National Catholic Reporter

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Vatican

Traditionalist SSPX calls Vatican offer 'clearly unacceptable'

A breakaway traditionalist Catholic group on Monday slammed as "clearly unacceptable" a Vatican doctrinal document that was supposed to lay the foundation for the group's reconciliation with Rome.

The move comes after three years of complex negotiations between the Vatican and the Society of St. Pius X and was revealed just as Pope Benedict XVI appointed a high-profile American archbishop to a key post to oversee relations with traditionalists.

A letter by Fr. Christian Thouvenot, secretary general of the SSPX, to SSPX bishops and regional leaders was leaked on the Internet on Tuesday. Thouvenot later confirmed its authenticity.

The letter says the SSPX superior general, Bishop Bernard Fellay, told the head of the Vatican doctrinal office, American Cardinal William J. Levada, that "he couldn't sign" the Vatican's doctrinal offer during a meeting June 13.

Benedict has actively sought reconciliation with the group since his election to the papacy in 2005. In 2009, he lifted the excommunication of the four SSPX bishops and started doctrinal talks in the hope of healing a decades-old rift within the Catholic church.

Analysis: The Vatican's 'Next Generation' PR maneuver

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ANALYSIS

In the original "Star Trek," Capt. James T. Kirk was both the brilliant tactician and the swashbuckling ladies' man. When "Star Trek: The Next Generation" rolled around, Kirk's character was split in half, with Capt. Jean-Luc Picard as the brains and First Officer Will Riker as the brawn.

In effect, the Vatican has now unveiled a "Next Generation" strategy to address its perceived PR woes.

During the John Paul years, the Vatican had its Kirk on the communications front, someone who combined both external visibility and insider clout. Spanish layman Joaquin Navarro-Valls was a power broker in his own right, with a place at the table when decisions were made and the public face of the institution, second only in terms of visibility to the pope himself.

Under Benedict XVI, the Vatican has limped by on half that formula. Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the current spokesperson, is endlessly accessible and visible, but he lacks the insider muscle wielded by Navarro-Valls.

The Vatican has finally moved to plug that hole.

Pope seeks advice from top cardinals on credibility crisis

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VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI asked some of his closest advisers for guidance on how to restore trust and confidence in the Catholic church's leadership amid a scandal over leaks of confidential Vatican papers.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the pope called two extraordinary meetings June 23 to "deepen his reflections" over the leaks and their consequences.

Paolo Gabriele, the pope's personal butler, was arrested May 23 after confidential letters and documents addressed to the pope and others within the Vatican administration were allegedly found in his Vatican apartment. Many of the documents were published in Italian media over the past several months and in a recently released best-selling book by an Italian journalist.

Gabriele is being held in a cell on Vatican grounds on charges of aggravated theft. He is the only person charged so far in the scandal the Italian media has called "VatiLeaks."

The Legion of Christ and the Vatican meltdown

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A string of Vatican investigations and the arrest of the papal butler for allegedly leaking secret documents to the Italian press grabbed the big headlines out of Rome in May and June. The tales of palace intrigue, backbiting cardinals and new mysteries of the Vatican Bank overshadowed the latest jolts in the deepening saga of the Legionaries of Christ, the once high-flying order founded by Marcial Maciel Degollado.

Vatican plans for Year of Faith include hymn, Mass, packed calendar

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VATICAN CITY -- With a hymn and a prayer, Italian Archbishop Rino Fisichella presented the Vatican's initial calendar of events for the Year of Faith, which begins with an Oct. 11 Mass in St. Peter's Square.

Archbishop Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, said the pope has invited as concelebrants bishops and theologians who, like the pontiff, served as members or experts at the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council.

The archbishop said he hoped about 35 "council fathers" would be able to join the presidents of national bishops' conferences and bishops participating in the world Synod of Bishops in concelebrating the opening Mass.

During a news conference at the Vatican June 21, Archbishop Fisichella unveiled the sheet music for the official hymn for the Year of Faith, "Credo, Domine, Adauge Nobis Fidem" (I believe, Lord, increase our faith).

"I'll spare you my musical interpretation," he told reporters, smiling.

Bishop says war kills religion, freedom, conscience

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ATLANTA -- In a discussion on religious freedom, Bishop John Michael Botean made an impassioned plea against war at the U.S. bishops' national meeting in Atlanta.

"War is a killer," he said. "It kills conscience, and religion is the conscience of a people."

Botean, bishop of the Romanian Catholic Eparchy of St. George's in Canton, Ohio, drew a parallel between the violation of religious freedom entailed in paying insurance premiums for immoral medical procedures and the involvement of providing tax support for a war that provokes interreligious conflict and loss of religious freedom.

He made his intervention June 13 near the end of an afternoon session devoted chiefly to questions of religious freedom in the United States and around the world.

Bishops told HHS rule is only one part of U.S. religious freedom threats

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ATLANTA -- Briefing the U.S. bishops Wednesday on current threats to religious liberty in the nation, speakers at the bishops' meeting last week said January's federal Health and Human Services rule sharply narrowing the definition of religious organizations is only one among many current threats, despite media coverage that has focused almost entirely on the mandate.

Following dismissal vote, Bourgeois says Maryknoll's tone different

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The tone of discussion between the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers and Fr. Roy Bourgeois, a priest who has been threatened with excommunication and removal from the order for his support of women's ordination, has seemingly changed direction.

While the order has recently taken a number of formal moves to remove Bourgeois -- including holding an official vote of its leadership on the matter earlier this year -- the priest says a June 6 meeting between his superior general and him saw no discussion of his removal and instead focused on a discussion of the rights of conscience of Catholics.

Catholic bishops debate hiring a spokesperson

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The nation's Catholic bishops, gathered in Atlanta this week for their annual spring meeting, have discussed various issues of great import for the church, from their policies against sexual abuse to their campaign on behalf of religious freedom.

But the suggestion Thursday that the hierarchy consider hiring a chief spokesperson for the first time prompted the most intense soul-searching so far. The debate reflected a tension between the historic reluctance of individual bishops to cede their own pulpits and the recognition that the bishops have been losing the media war in recent high-profile controversies.

"We need more help and more sophistication in our messaging," said Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley. O'Malley strongly endorsed the proposal to hire a chief spokesperson for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the hierarchy's Washington-based organizational and public policy arm.

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