National Catholic Reporter

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New Vatican head of religious life comes without agenda



Pope Benedict XVI’s choice as the new Vatican overseer for religious orders, 63-year-old Brazilian Archbishop João Bráz de Aviz, is seen as a personable if little-known figure with a reputation as a moderate-to-conservative, who apparently comes to his new job without a strong personal agenda regarding religious life.

If so, that alone would make Bráz de Aviz a contrast to the man he replaces, 76-year-old Slovenian Cardinal Franc Rodé, a Lazarist who spent much of his five-year tenure as Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life battling what he described as a “crisis” in religious life following the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

Among other things, under Rodé’s leadership, the office -- popularly known as the “Congregation for Religious” -- launched an on-going, and controversial, Apostolic Visitation of women religious in the United States.

Dolan among members of new evangelization council


VATICAN CITY -- The new Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization has its first members, including Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York.

The council, formally established in October, is charged with renewing and strengthening the faith in traditionally Christian countries where religious belief and practice are threatened by secularism and indifference.

Pope Benedict XVI named 19 cardinals and bishops to be members of the council Jan. 5.

In addition to Dolan, the members included: Australian Cardinal George Pell of Sydney; Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops; and U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The pope also named Belgian Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard of Mechelen-Brussels to the new council. The archbishop created controversy in Belgium just before Christmas when he told a parliamentary commission that the church should not automatically be expected to compensate victims of clerical sex abuse.

Brazilian to head Vatican Congregation for Religious Life


VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI named Brazilian Archbishop Joao Braz de Aviz of Brasilia, not a member of a religious order, to head the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

The 63-year-old archbishop succeeds Cardinal Franc Rode, the 76-year-old Vincentian who held the post for almost seven years. The normal retirement age for curia officials is 75.

Since 1973, prelates ordained for religious orders and for dioceses have alternated in holding the post of prefect of the congregation overseeing religious life in the Catholic Church. In the past 100 years, 11 of the 18 prefects did not belong to a religious order.

Archbishop Braz de Aviz was born in Mafra in 1947 and did his initial seminary studies in Brazil before being sent to Rome, where he earned degrees from the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Pontifical Lateran University.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1972 for the Diocese of Apucarana, he served as a parish priest, as a professor of dogmatic theology in a seminary and as rector of the seminaries in Apucarana and Londrina.

Pope calls for religious freedom, end to violence


VATICAN CITY -- Opening 2011 with a strong call for religious liberty, Pope Benedict XVI condemned deadly attacks against Christians and announced a new interfaith meeting next fall in Assisi, Italy.

At a Mass Jan. 1 marking the World Day of Peace and a blessing the next day, the pope voiced his concern about fresh episodes of violence and discrimination against Christian minorities in the Middle East.

The Vatican's condom evolution


While it’s no secret that many liberal Catholic theologians have long questioned church teaching on birth control, an equal-and-opposite row among conservatives has often flown below radar. In those circles, the question isn’t so much whether devices such as condoms ought to be embraced, but whether they’re so intrinsically evil that they necessarily add an element of sin to any sexual act.

Some prominent Catholic observers say that question has now been settled by the Vatican, and in a way that pulls the rug out from under some of the church’s most unyielding pro-life voices.

English Catholic writer Austen Ivereigh claimed in an analysis yesterday for America magazine that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has, in effect, rejected what he called a “Pharisaical” position on condoms that Ivereigh associates primarily with “pro-life ultras in the English-speaking world.”

Condoms not a 'lesser evil,' Vatican insists


Responding to the media sensation created by Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks on condoms in a recent book-length interview, the Vatican’s doctrinal office has released a statement insisting that the pope has not softened the church’s traditional ban on contraception, and that condoms cannot be viewed as a morally justified “lesser evil,” even in the context of HIV/AIDS.

Irish church 'begged' Vatican to dismiss abusive priest


DUBLIN -- A newly released chapter of the Murphy Report into the handling of clergy sex abuse allegations in the Archdiocese of Dublin between 1975 and 2004 shows Cardinal Desmond Connell "begged" Pope John Paul II to dismiss an abusive priest from the priesthood.

Chapter 19 was withheld when the report of Judge Yvonne Murphy's commission was published in November 2009 because the abuser involved -- former priest Tony Walsh -- was awaiting trial. Walsh was sentenced to 16 years in prison for abuse in early December, clearing the way for publication.

Referring to Walsh, the inquiry noted, "his pattern of behavior is such that it is likely that he has abused hundreds of children." The newly published chapter reveals that allegations of abuse made just days after Walsh's ordination in 1978 were largely ignored by church authorities and he went on to abuse freely for almost a decade, being moved from parish to parish when fresh allegations emerged.


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