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Vatican

Italian book assesses Benedict's papacy

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Friends and foes alike of Pope Benedict XVI concur that he's got an image problem. Where they place the blame for it may differ, but the fact itself seems clear: From a PR point of view, this is a pontificate defined by its train wrecks.

Cataloguing those train wrecks is the burden of a valuable new book by two of the best Italian vaticanisti going: Andrea Tornielli of Il Giornale and Paolo Rodari of Il Foglio, both of whom also operate widely read blogs -- "Palazzo apostolico" for Rodari and "Sacri palazzi" for Tornielli. Their work is titled Attacco a Ratzinger: Accuse e scandali, profezie e complotti ("Attack on Ratzinger: Accusations and Scandals, Prophecies and Plots"), published in Italian by Piemme.

The book came out in Italy on Tuesday, and one hopes an enterprising publisher in the States will bring out an English translation quickly. (Let me volunteer here and now: I'd be happy to put together a preface introducing the book, and its authors, to an English-speaking audience.)

New Vatican leader 'extremely positive' on women

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Saying he hopes to offer the Vatican a "different picture" of women religious in the United States, Rome's new number two official for religious life says he suspects the choice of an American for that job, and one known to be sympathetic to women religious, may reflect awareness of "just how badly" a controversial Vatican investigation of women's orders has been received.

PR win slips away from Vatican

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Church officials, especially those with Vatican offices, have faced stiff criticism since announcing last month revisions to the church laws that govern the handling of clerical sexual abuse cases and updates to its list of the “grave crimes,” which includes for the first time the “attempted sacred ordination of a woman.”

The inner workings of a hierarchy with a sex offender mentality

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Analysis

The Vatican announcement that the attempted ordination of women is a “grave crime” to be dealt with according to the same procedures as the sexual abuse of minors exposes the way those running our church actually think. In attempting to explain revised norms to church canons, they reveal the legalistic inner workings of their minds, and affirm unsettling psychological patterns of thought.

The Vatican's new norms

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Viewpoint

The latest attempt by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to stem the continuous onslaught of revelations of sex abuse and cover-up in Europe and elsewhere has some good and some bad aspects.

The first revision is relatively radical: the CDF now has the right to judge members of the ruling class (cardinals, bishops, and papal legates). Previously the Code reserved all cases involving accusations of violation of the church's criminal laws by bishops and above to the Pope. This change is a response to the constant criticism of the practice of giving bishops accused of sex abuse a free pass. The fact is that the popes could have disciplined errant bishops all along but instead chose to hide behind the myth that they are some sort of sacred nobility.

Something missing

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Viewpoint

The announcement from Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, of the new norms for “more serious crimes” (de gravioribus delictis) was certainly a step forward in the church’s law regarding the sexual abuse of children.

The three helpful changes in the church’s law are

  • Now the victim of sexual abuse by a priest has up to the age of 38 to report the crime and have it canonically prosecuted.

  • The sexual abuse by clergy of mentally incompetent victims, beyond the years of childhood, is now considered the same crime as abusing a minor.

  • And the acquisition, possession or distribution of child pornography is a canonical crime in and of itself.

India-based Catholic rite gets official US HQ

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WASHINGTON -- Pope Benedict XVI has established an apostolic exarchate for the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church in the United States and appointed Father Thomas Naickamparampil as its first bishop.

The pope also named the priest apostolic visitator for Syro-Malankara Catholics in Canada and Europe.

Creation of the exarchate and the priest's appointments were publicized in Washington July 14 by Msgr. Jean-Francois Lantheaume, charge d'affaires at the apostolic nunciature in Washington.

Bishop-designate Naickamparampil is a priest of the Archeparchy of Trivandrum, India.

An apostolic exarchate in the Eastern Catholic Church -- the equivalent of an apostolic vicariate in the Latin church -- is created by the Vatican for the pastoral care of Catholics in an area outside the territory of the Eastern Catholic Church to which they belong.

An apostolic visitator is a papal representative who is charged with familiarizing himself with the situation of a given community and reporting on its status to the Vatican.

Vatican revises church law on sex abuse

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Rome -- In the latest chapter of the Vatican's attempt to come to grips with the sexual abuse crisis, Pope Benedict XVI has approved a set of revisions to church law which are touted by the Vatican as a major contribution to "rigor and transparency," while derided by critics as "mere tweaking."

For the most part, Vatican sources said, the revisions consolidate existing practice rather than marking a dramatic new approach. Unveiled on July 15, the changes include:

Changes detailed by Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith

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Letter to the bishops of the Catholic Church and to the Ordinaries and Hierarchs, regarding the modifications introduced in the
Normae de gravioribus delictis

Nine years after the promulgation of the Apostolic Letter Motu proprio data, «Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela», regarding the norms de gravioribus delictis reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, this Dicastery held it necessary to proceed with a reform of the above mentioned text, emending it not in its entirety, but only in certain areas, in order to render the text more useful.

After a thorough and attentive study of the proposed modifications to the norms, the Fathers of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith presented the Roman Pontiff with a draft. The Holy Father approved and ordered the promulgation of these revised norms on 21 May 2010.

Attached with this letter is a brief description of the changes and amendments of the normative text, «Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela». In this way, the modifications are rendered more immediately accessible.

Rome, from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 21 May 2010.

William Cardinal LEVADA
Prefect

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