ATLANTA -- At its spring meeting in Atlanta, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops overwhelmingly agreed to have its Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development draft a special USCCB message, Catholic Reflections on Work, Poverty and a Broken Economy, for this fall.
Amid continuing headlines about cover-ups of child abuse in the Catholic Church, an oversight board of lay Catholics on Wednesday (June 13) warned the nation's bishops that they must follow their own policies against abuse more rigorously if they hope to restore their fragile credibility.
"If there is anything that needs to be disclosed in a diocese, it needs to be disclosed now," Al J. Notzon III, head of the bishops' National Review Board, told some 200 prelates gathered in Atlanta for their annual spring meeting. "No one can no longer claim they didn't know."
The meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops comes 10 years after the hierarchy met in Dallas and passed a series of reforms to respond to a siege of bad publicity about sex abuse by priests. It also comes as a jury in Philadelphia weighs the fate of a high-ranking priest who's facing criminal charges of concealing abuse by clerics, and as a bishop from Missouri awaits trial on charges that he failed to report a suspected child molester to authorities.
ATLANTA -- Addressing the U.S. bishops Wednesday morning, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, papal nuncio to the United States, endorsed their Fortnight for Freedom and said he plans to participate in observances locally in the Archdiocese of Washington.
The U.S. Catholic church is facing a significant challenge on "the whole question of freedom of religion and conscience," he said.
Nearly lost amid ongoing reports about the Vatican leaks scandal, Rome's battle with American nuns, the American bishops' battle for religious freedom, and the priest on trial in Philadelphia, was the news that, by the way, Pope Benedict XVI plans to visit Philadelphia.
ROME -- A misunderstanding of the Second Vatican Council has led some Catholics to think that eucharistic adoration and Corpus Christi processions are pietistic practices that pale in importance to the celebration of Mass, Pope Benedict XVI said.
"A unilateral interpretation of the Second Vatican Council has penalized this dimension" of Catholic faith, which is to recognize Jesus truly present in the Eucharist and worthy of adoration, the pope said June 7 during a Mass marking the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ.
The evening Mass outside Rome's Basilica of St. John Lateran preceded a moment of silent adoration and the pope's traditional Corpus Christi procession with the Eucharist through the streets of Rome.
In his homily, the pope told the thousands of people gathered on the basilica lawn that it is important to recognize the centrality of the celebration of Mass, the moment in which the Lord gathers his people, nourishes them and unites them to himself in offering his sacrifice.
VATICAN CITY -- Paolo Gabriele, the papal assistant, has been accused of aggravated theft, a crime that under Vatican laws is punishable with a prison term of 1 to 6 years, a Vatican judge said.
Paolo Papanti-Pelletier, the judge, said under the terms of the Vatican's 1929 treaty with Italy, a person found guilty and sentenced to jail time by a Vatican court would serve his term in an Italian prison.
The judge also said that while Gabriele remains detained in a 12-foot-by-12-foot room in the Vatican police station, he was allowed to attend Mass June 3 in an unspecified "Vatican church." Two gendarmes accompanied Gabriele to the church, but he was not required to wear handcuffs, the judge said.
The judge briefed reporters June 5 on how the Vatican criminal justice system works, particularly in view of the investigation currently under way regarding Gabriele and his alleged involvement in the publication of hundreds of private letters and notes to or from Pope Benedict XVI and top Vatican officials.
VATICAN CITY -- Over the course of the last six months, Pope Benedict XVI delivered five major speeches to small groups of American bishops who were in Rome for their "ad limina" visits, which are required once every five years.
The "ad limina" visits are the way the pope and and Vatican departments keep tabs on bishops from around the world. They are also an occasion for the pope to address the major issues faced by a local church.
In Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven," the narrator yearns for a "surcease of sorrow" for his lost Lenore. It's an apt allusion to open a report on the Vatican these days, gripped by scandals surrounding leaked documents, the abrupt firing of a Vatican Bank president once hailed as a great reformer, and the arrest of the pope's butler.
In Italian, the presumed gang of insiders behind the leaks is known as corvi, which can be translated either as "crows" or "ravens."
The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has sharply criticized Just Love, an award-winning book on sexual ethics by Mercy Sr. Margaret Farley, a prominent Catholic theologian at Yale University.
"Among the many errors and ambiguities in this book are its positions on masturbation, homosexual acts, homosexual unions, the indissolubility of marriage and the problem of divorce and remarriage," the congregation's five-page "Notification" said.
In those areas, it said, the author's position "contradicts" or "is opposed to" or "does not conform to" church teaching.
Made public Monday but dated March 30, the Notification was approved by Pope Benedict XVI and signed by U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada, prefect of the congregation, and Archbishop Luis F. Ladaria, its secretary.
Farley said, "Although my responses to some particular sexual ethical questions do depart from some traditional Christian responses, I have tried to show that they nonetheless reflect a deep coherence with the central aims and insights of these theological and moral traditions."
I have received the official Notification from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, published in Rome, June 4, 2012. By it, I understand that my book, Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, has been judged to contain positions that are not in conformity with the hierarchical teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.
I appreciate the efforts made by the Congregation and its consultants, over several years, to evaluate positions articulated in that book, and I do not dispute the judgment that some of the positions contained within it are not in accord with current official Catholic teaching. In the end, I can only clarify that the book was not intended to be an expression of current official Catholic teaching, nor was it aimed specifically against this teaching. It is of a different genre altogether.