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Priest resigns as consultant to doctrine committee after letter to pope: Updated

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WASHINGTON — After publication of his letter to Pope Francis questioning the pontiff’s teachings, Father Thomas Weinandy has resigned from his position as consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine.

The Capuchin Franciscan priest is former executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Doctrine and Canonical Affairs, serving in the post from 2005 until 2013. He expressed loyalty to the pope but at the same time told the pope that “a chronic confusion seems to mark your pontificate.” Read more »

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From the Bishop: ‘We must continue to open our hearts to new immigrants’

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A statement from Bishop Malooly concerning executive orders on immigration

February 3, 2017

 My Dear Friends,

In December, I had the pleasure of celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at Holy Angels Church in Newark and St. Paul’s Church in Wilmington – two of our larger Hispanic Catholic communities. During my time with them, I expressed my solidarity with them and the local, regional, and national Hispanic population, and with all immigrants and refugees. Read more »

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Typical Roman melodrama? Letter raises concern at synod

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — From newspaper headlines and social media comments Oct. 12 it seemed there was a family feud going on inside the Synod of Bishops on the family.

Some cardinals, apparently 13 of the 74 cardinals participating in the synod, wrote Pope Francis a private letter expressing concern about a part or parts of the synod procedure, especially the appointment of a 10-member committee to draft the final document the synod will vote on and give to the pope. The names of the cardinals signing the letter changed over the course of the day, with four declaring they did not sign any letter and two others saying the leaked letter published by Italian blogger Sandro Magister is not the letter they signed.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia and Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, arrive for a session of the Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 14. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia and Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, arrive for a session of the Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 14. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

In addition Oct. 13, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City issued a statement saying, “I never signed the alleged letter with the attributed content that some mention.”

“I recognize that the appropriate place of discussion is with other synod fathers and under the guide of the pope, who is our guarantor of unity in the church and who has my utmost respect and loyalty,” Cardinal Rivera added.

The synod is supposed to be a process true to the Greek roots of the word meaning “walking together.” Perhaps more than a family feud, what happened in mid-October was a family walk. Anyone with a big family, or even with just a couple very young members, knows how hard it is to keep everyone moving at the same pace and on the same trail with no arguments over rest stops or detours.

Australian Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, writing on his blog, said the whole letter to-do was a “typically Roman melodrama, not untinged with psychodrama.”

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said concern expressed in a private letter, not Magister’s leaked and published “letter,” that Australian Cardinal George Pell and South Africa Wilfrid F. Napier said they sent the pope were addressed by Pope Francis and by Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the synod general secretary, first thing in the morning Oct. 6.

In his comments that morning, Pope Francis insisted Catholic doctrine on marriage would not been touched or put into question, Father Lombardi told reporters at the time, and he asked the synod “not to give into a ‘hermeneutic of conspiracy,’ which is sociologically weak and spiritually unhelpful.”

Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, a synod member appointed by the pope, tweeted that day that Pope Francis encouraged a “profound discernment” in order “to understand how the Lord wants his church.”

Cardinal Pell told the news site Vatican Insider Oct. 13 that he was “fundamentally satisfied” with the pope’s response.

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan told Sirius XM radio the same day that before the synod began he and Cardinal Pell “were chatting about a couple concerns” and Cardinal Pell said, “Why don’t we write to him that we’re worried.”

Cardinal Dolan said he signed the letter and he was grateful that Pope Francis responded “right to the heart” of their concerns.

Father Lombardi told reporters that publishing the letter, or some form of it, a week after the pope responded to the cardinals’ concerns was an “act of disturbance not intended by the signatories or at least of the most authoritative among them.”

“It is not surprising” that questions were raised about the new synod method, which gives more time to small group work and having them amend the working document rather than write a list of propositions for the pope, Father Lombardi said. But once the pope decided how he wanted things done, it was time for synod members to get to work, “which is what is happening.”

Pope Francis and members of the synod on the family, along with other guests, were scheduled to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Synod of Bishops Oct. 17. Blessed Paul VI established the synod to assist him in governing the universal church by providing him with counsel based on information and observation drawn from their pastoral and theological experience around the world. It is not a deliberative body like a parliament.

Pope Francis, a Jesuit, has made changes in the synod process to expand the time for dialogue and to create the time and space needed for discernment in the style of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Jesuit founder.

“When you are involved in a process of discernment, you know where you are beginning, but not where you will end up,” Father Spadaro, editor of the Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica, told Catholic News Service Oct. 13. In addition, he said, “discernment is not a spiritually abstract process; it involves real people with real life experiences, concerns and even prejudices.”

“Discernment can be experienced as destabilizing, which can create worry and fear that pillars of certainty are being shaken,” he said. “But discernment according to the thought of St. Ignatius of Loyola has the Gospel and church tradition as the firm pillars. And Pope Francis, as the guide of this process of discernment, told synod members clearly at the beginning that the pillars of church doctrine on marriage are not up for discussion.”

According to Archbishop Coleridge, two synod members late Oct. 13 mentioned “the smoke of Satan” entering the church; one said it would come with changing pastoral practice and the other said it would come from “an anxious and ideologically driven spirit of partisanship.”

Father Spadaro said in the process of discernment, “one is not just seeking God’s will, but a discernment of the spirits at work. The ‘spirit of the world’ or the ‘evil one’ has a full arsenal at his disposal, including tactics defined as ‘sub specie boni,’” or things that appear good. “This happens, for example, when one tries to take the pope’s place as the defender of doctrine or when people let themselves imagine orthodoxy is in peril, sowing uncertainty and confusion. This is a classic tactic of the enemy, which is well described by St. Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises.”

When the Holy Spirit speaks, tensions can rise. But that can be positive because it shows “that the spiritual process is active. It would be bad if there were a dead calm,” Father Spadaro said.

More worrying, he said, is the fact that the letter leaked to the press expresses concerns that could be interpreted as questioning the authority of the pope.

“Using the words of Paul VI, the synod is there to ensure the pontiff is not lacking ‘the consolation of the presence’ of bishops, who express their opinion, bringing news and information from various parts of the world,” Father Spadaro said. “Certainly it has no deliberative power unless it is conceded by the pontiff. It is important not to betray the spirit of the synod.”

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U.S. bishops’ committee chair hails framework on Iran’s nuclear program as a step to peace

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WASHINGTON — The adoption of a framework related to Iran’s nuclear program by the United States and other countries is an important step in “advancing a peaceful resolution” to the questions surrounding the program, the chairman of the U.S. bishop’s Committee on International Justice and Peace.

An International Atomic Energy Agency inspector checks the uranium enrichment process inside Iran’s Natanz plant last year. The chair of the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace has praised the framework reached with Iran last week as "a step toward peace." (CNS/EPA)

An International Atomic Energy Agency inspector checks the uranium enrichment process inside Iran’s Natanz plant last year. The chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace has praised the framework reached with Iran last week as “a step toward peace.” (CNS/EPA)

Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, said April 8 in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and April 13 in letters to every member of Congress that the framework was a milestone in the long-standing negotiations to curb the “unacceptable prospect of Iran developing nuclear weapons.”

Copies of the letters were released April 14 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The framework was announced April 2 in Lausanne, Switzerland, and involved Iran and what is often referred to as the “P5+1,” or the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States — plus Germany.

The talks have been criticized by some members of Congress, who argue that Iranian officials cannot be trusted to abide by any deal and that any agreement with Iran could be disregarded once President Barack Obama concludes his term Jan. 20, 2017.

Bishop Cantu wrote that despite the challenges in reaching an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program, “it is vital to continue to foster an environment in which all parties can build mutual confidence and trust in order to work toward a final accord that enhances peace.”

“For this reason, our committee will continue to oppose congressional efforts that seek to undermine the negotiation process or make a responsible multiparty agreement more difficult to achieve and implement,” the letter continued. “The alternative to an agreement leads toward armed conflict, an outcome of profound concern to the church.”

The letter cited the words of Pope Francis, who prayed Easter Sunday that the framework “may be a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world.”

“We share the Holy Father’s hope,” Bishop Cantu wrote.

The bishop called for a final agreement to secure peace in southwestern Asia and to “ensure its full implementation.”

“As we have noted in the past, Iran has threatened its neighbors, especially Israel, and contributed to instability in the region. We hope this agreement is a first step in fostering greater stability and dialogue in the region,” the letter said.

As congressional representatives received the letter, an advertisement supporting the framework was published in the April 13 edition of Roll Call, a newspaper that covers Capitol Hill.

More than 45 Christian leaders signed the ad, including Sister Simone Campbell, a Sister of Social Service, who is executive director of the Catholic social justice lobby Network; Sister Patricia Chappell, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, who is executive director of Pax Christi USA; Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International; and Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at The Catholic University of America.

 

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Letter from Bishop Malooly: For a ‘renewal of catechesis’

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August, 2014

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

I am pleased to speak with you about our new diocesan Student Assessments for parish religious education programs (PREP), which will begin this year.

You may recall that one of my four priorities for the future of the Diocese of Wilmington is the “Renewal of Catechesis.” Several initiatives have been undertaken by our Office for Religious Education to support this priority. One particular initiative is the development of student assessments and it represents a specific recommendation from my advisory commission that focused on the Renewal of Catechesis.

As a diocese we want to ensure to the best of our abilities that the children in our PREP programs learn specific aspects and tenets of the Catholic faith in their overall religious education instruction. The assessments are one way to determine what and how much students in religious education have learned in a given year.

It is my hope that the assessments will establish a foundation to involve parents more than ever in their children’s catechetical learning. The assessments will be done toward the end of the PREP season. Students will be asked to review their results with their parents, with the goal of reinforcing what they have learned, while also creating additional discussion about their faith. With this enhanced foundation, I sincerely trust that religious education will not simply stop at the end of the PREP year. The results will then be shared with the next year’s catechists, helping them to prepare their classes with knowledge about how their new students performed in their prior grade.

Our children are assessed in virtually everything they do, including sports activities. As such, the assessments should be viewed only in a positive manner. They are merely one dimension of a holistic catechesis. Over time, our hope is that students will develop a greater sense of confidence and understanding about their Catholic faith.

For those who may have additional questions about the assessments in your parish program, please see your parish catechetical leader.

“Catechesis is a pivotal dimension of the church’s pastoral activity and a significant element in all the church does to hand on the faith” (Nations Directory for Catechesis, 19. C). All of us share in this pastoral activity: parents, family, catechists, clergy and religious. I pray that we all will do our part to hand on our Catholic faith with joy, hope and love. Please accept my thanks for all that you do in your own way to help pass on our Catholic faith.

May God bless you.

Sincerely in the Lord,

Most Reverend W. Francis Malooly

Bishop of Wilmington

 

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Religious leaders object to treating same-sex unions as marriage

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — A letter signed by more than three dozen U.S. religious leaders objects to the specter of religious groups being forced to treat same-sex unions “as if they were marriage.”

“Altering the civil definition of marriage does not change one law, but hundreds, even thousands, at once,” said the letter, “Marriage and Religious Freedom: Fundamental Goods That Stand or Fall Together,” released Jan. 12.

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