral deliberation “without the seal of an apostolic confirmation given by the central authority.”

Analysis: The solid grounds of the CDF’s new economics document

Vatican City, May 17, 2018 / 02:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The notion of “proximate immorality” is the most remarkable news in the just released text by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Dicastery for the Promotion of the Integral Human Development, titled Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones.

 According to the document, proximate immorality occurs in “occasions in which misuse and fraud can be easily produced, especially damaging the less advantageous counterparts.”
 
In the document, the reasoning is particularly applied to banks. In fact, the document reads that “to commercialize certain financial instruments is in itself licit, yet in a situation of inequality it profits from a lack of knowledge or weaknesses on the side of either of the counterparts”, because this is “a violation of due relational propriety, which is already a grave violation from an ethical point of view.”
 
This is the issue: there are structures that are not per se evil, and that they do not work as evil as long as they care for the closest ones. However, in the moment when their goals are set farther afield, and lose sight of the human being, they can become evil.
 
Applied as it is to banks, this theological notion might also be applied to a series of other issues, because anytime proximity is lost there is the possibility of not doing things for the sake of the common good.
 
Beyond this theological notion, which is in a certain way the evolution of the notion of the “structures of sin” denounced by St. John Paul II, the just-released Vatican document on the ethical discernment of financial activity does not come out of the blue. It is, in fact, the latest outcome of a series of documents, lectures and texts that, since the 1980s, have characterized the Church’s reflection on economic issues.
 
In the end, the document provides a moral-theological framework for the economic sphere. It does not criticize free enterprise and the free market, but it emphasizes that moral economic activity, in the end, depends on the way man uses economic tools.
 
The document states that the integral development of every person, of every human community, and of all people, is the ultimate objective of the common good that the Church, as the universal sacrament of salvation proposes.”

The document stresses that “this ethical order, rooted in the wisdom of God, the Creator, is therefore the indispensable foundation for building a worthy community of persons, regulated by laws, and imprinted with a true justice”

And the document claims that the Church recognizes among its primary duties the duty to beckon everyone, with humble certainty, to some clear ethical principles,” because “human rationality searches, in truth and justice, for that solid foundation upon which to support its work with the awareness that without it, its orientation would be weakened.”

The document also emphasizes the missed opportunity of the most recent financial crisis.

A financial crisis, it reads, “could have been the occasion to develop a new economy, more attentive to ethical principles, and a new regulation of financial activities neutralising the predatory and speculative dimensions, and valuing the service of the actual economy.”

It rather brought back “the heights of myopic egoism limited to insufficient terms that, excluding the common good, excludes from its horizons the concern not only to create, but also to spread wealth and eliminate the inequality so pronounced today.”

How can this situation be solved? By going beyond the individualistic and consumerist man, whose profit is based on money.

The human person “actually possesses a peculiarly relational nature and has a sense for the perennial search of an earning and wellbeing that may be total, which is reducible neither to a logic of consumption nor to the economic aspects of life.”

This would also lead to recognize “the validity of economic strategies that aim above all to the global quality of life achieved before that of the indiscriminate growth of profits, toward a wellbeing that, as such, is always integral of the entire person, and of every person,” since “no profit is in fact legitimate 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.”

This is the approach proposed for a “healthy” financial system, with no toxicity, because “an unacceptable phenomenon under the ethical profile is not simple profit, but to avail oneself of an inequality for one’s own advantage, in order to create remarkable profits damaging others”.

The document also notes that cooperation is needed, because “when the human person recognizes the fundamental solidarity that unites he or she with all of humanity, one realizes that he or she cannot keep only for oneself the goods that one possesses.”
 
In the end, the document gives ethical guidance for finance and economics based on “asymmetric relations”, and on an ever deeper drift between poor and rich, weak and strong, and points the finger at incorrect financial practices like offshore financial activities, and at business schools, which are required  “to foresee and provide, within their curriculum of studies, in a manner not marginal or supplementary, but rather well founded, a formational dimension which educates one to understand the economy and finance in the light of a vision of the totality of the human person, avoiding reduction of the person to only some of his or her dimensions.”
 
The CDF’s document also goes more in depth on technical details, but its clear point is that integral human development, solidarity, preferential option for poor have always been the key for the Holy See to approach financial issues.
 
Looking backward, there two documents of the 1980s that frame the CDF’s text.
 
The first is a 1986 document released by the Pontifical Council for the Justice and Peace. The document was titled “At the service of the human community: a human approach to international debt.”
 
The document backed “a reform of financial and monetary institutions” in order to avoid new situations of crisis, It previewed the effects of financial economy and noted that the growing interdependence, that was called to “give rise to new and expanded forms of solidarity that respect the equal dignity of every people”, instead to lead to the dominion of the strongest.
 
It is noteworthy that the 1986 document quoted many times the Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, one of the two documents dedicated to the issue of the Liberation Theology.
 
One of the quotes of the instruction read that “grave economic problems will not be solved but with new funds of solidarity: solidarity of poor among themselves, solidarity with poor, solidarity of workers with workers. Institutions and social organizations, at different levels, must participate to a general model of solidarity.”
 
The second document is a 1985 lecture by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on “Market, Economy and Ethics.”
 
The document, already in 1985, reflected some of the themes of the just released CDF document.
 
Cardinal Ratzinger noted that “the economic inequality between the northern and southern hemispheres of the globe is becoming more and more an inner threat to the cohesion of the human family.”
 
Then, he questioned the theory of the market’s inner logic.
 
Cardinal Ratzinger wrote: “Even if the market economy does rest on the ordering of the individual within a determinate network of rules, it cannot make man superfluous or exclude his moral freedom from the world of economics.”
 
Cardinal Ratzinger tried to reach a balance between the amoral determinism of the capitalistic model and the centrally planned economy of Marxism. And, in the end, he concludes that a lack of ethics “can actually cause the laws of the market to collapse.”
 
When he became pope, Benedict XVI came back to the economic issues. The encyclical Caritas in Veritate which introduced the notion of the economy of gits, was just the last in a series of Benedict’s interventions on economic issues.
 
In particular, Benedict XVI gave a meditation during the 2011 special Synod on the Middle East that addressed the “false divinities” that govern modern times.
 
“Let us remember,” the Pope emeritus said “all the great powers of the history of today. Let us remember the anonymous capital that enslaves man which is no longer in man’s possession but is an anonymous power served by men, by which men are tormented and even killed. It is a destructive power that threatens the world.”
 
From the documents of the 1980s through the 1990s until now, the Holy See’s approach to economic issues has always been ruled by the attention for integral human development and for a human economics, based on relations and not on profit.
 
The ultimate goal has always been Christ, no matter how difficult it can be believed. The CDF / Integral Human Development document is part of a long-standing Vatican approach to handling financial issues.

 

Pope to Chilean bishops: Serve Christ in victims of abuse

Vatican City, May 17, 2018 / 01:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis thanked Chile's bishops for their “frank” dialogue during a 3-day Vatican meeting on the Chilean abuse scandals, and asked them to focus on serving abuse victims as they return to their dioceses and prepare to implement short and long term resolutions.

“After these days of prayer and reflection I invite you to continue building a prophetic Church, which knows how to put what is important at the center: service to the Lord in the hungry, the prisoner, the migrant and the abused,” the pope said in a letter to Chilean bishops.

Published May 17, the letter was given to each of the bishops by Pope Francis during their final meeting earlier that evening.

He thanked the bishops for their presence and for the “frank discernment” they carried out in terms of how to face the “serious acts that have damaged ecclesial communion and weakened the work of the Church in Chile in recent years.”

“In light of these painful events regarding abuse – of minors, of power and of conscience – we have delved into the severity of these [abuses] as well as in the tragic consequences they have had, particularly for the victims,” he said.

Francis reiterated his heartfelt apology to the bishops and the victims, saying he is close to them and is united with them in “one single will and with the firm intention to repair the damages done.”

He also thanked the bishops for the desire they expressed to both adhere to and collaborate in the changes and resolutions that have to be implemented going forward, which will happen on a short, medium and long-term scale in order to “restore justice and ecclesial communion.”

The three-day gathering between the pope and the 34 Chilean bishops began Tuesday with a day of prayer, and closed Thursday at 6:30 p.m., according to a Vatican communique.

Pope Francis summoned the prelates to Rome last month following an in-depth investigation into abuse cover-up by Church hierarchy in Chile. The investigation was conducted by Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna, resulting in a 2,300 page report on the situation.

The investigation was initially centered around Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, who was appointed to the diocese in 2015 and who has been accused by at least one victim of covering up the abuses of Chilean priest Fernando Karadima.

In 2011, Karadima was convicted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith of abusing minors and sentenced to a life of prayer and solitude.

Allegations were also made against three other bishops – Andrés Arteaga, Tomislav Koljatic and Horacio Valenzuela – whom Karadima's victims accuse of also covering the abuser's crimes.

In the past, Francis had defended Barros, saying he had received no evidence of the bishop's guilt, and called accusations against him “calumny” during a trip to Chile in January. However, after receiving Scicluna's report, Francis apologized and asked to meet the bishops and more outspoken survivors in person.

In comments to EWTN News Nightly, Bishop Juan Ignacio González of San Bernardo said the pope was very welcoming to each of them, and had voiced concern about the expenses of their trip, as some bishops come from poorer dioceses.

After reflecting on the text they were given the first day, which Gonzalez said was an ecclesial text “on the mission that the Church in Chile has,” each of the bishops was invited in following sessions to share their thoughts about the text and what struck them.

“The theme of the retreat is more of an ecclesial, theological theme which puts Christ in the center again, those things that we may have forgotten, the other things we have to continue doing,” he said, explaining that all of the bishops, including Barros, were able to speak.

Pope Francis himself didn't say much apart from a few simple things, Gonzalez said, one of which was a comment that the problems they are facing “are not like the problem of Jonas: we're not throwing Jonas down so he gets eaten by the whale while we continue surfing.”

Naturally the pope will have decisions to make and there will be resolutions, but those will come later, the bishop said, adding that the time they had was one of discernment and returning to their heart of their mission, which is Christ.

Vatican offices urge re-calibration of financial markets

Vatican City, May 17, 2018 / 12:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Two Vatican offices called Thursday for the development of new forms of economy and finance with  regulations directed to the common good and respect for human dignity.

“It is especially necessary to provide an ethical reflection on certain aspects of financial transactions which, when operating without the necessary anthropological and moral foundations, have not only produced manifest abuses and injustice, but also demonstrated a capacity to create systemic and worldwide economic crisis,” read Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones, (Economic and financial issues), a document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development presented May 17.

The document, signed Jan. 6, presents considerations for an ethical discernment of economics and finances, and argues that profit should not be an end in itself, but must be pursued with the goal of achieving greater solidarity and a more equitable distribution of wealth.

It presents fundamental considerations, such as the need for ethics for the economy to function correctly, and treats at length of specific ethical issues in financial and economic markets.

It was presented during a press conference by Archbishop Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

Sitting alongside the prefects were professors Leonardo Becchetti from Rome’s Tor Vergata University and Lorenzo Caprio, from the Catholic University of Milan.

Archbishop Ladaria said the aim of the document is to provide a correct anthropological vision for the current market, since “the common good has disappeared” from many areas of economics and finance.

According to Becchetti, the document also identifies a major problem in the global economy: “we have a growing global wealth, which is a good thing, but we have a huge problem of distribution.”

“Regulation is key” to bringing more balance, he said, citing the need to be attentive to a growing dependence on technology while also ensuring people have work. The main problem, he said, “is fiscal,” and he stressed the need to give attention to areas with fewer resources.

The document frequently cites Pope Francis and Benedict XVI, but also includes citations from Pius XI, the Second Vatican Council, and the subsequent magisterium.

Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones cites the growing influence of financial markets, saying there is a need for “appropriate regulation of the dynamics of the markets and, on the other hand, a clear ethical foundation that assures a well-being realized through the quality of human relationships; rather than merely economic mechanisms, which by themselves cannot attain it.”

The recent global financial crisis, the text read, is an invitation to “develop a new economy, more attentive to ethical principles, and a new regulation of financial activities that would neutralize predatory and speculative tendencies and acknowledge the value of the actual economy. ”

What is at stake is the well-being of men and women throughout the planet who risk being excluded and marginalized from true well-being, while a small minority, “indifferent to the condition of the majority, exploits and reserves for itself substantial resources and wealth.”

The document said the time has come to begin recovering “what is authentically human,” and to expand minds and hearts to they recognize what is both true and good, “without which no social, political and economic system could avoid bankruptcy, failure, and, in the long term, collapse.”

Competent and responsible authorities, the text read, have the duty “to develop new forms of economy and of finance, with rules and regulations directed towards the enlargement of the common good and respect for human dignity along the lines indicated by the social teachings of the Church.”

The text flagged erroneous and misguided approaches to the economic and financial markets such as consumerism, materialism, and an over-emphasis on profit, citing them as mentalities which endanger the common good and increase inequalities throughout the world.

“Our contemporary age has shown itself to have a limited vision of the human person, as the person is understood individualistically and predominantly as a consumer, whose profit consists above all in the optimization of his or her monetary income. The human person, however, actually possesses a uniquely relational nature and has a sense for the perennial search for gains and well-being that may be more comprehensive, and not reducible either to a logic of consumption or to the economic aspects of life.”

“No profit is in fact legitimate 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,” the text said, stressing that a legitimate economic system “thrives not merely through the quantitative development of exchange but rather by its capacity to promote the development of the entire person and of every person.”

On this basis, the document urged that universities and business schools provide as a foundation an education by which students will “understand economics and finance in the light of a vision of the totality of the human person”, avoiding “a reductionism that sees only some dimensions of the person.”

Well-being has to be measured by more than just Gross Domestic Product but must also take into account safety and security and “the quality of human relationships and of work. Profit should be pursued but not 'at any cost', nor as a totalizing objective for economic action.”

Profit and solidarity “are no longer antagonists,” the document said. However, “where egoism and vested interests prevail, it is difficult for the human person to to grasp the fruitful interchange between profit and gift, as sin tends to tarnish and rupture this relationship.”

“It is impossible to ignore the fact that the financial industry, because of its pervasiveness … is a place where selfishness and the abuse of power have an enormous potential to harm the community.”

The documented lamented that “Capital annuity can trap and supplant the income from work, which is often confined to the margins of the principal interests of the economic system. Consequently, work itself, together with its dignity, is increasingly at risk of losing its value as a 'good' for the human person and becoming merely a means of exchange within asymmetrical social relations.”

It pointed out an inversion between means and ends, in which work has become an instrument, and money an end.

Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones said that credit has an “irreplaceable social function,” but that “applying excessively high interest rates, really beyond the range of the borrowers of funds, represents a transaction not only ethically illegitimate, but also harmful to the health of the economic system. As always, such practices, along with usurious activities, have been recognized by human conscience as iniquitous and by the economic system as contrary to its good functioning.”

Instead, financial activities are called to serve the real economy, “to create value with morally licit means, and to favour a dispersion of capital for the purpose of producing a principled circulation of wealth.”

“What is morally unacceptable is not simply to profit, but rather to avail oneself of an inequality for one’s own advantage, in order to create enormous profits that are damaging to others; or to exploit one’s dominant position in order to profit by unjustly disadvantaging others, or to make oneself rich through harming and disrupting the collective common good.”

The text then highlights the need for greater communion, collaboration, and solidarity in the market, and offers suggestions for ways in which these can be implemented.

In a healthy market “it is easier to respect and promote the dignity of the human person and the common good,” the Vatican offices wrote.

The experience of recent decades has demonstrated the need for both ethics and regulation, the document states.

With an increased globalization of financial markets, the system “requires a stable, clear and effective coordination among various national regulatory authorities,” allowing them to share binding decisions when necessary, especially when it comes to threats against the common good.

“Where massive deregulation is practiced, the evident result is a regulatory and institutional vacuum that 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,” Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones states.

The text condemned the tendency of business managers to establish policies which aim “not at increasing the economic health of the companies that they serve, but at the mere profits of the shareholders, damaging therefore the legitimate interests of those who are bearing all of the work and service benefiting the same company, as well as the consumers and the various local communities (stakeholders).”

The document suggested that ethical committees be established in banks to support the administration, and to help cushion them from the impact of losses.

The text then pointed to financial instruments such as derivatives and credit default swaps, which going  unchecked, can lead to “unacceptable” consequences from an ethical point of view, essentially gambling with a person's future.

Use of offshore accounts as tax havens was also condemned, though it was noted that tax systems throughout the world are not always equal, which can damage weaker parties in favor of wealthier ones.

Despite the fact that more nations are cracking down on offshore accounts, penalties have not been enforced and norms have either not been applied or they have not proved effective due to the political powers pulling the strings.

All of these problems are “not only the work of an entity that operates out of our control,” but are “in the sphere of our responsibilities.”

Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones states that it is “therefore quite evident how important a critical and responsible exercise of consumption and savings actually is.”

As an example, the text said shopping is a daily task by which we can choose to avoid purchasing products produced by chains which violate “the most elementary human rights,” such as sweat-shops.

“Through the gesture, apparently banal, of consumption, we actually express an ethics and are called to take a stand in front of what is good or bad for the actual human person.”

Likewise, persons are called to direct their savings to “those enterprises that operate with clear criteria inspired by an ethics respectful of the entire human person, and of every particular person, within the horizon of social responsibility.”

“Each one is called to cultivate procedures of producing wealth that may be consistent with our relational nature and tend towards an integral development of the human person.”

The document concludes with a call to hope in light of the challenges of the economy, saying, “every one of us can do so much, especially if one does not remain alone.”

“Today as never before we are all called, as sentinels, to watch over genuine life and to make ourselves catalysts of a new social behavior, shaping our actions to the search for the common good, and establishing it on the sound principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.”

Catholic leaders condemn use of disproportionate force at Gaza-Israel border

Gaza City, May 16, 2018 / 12:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- During his Wednesday audience, Pope Francis lamented the latest violence in the Israeli-Palestine conflict, expressing his distress that the region is “increasingly moving away from the path of peace, dialogue and negotiations.”

More than 100 Palestinians protesting at the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel have been killed by Israeli soldiers in the past six weeks, according to Palestinian officials. Some 10,000 more have been injured.

 

I express my great sorrow over the dead and wounded in the Holy Land and the Middle East. Violence never leads to peace. Therefore, I call on all sides involved and the international community to renew efforts so that dialogue, justice and peace may prevail.

— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) May 16, 2018


 

The Vatican has long supported a two-state solution established via peaceful negotiations. When the General Assembly of the United Nations voted to recognize the State of Palestine in 2012, the Holy See began referring to Palestine as such. Saint John Paul II first opened Vatican diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1994, and met with PLO leader Yasser Arafat on numerous occasions.

Most recently, during a United Nations debate on “the Palestinian question,” the Holy See representative, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, reiterated the Vatican’s support for a two-state solution, calling it “only viable way of fulfilling the aspirations for peaceful co-existence among Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

“Every Israeli and Palestinian has the right to live in peace and security,” continued Archbishop Auza.

“To have the best chance of success, peace talks must take place in an atmosphere free from violence. The ongoing violence simply underlines how overdue a just and lasting resolution is,” Auza said in the UN Security Council open debate April 26.

Palestinians in Gaza had been protesting on a weekly basis since March 30. These protests culminated May 14 when tens of thousands of Palestinians rallied near the fence dividing Gaza from Israel. Palestinians were reported to have hurled explosives and flaming kites at Israel, and rushed at the fence. They were met by Israeli army sniper fire and tear gas.

More than 60 people from Palestine were killed and thousands injured. It was the largest death toll in a single day in the ongoing conflict since 2014.

One official of Hamas, the Islamist organization which governs the Gaza Strip, has said that 50 of the 62 Palestinians killed May 14-15 were members of the group.

In an emergency security council meeting May 15, the U.N. human rights office acknowledged Israel’s rights to defend its borders, but said that Israel’s use of lethal force violated international norms. It suggested that Israel arrest any protester who reached the fence.

Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the  UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said May 15 that “An attempt to approach or crossing or damaging the fence do not amount to a threat to life or serious injury and are not sufficient grounds for the use of live ammunition.”

“This is also the case with regards to stones and Molotov cocktails being thrown from a distance at well-protected security forces located behind defensive positions,” he continued.

Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton and Christopher Chessun, the Anglican Bishop of Southwark, said in a May 15 joint statement that “The terrible loss of life in Gaza caused by the Israeli army's use of live fire against civilians is to be condemned unequivocally.”

“Israel has a right to defend itself but also has the moral and legal responsibility not to use disproportionate force and not to prevent the injured from receiving medical treatment,” they continued.

They concluded by calling for a “peaceful two state solution with Jerusalem as the shared capital.”

Pope Francis reacted with sorrow for the dead and the wounded, and publically prayed to Mary, the Queen of Peace, asking “all the parties involved and the international community to renew their commitment so that dialogue, justice and peace prevail,” in his May 16 General Audience.

May 14 was a significant date in both Israel and Gaza. It marked the 70th anniversary of the creation of the state of Israel. For Israelis, this day gained added significance with the U.S. embassy opening in its new location in Jerusalem, which Israel has long viewed as its capital despite the absence of international recognition.

Palestinians remember this anniversary as “Nakba Day” on May 15, a pained remembrance of the refugee crisis created by the 1948 founding of Israel, in which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were uprooted from their homes, either fleeing or being forced to leave.

Following President Donald Trump’s December announcement that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy, Pope Francis issued an appeal that the international community respect the “status quo of the city, in accordance with the relevant Resolutions of the United Nations,” on December 6.

The U.N. had previously proposed that Jerusalem should eventually become the capital of the two states of Israel and Palestine.

U.S. bishops also wrote a letter to the then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in January urging that the U.S. embassy remain in Tel Aviv, expressing their concern that the move would erode the U.S. commitment to the a two-state solution, which “USCCB has long supported.”

“Only the emergence of a viable and independent Palestinian state living alongside a recognized and secure Israel will bring the peace for which majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians yearn. This two-state solution enhances Israeli security, preserves Israel as a Jewish majority democratic state, gives Palestinians the dignity of their own state, allows access to the Holy Sites of all three faiths, promotes economic development in the region, and undermines extremists who exploit the conflict,” wrote the U.S. bishops in a previous 2015 statement outlining their position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The ongoing conflict assaults the dignity of both Palestinians and Israelis, with the suffering people in Gaza carrying a particularly heavy burden,” continued the bishops’ statement.

1.8 million Palestinians live in Gaza, where Monday’s violence occured. It is a densely populated Palestinian strip of land surrounded by Israel and currently under Israeli blockade. The impoverished area often experiences power cuts, and it is difficult for goods to get into or out of Gaza due to its restricted access.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster spoke with a Catholic parish priest in Gaza, Father Mario da Silva, May 16, who told him that life is hard and “everyone is desperate with shortages of water and other basic necessities.” The Gaza priest also said that he was encouraged to hear that people were praying for the people of Gaza.

Gaza is governed by Hamas, an Islamist group recognized as a terrorist organization and which has called for the destruction of Israel. The group has repeatedly used rockets and suicide bombings to attack Israel since its founding in 1987. Hamas in Gaza is split from the PLO, which governs the West Bank, further complicating any potential peace negotiations with Israel.

The Holy See and Catholic bishops continue to advocate for a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict urging recognition of the human dignity of the people caught on both sides of the conflict.

The previously mentioned U.S. bishops' statement continued: “The path to peace in the Holy Land requires respect for the human rights and dignity of both Israelis and Palestinians. People of good will on both sides of the conflict want the same thing: a dignified life worthy of the human person.”

Pope Francis decries 'spiral of violence' in Middle East

Vatican City, May 16, 2018 / 04:46 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Expressing his sorrow for those who have lost their lives, Pope Francis Wednesday called for peace and dialogue in the Middle East, which has faced increased violence during the transfer of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“I am very worried and distressed by the escalation of tensions in the Holy Land and in the Middle East, and by the spiral of violence that is increasingly moving away from the path of peace, dialogue and negotiations,” the pope said May 16

Speaking at the end of the general audience, Francis expressed his sorrow for the dead and wounded, saying he is “close with prayer and affection to all those who suffer” and repeating that violence does not lead to peace.

“War calls war, violence calls violence,” he said. “God have mercy on us!”

Deadly protests along the Israel and Gaza border over the last seven weeks escalated Monday after Israeli troops opened fire on protesting Palestinians, resulting in 58 dead and another 2,700 injured, most from sniper-fire, according to the ministry of health.

Eight children under the age of 16, including an eight-month-old baby, were among Monday’s dead.

The conflict coincided with the United States’ inauguration of its first embassy in Jerusalem, a controversial move, which Palestinians have taken as US-backing of Israeli control of the city.

Pope Francis Wednesday invited “all the parties involved and the international community to renew their commitment so that dialogue, justice and peace prevail.” He also led Catholics in praying a Hail Mary to ask for the intercession of Mary, Queen of Peace.

In his catechesis for the weekly audience, Pope Francis concluded his commentary on the sacrament of Baptism with reflections on the symbolism of the white garment and baptismal candle.

These items make visible the invisible spiritual effects of the sacrament, he said, noting how the white garment reminds us of St. Paul’s words: “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”

St. Paul goes on to explain, the pope said, that to “have clothed” one’s self with Christ means to live and cultivate virtue.

Again quoting the words of St. Paul, he said: “Clothe yourselves with sentiments of tenderness, of goodness, of humility, of meekness, of magnanimity, enduring each other and forgiving one another. But above all these things, clothe yourselves with charity, which unites them in a perfect way.”

Pope Francis also explained that the baptismal candle reminds us that the Light of the World is Jesus Christ, “who, having risen from the dead, has conquered the darkness of evil.”

“We are called to receive [the candle’s] splendor!” he said. “As the flame of the paschal candle gives light to individual candles, so the love of the Risen Lord inflames the hearts of the baptized, filling them with light and heat.”

Francis explained that in the early years of the Church, Baptism was also called “illumination,” and the newly Baptized were called the “illuminated,” following Jesus words that he is “the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

“To always walk as children of light, persevering in faith,” as it says in the Rite of Christian initiation of adults, is the Christian vocation, the pope said.

He also emphasized the right of children to a Christian education and the responsibility of parents and godparents to provide this and to nourish in children the baptismal graces, helping them to persevere in the faith.

Concluding his reflection, Pope Francis quoted a line from his latest apostolic exhortation, “Gaudete et Exsultate,” telling Christians to “let the grace of your Baptism bear fruit on a path of holiness… Do not be discouraged, because you have the power of the Holy Spirit so that it is possible.”

Analysis: Why Francis might follow Benedict’s lead on Chilean abuse scandal

Vatican City, May 15, 2018 / 02:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- This week 34 Chilean bishops are meeting with Pope Francis to discuss the country’s clerical sexual abuse scandal, which involves at least one of the bishops attending the meeting. The meeting is significant, but not unprecedented.

Francis summoned Chile’s bishops to Rome in an April 8 letter admitting he had made “serious mistakes” in judgment of the nation's abuse crisis, and which was a follow-up to the results of an in-depth investigation into accusations of abuse cover-up carried out by Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna, the Vatican's top prosecutor on clerical abuse.

In April 2002, Pope St. John Paul II called 13 U.S. cardinals and bishops to discuss a large-scale clerical sexual abuse crisis. Benedict XVI followed suit when the abuse crisis in Ireland came to light in 2009, inviting high-ranking Irish prelates and members of the Roman Curia to meet at the Vatican in February 2010.

It is practically unheard of, at least in recent history, that the pope would summon an entire bishops conference – or even the leading bishops and cardinals of a country – to Rome for a previously unplanned emergency visit. But sexual abuse, and cover-ups within ecclesial environments, seems to have merited that treatment more than other issues.

While John Paul was the first of the three most recent popes to make such a drastic request, Vatican observers say that a letter sent by Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland in March 2010 set the tone for the Vatican’s approach to sexual abuse crises around the world.

The letter, which was published after Benedict met with Irish prelates, is still widely read, taught, and referenced as a clear example of how the Vatican should respond to instance of abuse and cover-up.

According to veteran Vatican journalist John Allen, when the American bishops came to the Vatican in April 2002 to discuss the abuse crisis exploding in the U.S., the final results of the meeting were a mixed bag.

On one hand, John Paul II's declaration that “people need to know that there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young” empowered American bishops to develop the June 2002 “Dallas Charter,” which set national standards in place for the prevention and reporting of child abuse.

On the other hand, Allen says, the documents outlining resolutions made by US bishops and the Vatican going into the future were rushed, and were considered by most in both the U.S. and Vatican delegations to be an inaccurate account of the discussion, and the plans that had been made.

In all, it would seem that the Vatican communiques following the meeting were a missed opportunity for the Church to send a strong, unified message to the world on the issue of clerical abuse.

However, Benedict XVI, who was present for the meeting with U.S. bishops in his capacity as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, got a first-hand account of the scope of the problem, the failures that allowed the abuse, the steps that needed to be taken in the future, and the damages done to individuals and to the credibility of the Church in an entire nation.

He likely drew from the experience when dealing with Ireland’s abuse scandal in 2009, and his insights seemed to guide his own discussion with Irish prelates, his handling of the conclusions of their meeting, and his 2010 letter to Irish Catholics.

During a May 14 press conference ahead of the meeting with Pope Francis to discuss their own country's abuse crisis, Chilean bishops Fernando Ramos and Juan Ignacio González said they and their brother bishops had recently read Benedict's 2010, and that it provides essential guidelines for them to follow in their own country.

In the letter, Benedict addressed Catholics in Ireland not only with the concern of a father, but also “with the affection of a fellow Christian, scandalized and hurt by what has occurred in our beloved Church.”

He divided the letter into sections addressed to particular groups of people, including victims and their families, parents, priests and religious guilty of abusing children, children and youth from Ireland, priests and religious from Ireland, Irish bishops themselves, and Irish Catholics on the whole.

Benedict apologized to victims, saying that nothing could undo the wrongs they had endured, and that it was understandable if they were unable to forgive and reconcile with the Church.

“In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel. At the same time, I ask you not to lose hope,” he said.

Among other things, Benedict urged greater formation on the issue of abuse for priests and religious, which was echoed by the Chilean bishops during their press conference.

He also highlighted several factors he said were causes in the abuse crisis. In addition to a rapidly changing and secularized cultural landscape, he said the procedures for finding suitable candidates for the priesthood and religious life were “inadequate,” and cited “insufficient human, moral, intellectual and spiritual formation in seminaries and novitiates” as one of the causes of institutional failure.

Also a problem, he said, was clericalism and an exaggerated respect for those in authority, as well as a “misplaced concern for the reputation of the Church and the avoidance of scandal, resulting in failure to apply existing canonical penalties and to safeguard the dignity of every person.”

In terms of concrete action, Benedict proposed a number of concrete initiatives, the first of which was to do penance.

He asked Ireland’s bishops to dedicate Lent of that year, 2010, as a time “to pray for an outpouring of God’s mercy and the Holy Spirit’s gifts of holiness and strength upon the Church in your country.”

Benedict also asked that Irish Catholics offer their Friday penances for that intention for a year – from Lent 2010 to Easter 2011 – requesting that they offer their regular prayer, fasting and acts of charity for healing and renewal for the Church of Ireland, and that they go to confession more frequently.

He said special attention ought to be paid to Eucharistic adoration, especially in parishes, seminaries, religious houses and monasteries in order to “make reparation for the sins of abuse that have done so much harm” and to ask for the grace of a renewed sense of their mission.

Benedict also announced that he would carry out an apostolic visitation to certain dioceses, seminaries and religious congregations and said he would implement a mission for bishops, priests and religious from Ireland.

The hope for the mission, he said, was that by access to holy preachers and with a careful rereading of conciliar documents, liturgical rites of ordination and recent pontifical teachings, consecrated persons would “come to a more profound appreciation of your respective vocations, so as to rediscover the roots of your faith in Jesus Christ and to drink deeply from the springs of living water that he offers you through his Church.”

During the press conference Monday with Chilean bishops, Ramos and González called Benedict’s letter “a precious and beautiful text full of guidelines that we will follow or are following.”

They also made comments reminiscent of the sentiments voiced by Benedict XVI, saying they are coming into the meeting this week with “shame and pain,” but they also voiced hope that the discussion will be a fresh start for the bishops, and will provide a decisive direction going forward.

However, while they have Benedict's guidelines in mind, the bishops said that as far as this week goes, they are in Rome at the beckoning of Pope Francis, and their task “is to listen to Peter, to listen to the pope.”

“Conclusions will come, new paths will come out,” González said, adding that “the pope gives us light” indicating the path to be taken.

Meetings between Pope Francis and the Chilean bishops began early in the afternoon Monday, and will continue through Thursday, May 17. Unlike the 2002 meeting, the Vatican has already said there will be no communique or press release after the meeting, in order to keep the discussion confidential.

 

Contemplative nuns must join federations, Vatican instruction says

Vatican City, May 15, 2018 / 01:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican published an instruction Tuesday aimed at applying norms established in Pope Francis’ 2016 apostolic constitution on women’s contemplative orders, which emphasizes the need for networks of monasteries in contemplative life. The instruction states that all monasteries of nuns must be affiliated with a federation, or organization, of religious houses.

Published May 15, the document concerns the nearly 38,000 nuns around the world in contemplative religious orders, and underscores that these religious institutes, “wholly devoted to contemplation, always occupy an eminent place in the mystical body of Christ.”

Therefore, even if there should be an urgent need for assistance in the active apostolate, as is the charism of some active religious orders, members of contemplative communities should not be called to help in pastoral ministry, the document states.

The instruction, entitled Cor orans, or “Praying heart,” was drafted by the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. It includes detailed regulations for the establishment and administration of monasteries for contemplative nuns, including both the legal and spiritual aspects of monastic life.

It also covers the transfer and possible suppression of monasteries, ecclesial vigilance, relations with the local diocesan bishop, means of communication, the different types of cloister, and formation.

The 34-page document “intends to make clear the provisions of the law, developing and determining the procedures in the execution” of the apostolic constitutions “Vultum dei Quaerere,” published by Francis in 2016, and “Sponsa Christi Ecclesia,” published by Pope Pius XII in 1950.

The new instruction was presented by the secretary of the congregation on religious life, Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo, in a press conference May 15.

Pope Francis’ 2016 constitution abrogated only a few points of an earlier constitution promulgated by Pope Pius XII. Therefore, the instruction states, the two constitutions are considered “the legislation in force” and should be read “in a shared perspective.”

The most significant change the instruction puts forth is the obligation for individual monasteries, though autonomous, to belong to a federation of monasteries, connected either through a similar charism or through geographical location.

Pope Pius XII, in “Sponsa Christi Ecclesia,” encouraged the formation of these federations to prevent isolation, provide networks for mutual help, and for the preservation of the common charism, but until now membership was not obligatory.

The new norm gives monasteries one year to comply, after which time the Vatican’s office for religious life will assign monasteries to federations.

“This insistence,” Archbishop Carballo said, is due to many problems which have come about in the last couple dozen years from “the isolation of some monasteries, on the one hand, and from the importance of walking, even in monastic life, towards an ecclesiology of communion, on the other.”

Another new aspect of the norms is the requirement that individual monasteries have at least five members, three of these having made solemn professed vows, in order to remain open. This is a change from the previous requirement of at least four members in a monastery.

The suppression of individual monasteries is a solution which is “painful as much as necessary,” the document states.

Additionally, if the number of community members with solemn professed vows drops to five, the monastery loses the right to the election of its own superior, and the president of the monastery’s federation is obliged to inform the Holy See.  

Unfortunately, “this is a provision that certainly concerns a substantial number of monasteries, to which we will therefore be asked to become aware of our own reality, in a dialogue with the Holy See and with the reference figures prepared by the commission,” Carballo said.