Posts Tagged “bishops”

Pope Francis among the people at St. Peter's Square - 12 May 2013Since his ascension to the Vatican throne, there’s been an expectation, or perhaps just a hope, that Pope Francis would finally adopt a new tactic in the handling of the Catholic Church’s worldwide clerical child-abuse scandal. As something of a reform advocate, Church watchers assumed he’d do things differently. And he has, in fact, marched to his own drum in many regards, as I’ve blogged quite often, but where “priestly pedophilia” has been concerned, he’s mostly been a big disappointment.

Yeah, he’s said and done a few things that suggest he “gets it,” but in the end, nothing has really changed, on that score. The best example of this is his special review commission, which apparently imploded because at least one of its members (foolishly, it seems) expected some actual results from it. “Priestly pedophilia” has turned out to be an ongoing problem which Francis ultimately hasn’t done anything about.

But that may have changed. I emphasize the “may have” in that sentence. The Associated Press reports the Pope has changed canon law so that bishops who failed to protect children might be disciplined (locally-cached version):

Pope Francis has established legal procedures to remove bishops who botch handling sex abuse cases, saying they can be kicked out of office if the Vatican finds they were negligent in doing their jobs.

In a law published Saturday, Francis answered a long-running demand by victims of abuse and their advocates to hold bishops accountable for failing to protect their flocks from pedophiles. Victims have long accused bishops of covering up for abuse, moving rapists from parish to parish rather than reporting them to police.

In the law, Francis acknowledged that the church’s canonical code already allows for a bishop to be removed for “grave reasons.” But he said he wanted to precisely state that negligence, especially negligence in handling abuse cases, can cost a bishop his job.

Yes, it’s true there really hasn’t been anything to date preventing a Pope from demanding the resignation of a negligent bishop — for pretty much any reason at all. It could always have been done, had it been desired. The Pope has a great deal of authority, both within and outside of canon law. But having this provision explicitly within canon law is a noteworthy change.

Even so — as with the review commission that collapsed — that doesn’t mean anything will ever come of this. The Vatican will, in all likelihood, continue doing as it wishes. We’ll just have to see if this new canon law actually goes anywhere … and given the Catholic bureaucracy’s glacial pace, it might take years for it to be noticed.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Canterbury Cathedral: West Front, Nave and Central Tower. Seen from south. Image assembled from 4 photos.It’s been a couple years in coming, but it seems the dam of the Anglican Union has broken. Five Anglican bishops have bolted their church, over its increasingly progressive policies, and they’ve gone over to Roman Catholicism. Reuters reports on the first of what promises to be many more defections (WebCite cached article):

Five Church of England bishops opposed to the ordination of women bishops will take up an offer by Pope Benedict and convert to Roman Catholicism, heralding a possible exodus of traditionalist Anglicans.

An arrangement has been made within the Catholic Church under which any currently-married Anglican clergy can convert, without having to set aside their wives under Catholicism’s centuries-old celibacy requirement. (This is not entirely unprecedented; there are Eastern Rite clergy belonging to the Maronite Church — for example — who likewise can be married, but who are in communion with Roman Catholicism.) The direct cause of what amounts to the opening salvo in a renewed Anglican schism is the ordination of women:

One of the departing prelates said the women bishops issue was part of a wider problem they had with the Church of England claim to belong to the universal Church founded by Jesus that includes the far larger and older Roman Catholic Church. …

Church of England defections were triggered by a vote at the July General Synod, the Church’s parliament, that confirmed it would consecrate women bishops.

At one time the Anglican Church had been one of the most progressive of the world’s mainline churches. Defections such as this are bound to yank it backward in time and force it to return to more medieval ways, inspired by the apostle Paul, who (supposedly) said, among other things:

The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. (1 Cor 14:34-35)

But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. (Eph 5:24)

Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. (Col 3:18)

A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. (1 Tim 2:11-12)

These, of course, are merely the tip of the iceberg: The rest of the Bible is hardly kind to women, either. It’s all because of Eve, you see (see especially Gen 3:16). Because a serpent swindled Eve, every woman who ever lives simply must be treated like crap. Isn’t that obvious!?

Pedantic note: Most scholars dismiss the idea that Saul (aka Paul) actually wrote any of these words. The epistles to the Ephesians, Colossians and to Timothy and Titus were likely written by later Christians and falsely attributed to Paul in order to give them greater apparent authority. While Paul likely did write both canonical epistles to the Corinthians, the above-quoted passage — and a few others — are probably later interpolations (or insertions). Here’s a Wikipedia article introducing the subject of Paul’s authorship, in case you feel like exploring the topic in greater depth … and I definitely advocate looking much further than just Wikipedia.

Photo credit: Wikipedia.

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The Episcopal Church continues moving into the future. The Los Angeles Times reports an openly-gay cleric has been tapped as the next Episcopal Bishop of Los Angeles:

The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles today elected the first openly gay bishop since the national church lifted a ban that sought to bar gays and lesbians from the church’s highest ordained ministry.

Clergy and lay leaders, meeting in Riverside for their annual convention, elected the Rev. Canon Mary D. Glasspool, 55, who has been in a committed relationship with another woman since 1988. Another gay candidate, the Rev. John L. Kirkley of San Francisco, withdrew late Friday.

The Rev Glasspool would be the second gay cleric elevated to Episcopal bishop since V. Gene Robinson was selected in 2003 and became Bishop of New Hampshire in 2004. That had caused a rift in the church:

Robinson’s election threw the Episcopal Church and the global Anglican Communion into an uproar, leading to decisions by some conservative parishes and dioceses to leave the national church and resulting in a de facto ban on the election of additional gay bishops. …

In the U.S. some Episcopal parishes, including four Los Angeles parishes, and several dioceses bolted from the national church and aligned themselves with conservative Anglican bishops in Africa and South America.

After some more seesawing over the issue, this appears to be the next “test” of whether or not the Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Union of which it’s a part, can stay together. The consequences of this elevation haven’t gone unnoticed by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, head of the Anglican Union, as the (UK) Telegraph reports:

Dr Rowan Williams warned Episcopal Church leaders that they risk breaking “our bonds of mutual affection” if they ordain the openly gay reverend as an assistant bishop. …

Responding quickly to the Episcopal diocese of Los Angeles’s election of the Rev Canon Glasspool, Dr Rowan Williams said it raised “very serious questions” for the divided church.

He reminded Episcopal leaders that they had agreed there should be a “period of gracious respect” over such controversial appointments.

The agreement Williams alluded to had been reached in 2006, but earlier this year, it was lifted. Glasspool’s election — if it comes to pass (and it’s not guaranteed yet that it will) — very well could cause serious problems for the Anglican Union and its member churches. As I blogged already, it’s arguable that an Anglican schism is already underway in the US, and this won’t make reconciliation any easier.

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My home state of Connecticut is an odd place. It’s a “blue state” which — despite having a Republican governor — is run by Democrats in the legislature and its state employee unions. As a whole it votes liberal and Democratic reliably and consistently. It’s only the third state to permit gay marriage — by virtue of the Connecticut Supreme Court ruling in Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health. Compared with the rest of the country, Nutmeggers are extremely liberal.

But in a few ways it’s still a very parochial state. It still has blue laws, for example. Connecticut also has three very powerful and influential Roman Catholic dioceses (those of Bridgeport and Norwich, and the archdiocese of Hartford) which have, over the last year and a half, become extremely “activist” along Religious-Right lines, as I’ve blogged already. (Even though nationally the Religious Right tends to be Protestant, not Catholic.)

The reason for their political activism is not immediately clear … however, I suspect it’s a push-back effort … the dioceses in Connecticut have suffered from bad press for several years as a result of pedophile priests (such as Fr Stephen Foley, who — when he was sued by one of his victims — the archdiocese of Hartford tried to keep from being deposed in civil court (WebCite cached article). By ramming Religious Right-type causes down Nutmeggers’ throats and trying to make themselves into “kingmakers,” the bishops are playing on Connecticut’s underlying stream of parochiality, hoping to have at least one success that gets people to forget their complicity in previous scandals.

The Kerrigan case … and the presence of gays and gay causes in general … has provided no small amount of fodder for Catholic activism in Connecticut. The most recent example of this campaign is an odd but remarkably ardent campaign to prevent DCF — Connecticut’s child-care agency — to help gays (as reported by WTIC-AM radio in Hartford):

The state Department of Children and Families takes down part of its web site describing a program to train care givers on the needs of homosexual young people.

A conservative political group, and a Christian legal group had threatened to sue over the web pages for the Safe Harbor Project.

American Center for Law and Justice lawyer Vincent McCarthy said his organization sent a letter to the department, “demanding that the state of Connecticut DCF discontinue its endorsement of an alternative religious point of view that endorses the homosexual lifestyle.”

The web pages that were taken down included links to gay-accepting churches in Connecticut, including some in the United Church of Christ, and the Unitarian-Universalist Church

How dare the state of Connecticut offer gays a resource for acceptance!? Why, it cannot be tolerated!

Now … this story does not mention the Catholic Church or the state’s Catholic bishops as being part of this. And they may not be. However, there is a connection, which is referred to later in the article:

Family Institute of Connecticut director Peter Wolfgang said “This was the state stepping in to reeducate our children.

“This is the next big fight, and we will step in to fight it wherever we can, but this was such an obvious open and shut case because it had to do with the state taking a position on religion in clear violation of the first amendment,” Wolfgang said.

Peter Wolfgang is a prominent Connecticut Catholic, and his Family Institute dutifully aligns itself with the state’s Catholic bishops on all of their various crusades.* So it’s not unlikely that they played some part in this effort, even though it’s not overtly stated here.

At any rate, there appears to be no good reason for these religionazis to prevent the state from offering gays a positive resource they can rely on … except as part of their generalized homophobia and desire to repress gays in all ways and make them into second-class citizens. Way to go, guys. Keep up the gay-bashing. You continue to look like the intellectual Neanderthals you’ve shown yourselves to be for nearly 2,000 years.

* My choice of the word “crusade” here is deliberate and not metaphorical. The Catholic bishops in Connecticut are assuredly at war with gays. If they possessed the ability to raise armies against them — as some Popes such as Urban II and several Church councils sent armies to go to war with “the infidel” during the Middle Ages — I have no doubt they would be doing so, right now. That their “crusade” is one of propaganda, lawsuits and politicking, rather than a martial expedition, is just a reflection of modern reality … and a reminder as to why “separation of church and state” is so very important.

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Things were looking pretty dark for the Anglican Church (known here in the ’States as the Episcopal Church) after the elevation of the openly-gay Gene Robinson to Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire in 2003 (he took office in 2004). A number of congregations have left the Anglican Union over this, including one not far from me here in Connecticut, about a year ago. Fortunately, aside from some rogue priests, congregations, and (in the Third World) even a couple of bishops, the Anglican Union managed to stay together.

But recently the Anglican church made yet another controversial decision that might cause even more departures:

The Church of England’s move to accept women bishops further roiled an already troubled Anglican communion Tuesday, infuriating conservatives and complicating efforts to promote unity with the Roman Catholic Church.

The Church of England’s ruling body on Monday night voted to back women becoming bishops without giving traditionalist supporters of male-only bishops the concessions they had sought.

Yes, folks, that’s right, the Anglican Union — which has ordained women as priests for some years now — is still having trouble with the idea that men and women are equal.

Or should I say, a conservative wing of the Anglican Union is having difficulty with the concept. This conservative wing, along with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches as well as some Protestant denominations, are still afflicted with Neanderthal thinking about women.

In reality there is no clear, logical, rational basis for not allowing women to be ordained, to whatever office. There is nothing about one gender or the other that makes one better as clergy, or precludes being clergy.

As for why and how the Roman Catholic Church believes it has any authority to tell the Anglican Church what it can or cannot do, your guess is as good as mine.

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