National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source


'Sex abuse is the Catholic 9/11'


ROME -- Massimo Franco is a veteran journalist who writes for Corriere della Sera, the most prestigious daily newspaper in Italy. Recently he published a book titled C’era Una Volta un Vaticano (“Once Upon a Time, there was a Vatican”), arguing that underneath the PR meltdowns and internal crises of the Vatican under Benedict XVI lies a radical historical shift – from the Vatican as the chaplain of the West, to the Vatican as representative of a minority subculture.

For centuries, he argues, the Vatican thought and acted like the representative of a cultural majority in the West – a mentality forged in the era of Christendom, and given new life during the Cold War, when the Vatican and the great Western powers were fundamentally on the same page. It’s no longer adequate to the changed cultural landscape of the 21st century, he says – and the inability of senior Vatican personnel to adapt to this new world is the fundamental force, he argues, beneath their apparent disorientation.
Franco sat down March 1 for an interview to discuss the trials and tribulations of Benedict’s papacy.

Black Catholics have 'uncommon faithfulness'


ROME -- African-American Catholics have a dynamic history of "uncommon faithfulness" in the church, but it's one that has been generally invisible -- even to other Catholics, a U.S. nun from New Orleans told a Rome audience.

Dominican Sr. Jamie Phelps, director of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of New Orleans, explored the U.S. observance of Black History Month in February from a Catholic perspective.

She spoke Feb. 25 at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas of Aquinas, also known as the Angelicum, at a program organized by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.

The U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, Miguel Diaz, said black Catholics were a little-known but important segment of American society, and he wanted Rome to hear about it.

Phelps recalled that when she was growing up, people would look puzzled when she and her family showed up at Catholic events and tell her, "You're supposed to be Protestant."

There are about 3 million African-American Catholics in the United States today, she said. They generally identify closely with the teachings of the church, on matters from abortion to concern for the poor.

Pope meets about humanitarian crisis in Libya

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI met with the director of the World Food Program to learn about the humanitarian crisis developing on the border of Tunisia and Libya, said a statement distributed by the Vatican.

In a private audience March 2, the pope was briefed by Josette Sheeran, who, as head of the United Nations agency, had just returned from a trip to the area.

Thousands of people have fled Libya into neighboring Tunisia as forces loyal to Libyan dictator Col. Moammar Gadhafi fight with protesters in the western and eastern parts of the country. Gadhafi's forces have been conducting aerial bombing raids in an effort to repress the protests against his regime, and some observers estimate 2,000 people have died since the protests began in late February.

In a WFP statement released by the Vatican, Sheeran said that the pope had asked her for the meeting in order to be informed and to "express his concern for the innocent people trapped in this terrible tragedy."

Forgiveness as the Catholic yoga


ROME -- In a post-modern, pragmatic, "gimme-something-that-works" sort of world, Eastern religions have had considerable success in exporting elements of their spirituality and tradition that meet perceived contemporary needs. Plenty of fitness-conscious people have been exposed to Hinduism through yoga, for example, just as many stressed-out Westerners have been intrigued by Buddhism though transcendental meditation (TM).

Vatican: iPhone apps wonít forgive sins

VATICAN CITY -- Just in case Catholics are wondering if a new iPhone app might be able to forgive their sins, the Vatican has issued a clarification: No.

“One may not speak in any sense of confessing via iPhone,” Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, said in a statement on Wednesday.

According to its U.S. producers, “Confession: A Roman Catholic App” is designed to help users prepare for confession through a “personalized examination of conscience for each user, password protected profiles, and a step-by-step guide to the sacrament.”

The Indiana-based company, Little iApps LLC, says its app is the first to receive an imprimatur, or official permission for publication, from a Catholic bishop—in this case, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

Lombardi said the “Sacrament of Penance necessarily requires the relationship of personal dialogue between the penitent and the confessor and absolution by the confessor present.”

“This cannot be substituted for by any information technology application,” he said.

Vatican to draft guidelines for Catholic hospitals

VATICAN CITY -- Controversies over bioethical standards at U.S. Catholic hospitals show the need for greater Catholic education for health care workers, Vatican officials said Thursday (Feb. 3).

Church leaders said a new set of biomedical guidelines will be published later this year, as well as a separate document on AIDS prevention after last year’s controversial remarks by Pope Benedict XVI on the morality of condom use.

The announcement, at a press conference to publicize educational initiatives of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, did not include a publication date for the AIDS document.

Bishop Jose L. Redrado, secretary of the council, said Catholic facilities are confronting a “culture of death” following disputes over a 2009 abortion at a Catholic hospital in Arizona that doctors said was necessary to save the mother’s life. Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted stripped the hospital of its Catholic affiliation and excommunicated its chief ethicist.

Such disputes show the need to translate church teaching into the terms of “modern society,” Redrado said.

Vatican head: Liberation theology caused 'anguish'


VATICAN CITY -- The Brazilian archbishop who now heads the congregation for religious said he almost abandoned the seminary and the Catholic Church because of the ideological excesses that emerged in the early years of liberation theology.

"Personally, I lived with a lot of anguish during the years of the birth of liberation theology," Archbishop Joao Braz de Aviz said in an interview with the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, Feb. 2.

In January, Pope Benedict XVI appointed the former archbishop of Brasilia to head the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

The 63-year-old archbishop said he was studying theology in Rome when the liberation theology movement was building in Latin America, and it was at that time that "I came very close to abandoning my priestly vocation and even the church."

But a strong relationship with the Focolare movement and a dedication to its spirituality of unity "saved me," he said.

Some question speed of John Paul IIís beatification


Prominent Catholics, reacting to the Jan. 14 announcement that Pope John Paul II will be beatified, have expressed a tension between the desire to recognize the late pope’s holiness while still investigating his actions during his pontificate.

News of the beatification came following official declaration of a miracle attributed to John Paul -- the healing of 49-year-old French Sr. Marie Simon-Pierre, a member of the Little Sisters of Catholic Motherhood, from an aggressive form of Parkinson’s disease.

John Paul’s beatification will take place in a ceremony at the Vatican May 1.

NCR interviews and e-mail exchanges with more than two-dozen prominent Catholics found opinions mixed, with many reluctant to speak publicly on the late pope’s progress toward canonization.

The miracle seems to show that “God is behind” the late pontiff’s beatification, said Jesuit Fr. James Martin, author of My Life With the Saints. “You can’t argue with that.”

With beatification of John Paul II, what makes a 'fast-track' saint?



When John Paul II is declared “Blessed” on May 1, it will represent the fastest beatification of modern times, narrowly surpassing Mother Teresa. Both, of course, were global celebrities whose deaths prompted grass-roots campaigns for immediate sainthood, and they remain the only two recent cases in which the normal waiting period to launch a cause was set aside.

In light of the speed with which John Paul’s beatification has unfolded, some wonder why the wheels are taking longer to grind for other notable would-be saints: Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day, for instance, or Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, or the wartime pontiff Pius XII.

In effect, it raises the question: What makes a “fast-track” saint?

In 1983, John Paul overhauled the sainthood process to make it quicker, cheaper and less adversarial, in part because he wanted to lift up contemporary models of holiness. The result is well-known: John Paul presided over more beatifications (1,338) and canonizations (482) than all previous popes combined.


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