Posted in category "Popes"

Sodalitium Christianae Vitae – A Curious Silence

Posted by Censor Librorum on Feb 17, 2018 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, Popes, Scandals, Weirdos

Conservative Catholic publications and bloggers love gay marriage and romance stories.  They are  fascinated and obsessed by them. They are reported with relish, in gleeful, triumphant detail, especially when a Catholic school teacher or long-time parish volunteer loses his or her position after marrying their partner.

Conservative Catholic morality watchdogs have been all over Fr. James Martin’s book, Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of  Respect, Compassion and Sensitivity.”  The often anonymous complainers about the book and Fr. Martin’s speaking appearances protest his lack of condemnation for homosexual relationships, and that he does not use the term “intrinsically morally evil” to describe them.

It’s curious, given their obsession with gay and lesbian sex, that no conservative Catholic publications have covered the story on Sodalitium Christianae Vitae beyond one or two mentions.  There has been no accompanying editorial on “homosexual agendas,” or “homosexual networks” out to undermine traditional Catholic moral teaching. An extensive web search could not produce one conservative Catholic blogger who posted about it.  There is a curious silence from the ranks of the ultra conservatives and self-described “orthodox” defenders of faith and “truth.”  Why is that?

Here’s a simple answer: conservative Catholics don’t condemn one of their own.  Luis Fernando Figari was exposed as a closeted homosexual who is also a liar, hypocrite, molester and rapist.  But he didn’t try to change church teaching; he just went around it. He’s a sinner, not a subversive.  

The Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, or Sodalitium of Christian Life as it’s known in the U.S., was established in Lima, Peru in 1971 by Luis Fernando Figari, a law student.  Sodalitium was set up to inculcate teenage and young men from the Peruvian elite with a conservative strain of Catholicism, shaping them to champion these values as adults.  In 1997 Pope John Paul II approved it as a lay society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right, under the supervision of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

By 2010 abuse allegations began to seep out.  In May 2011 a man filed a complaint with Peru’s ecclesiastical court that was forwarded to the Vatican.  More complaints were filed in 2013 and 2014.  But it wasn’t until 2015 that the lid blew off Sodalitium’s secrets with the publication of a book, Half Monks, Half Soldiersby Pao Ugaz and Pedro Salinas.  The journalists chronicled years of sexual, physical and psychological abuse by Figari and other leaders in the community, including Figari’s #2, German Doig Klinge, the former Sodalitium vicar general who died in 2001.  Presumably German Doig’s cause for canonization–promoted by Figari and Sodalitium–will now die a quiet death.

When Peruvian prosecutors began investigating the abuse allegations in 2015, Figari left for the Vatican.

Both the Vatican and Sodalitium have commissioned their own investigations.  The 2016 Sodalitium report says Figari and other members sexually abused at least 19 minors and 17 adults starting in 1975. A former member said when he was 15 Figari had anal sex with him several times.  The report also said he instructed a man to kiss his penis, and touched and hugged members while naked. Figari also knew of three adult members who sexually abused minors.  

How could this go on for so long?  No one in the organization reported the abuse, or apparently, tried to stop it. The shepherds looked the other way and ignored complaints.  They include the last two popes, St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Vatican bureaucrats, and bishops who agree with the mission of conservative groups like the Legionnaires of Christ and Sodalitium uber alles.  It might also include some members of the closeted “Lavender Mafia” in the Vatican who protect their own.  

Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, the ultra conservative archbishop of Lima and a member of Opus Dei, had an ambiguous response to the scandal. He ignored it until commenting became unavoidable.  But he also gave a warning in a homily that he would not accept criticism from “false moralists who want to mistreat the Church.”

Cardinal Cipriani wasn’t so discreet in 2013, when he outed a Peruvian legislator, Carlos Bruce, on a radio program. The reason for his fury: Bruce had sponsored a bill to allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions. ‘If a person has made some alternate choices, that’s their problem and he can do whatever he wants on his own. But I don’t think that we’ve elected congresspeople just so they can justify their own life choices. I don’t think that’s right.”  Bruce, who is divorced with two sons, later told news media that he would not dignify such comments with a response. The cardinal’s comments resulted in Peruvian tabloid La Razon to run the headline “Cipriani pulls Bruce out of the closet” on its front page.

As far as I can tell, Cardinal Cipriani never went on TV, radio or print media, or used one of his homilies to denounce Luis Fernando Figari and the “saintly” German Doig for using their leadership positions to procure and sexually assault teenage boys and young men.

Although the Sodalitium sex abuse scandal did not come up in any of the Pope’s public speeches or audiences during his January 15-21 2018 trip to Peru and Chile, it shadowed his entire stay.  On January 10, 2018, shortly before traveling, Pope Francis essentially took over Sodalitium by appointing Columbia Bishop Noel Antonio Londono Buitrago as papal commissioner.  In addition to sex abuse, Vatican investigators also uncovered financial irregularities.

On the January 21, 2018  return flight to Rome from Lima, Pope Francis said that Figari’s case is currently before the court of appeals in the Apostolic Signatura, and “will be released in less than a month.”  “I am not very informed, but the thing is not very favorable for the founder,” he added. “If the Apostolic Signatura decides in favor of the appeal, it will not make sense,” he said, “because many, many serious cases are accumulating.”

What will happen to Figari? Will the Vatican allow him to be extradited to Peru to be arrested and face trial; or will it permit him to retire to a “life of prayer and penance” like the disgraced Legionnaires of Christ founder and leader, Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado?

I’m sure Cardinal Cipriani would not want the publicity and investigative reporting that would accompany Figari’s return to Lima.  He will fight tooth and nail to keep him in Rome.  

U.S. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadephia, who invited Sodalitium representatives to staff campus and parish ministries, would find it awkward to defend their leadership while castigating moderate and liberal Catholic politicians for defending gay and lesbian civil rights. 

The less said, the better.  

Pope Francis, who inherited this mess, and whose foot-dragging has caused complaint, does get a partial defense from Pao Ugaz, the investigative journalist and co-author of Half Monks, Half Soldiers. 

“The Vatican is set up so that the pope reigns but doesn’t govern,” she said. “Francisco is much more political (than previous pontiffs) and he has more leverage but there is still a lot of resistance and it remains to be seen who will prevail.”









Pope vs. Pope on the “Our Father”

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jan 26, 2018 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Dissent, History, Humor, Popes, Sacred Scripture

Late last year the Italian bishops’ television channel, TV2000, broadcasted a series of conversations between the pope and a Catholic prison chaplain looking at the Lord’s Prayer line by line.  The episode broadcast on December 6, 2017 focused on the line, “Lead us not into temptation.”

Pope Francis suggested the Church should amend the translation of the “Our Father” to clear up the confusion around the phrase, “Lead us not into temptation.” “That is not a good translation,” the pope said in the December 6th interview with Italian television.   

“I’m the one who falls,” Pope Francis explained. “But it’s not God who pushes me into temptation to see how I fall.  No, a father does not do this.  A father helps us up immediately.” “The one who leads us into temptation is Satan,” the pope said. “That’s Satan’s job.”‘

A possible alternative to “Lead us not into temptation” is “Do not let us fall into temptation.”  In his interview, Pope Francis suggested that the phrase be adopted more widely.  I was surprised to learn Catholics in several countries have used a new translation for some time.  “Do not let us fall into temptation” is currently used by the Church in France, Spain, Belgium and Benin.  In Italy, “Do not abandon us in temptation” has been used since 2008.

There are no Bible stories or saints’ tales I can recall where God leads a person towards temptation. The one prominent story of Jesus being tempted in the desert was through his encounter with Satan. God didn’t lead Eve to eat and offer the forbidden fruit. There are hundreds of anecdotes of tempted saints, but they feature demons, devils or sexy women.

The National Catholic Register, a conservative bi-weekly, devoted major space in its December 24, 2017  edition to the Our Father line translation, with a front-page story and editorial rebutting the pope’s suggested change. The reasoning to oppose a change was either theological, political or emotional.  

The author of the article was Msgr. Charles Pope, pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian parish in Washington, DC. He is a contributor to Community in Mission, a blog of the the Archdiocese of Washington, DC. In his article, Msgr. Pope elaborated on three key points:

  • “While the intention may be to assist the reader to understand that God does not tempt us or directly cause us to fall, the effect is to imply that the inspired Greek text is inadequate.”
  • “Second, in the English-speaking world, the Lord’s Prayer is one of the few prayers we have in common with non-Catholics. Even many of the unchurched have committed it to memory.”
  • “Lastly, by changing the line we will miss a “teachable moment” in which an important truth about God can be explained.”

“Surely God does not tempt us in any direct sense,” Msgr Pope reasoned. “He does not will to entrap us or to confound us so as to make us fall.  However, because he is the first cause of all existing things, he is also the first cause of things that tempt us. So, in asking God to “lead us not into temptation,” we ask him, who, providentially holds us and all things in existence, to lead us forward with the graces we need to resist it.  This will allow us to enjoy the good things he gives without giving way to the temptations of inordinate desires.”

Msgr. Pope’s analysis is good, and it is worth pondering as a spiritual reflection.  But his explanation on the meaning of one line involves a long and very intellectual argument–counter intuitive to a simple petition.  Msgr. Pope concludes that we should “remain rooted in the translation of the Lord’s Prayer that has sustained and united the English-speaking world for hundreds upon hundreds of years.”

This statement by Msgr. Pope is not entirely accurate. Since the Reformation, Christians have disagreed on the wording and translation of another line in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Methodists and most Anglican/Episcopalians use this version.  Presbyterians and other Christians use, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive debtors.”  Some Christians replaced “trespasses” and “debts” with “sins.”  The different words have different meanings in the ‘English language.  “Trespasses” means having crossed a line that may or may not have been clearly marked. “Debtors” implies someone owes you and hasn’t settled the debt. What we hear from the prayer depends on the words we use.

I have started to say: “Do not let us fall into temptation” when I say the Our Father in prayer or at Mass. I was glad to let go of “Lead us not into temptation,” which I have always felt was antithetical to trusting God.  




The Notorious Bishop Robert Morlino

Posted by Censor Librorum on Nov 6, 2017 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, Lesbians & Gays, Popes, Scandals

Bishop Robert Morlino was appointed by Pope John Paul II as the 4th bishop of Madison, Wisconsin on May 23, 2003.  The “good news” for Madison Catholics is that he turns 75 on December 31, 2021.  They just need to hang on and run out the clock.

On October 21, 2017, his vicar general, Rev. Msgr. James Bartylla, emailed diocesan priests on “Consideration of Funeral Rites for a Person in a Homosexual Civil or Notorious Union.”  Though it was sent from the vicar general, the communication had the approval of Bishop Morlino. 

Priests should not mention the name of the surviving partner, nor make any reference to the “unnatural union” if funeral rites are provided for someone in a same-sex relationship. In addition, priests should keep in mind the “attitude” of the family toward the church, whether the deceased or surviving partner was a “promoter of the gay lifestyle,” and whether the deceased person had shown “signs of repentance before death.”

Predictably, this has caused a stink. Even a few bishops weighed in on the opposite direction–something that rarely occurs in their “collegiality” culture.

Bishop Morlino and Msgr. Bartylla have not extended the funeral ban to any other sexual activity the church finds sinful or shameful–rape, incest, adultery, pornography, prostitution, molestation–by clergy or laity to children, young people or adults.  The only ban is to lesbians and gays in a civil marriage.

In this 13 years as bishop of Madison, Morlino has regularly detonated controversy bombs. 

In 2004, six months after arriving in Madison, he came out swinging in the Catholic Herald newspaper.  Morlino stated that Madison existed below a “moral minimum” and that they city had “virtually no public morality.” He specifically cited the city’s StageQ community theater–a lesbian and gay troupe–as evidence of this view.

But the worst episode was his reaction to a March 2010 New York Times expose of the Vatican handling of the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy.  Father Murphy is believed to have molested hundreds of boys between 1950 and 1974 while assigned to a Milwaukee area school for the deaf.  In the late ’90s, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a Vatican office headed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger–the future Pope Benedict XVI–stopped attempts by Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland and Cardinal Bertone of the CDF to defrock the priest.

Bishop Morlino, who ripped Madison’s lack of “public morality” rushed to the defense of Pope Benedict XVI’s management of the Fr. Murphy sex abuse complaint–

“As the Church in Europe now uncovers some of the sins committed by its clergy members, the mass media was trying, with every fiber of their being to make Pope Benedict XVI look guilty. Their big line is, ‘what did the Pope know and when did he know it?’ That is, ‘he’s to be treated like any other politician; he’s probably corrupt, and it’s our role to uncover his corruption.'”

And he goes on…

“Of course, many see their role as to destroy the Church of Christ, the Catholic Church. They want us out of the way. So, a very good way to attack the Church is to attack the Holy Father himself. These same people who demand to know what the Pope knew and when he knew it want to place the responsibility for the acts of others (undertaken far away and in different time periods), at the feet of the Pope and make him responsible.”

He chides the “disobedient people” demanding accountability…

“In order to be responsible for something, one has to have the authority to do something about it. And the very people who want to make the Holy Father responsible for everything heinous in the sexual misconduct scandal are the least likely to accept the Pope’s authority in any matter.  They are the most disobedient people, in general. Yet they want to lay all the responsibility at the Pope’s feet. That simply makes no sense and we should not be fooled.”

Bishop Morlino contended it was church officials in Milwaukee, not the Vatican, who controlled what happened with Fr. Murphy. “It is clear the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, of which Cardinal Ratzinger was then at the head, had nothing to do with the criminal case of the sickening abuse by Fr. Lawrence Murphy of several young deaf men.”

According to the New York Times, in 1993, with complaints about Fr. Murphy stacking up, Archbishop Weakland hired a social worker specializing in treating sexual offenders to evaluate him.  After four days of interviews, the social worker said that Fr. Murphy had admitted his acts, had probably molested about 200 boys and felt no remorse.

In 1996 Archbishop Weakland sent two letters to Cardinal Ratzinger, and one to the Apostolic Signatura, the church’s highest court, asking for guidance on whether to conduct a canonical trial of Father Murphy.  Archbishop Weakland wanted Murphy defrocked.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had oversight of the case because Father Murphy was suspected of using the confessional to commit his crimes — a crime that is considered particularly serious under the church’s canon law because confession is a sacrament.
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In 1998, Fr. Murphy, who was dying, wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger asking for clemency.  “I simply want to live out the time that I have left in the dignity of my priesthood.  I ask your kind assistance in this matter.”  Cardinal Ratzinger’s office moved to halt the defrocking process.  Fr. Murphy died later in that year. An auxiliary bishop of Milwaukee celebrated his funeral Mass, and he was buried in his priestly vestments.

What moral lesson should we take from all of this?





Catholic Values in Higher Education

Posted by Censor Librorum on Oct 24, 2017 | Categories: Accountability, Musings, Popes, Social Justice

In an October 17, 2017 audience with students from the “Institution des Chartreux” in Lyon, France Pope Francis reminds them of their need to keep their moral formation at the heart of their drive to professional success and fulfillment.

“You are engaged in a course of study that prepares you to enter the great schools of commerce that, when the moment comes, will enable you to exercise a profession in the world of international finance. I am glad to know that your academic formation includes a strong human, philosophical and spiritual dimension, and for this I thank God. Indeed, it is essential that, from now and in your future professional life, you learn to remain free from the allure of money, from the slavery in which money traps those who worship it. And it is also important that you are able to acquire today the strength and the courage not to obey blindly the invisible hand of the market. Therefore, I encourage you to draw benefits from your time studying to train yourselves to be promoters and defenders of a growth in equality, artisans of a just and fitting administration of our common home, namely the world (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 204; 206).”

“Here in Rome you experience a form of immersion in the history that has so strongly marked the rise of the European nations. Admiring what the genius of men and the hopes they have cultivated have been capable of realising, you too must take care to leave your imprint on history. Indeed, you have the capacity of deciding your future! I wish to repeat it: you have the capacity of deciding your future. Therefore I urge you to become responsible for this world and the life of every man. Never forget that “every injustice against a poor person is an open wound, and diminishes your very dignity” (Catechesis, 20 September 2017). And, even though this world expects you to head towards success, give yourselves the means and the time to journey the paths of fraternity, to build bridges between men rather than walls, to add your stone to the edification of a more just and humane society.”

Every pope in the last century has touched on this ethic, including Pope Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II.  However, I don’t think has been stated as often, and as strongly, as Pope Francis.  Pope Leo XIII laid the foundation of modern Catholic social teaching with Rerum Novarum – an encyclical on capital and labor.  It was published on May 15, 1891.

Earlier this week, I had an exchange with a good friend about the values in my college formation:

“Mary, When I attended Trinity, the values were academic rigor, service to society and others, and our Catholic faith as the foundation for professional and community life. We were encouraged to make an impact, to contribute. I have lived Trinity’s values all my life. Are those the same values now at Trinity?” (Note – I entered Trinity College in Washington, DC in September 1970 and graduated in May 1974.) 

Trinity was founded in 1897, so I’m sure the teaching of Rerum Novarum had an impact on the new college’s moral and ethical mission.

Especially as a graduate of a Catholic college, I was dismayed to see niche morality on display in the National Catholic Register’s (a national newspaper) 2017 Catholic Identity College Guide.  The paper sent ten questions to the 197 U.S. Catholic colleges and universities to ostensibly verify Catholic identity.  Of that number, 34 returned the questionnaires with the correct answers.  You can get the flavor of the survey in a few of the questions:

  • “Did the president make the public “Profession of Faith” and take the “Oath of Fidelity”?
  • “Did all Catholic theology professors take the “Oath of Fidelity”
  • “Do you exclude advocates of abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research, cloning or advocates of the redefinition of marriage as commencement speakers and/or recipients of honorary degrees?”
  • “Do you exclude sponsoring campus groups and clubs that are not in line with Catholic teaching (examples: abortion and LGBT-related clubs)? If allowed, please explain.”
  • “Do you prohibit coed dorms?”

No mention of advocates of the death penalty? No mention of barring executives from companies who have endorsed or looked the other way on shoddy or criminal financial practices? Notorious polluters?  Why, I wonder?  Aren’t these “Life” issues?

I think it is good and needed to encourage Catholic identify in education and especially young people.  Young people want to talk about what’s important or troubling them, and they want other people to hear what they have to say.  We need to listen, and to encourage the exercise of their conscience, which will be their moral compass for the rest of their life–especially if they go into business.









Summa Familiae Cura

Posted by Censor Librorum on Sep 26, 2017 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Humor, Popes

Pope Francis has overhauled the Vatican institute most closely associated with the conservative sexual morals promoted by St. John Paul II, saying it was necessary to adapt and expand its mission to address the reality of today’s Catholics.

Officials said the revamped John Paul II Theological Institute for the Marriage and Family Sciences will offer degrees in the social sciences — such as sociology, anthropology, psychology — as well as biology and other sciences, reflecting a vision of the family that goes well beyond strict Catholic theology.

The inclusion of biological sciences in the curriculum, and a mission statement that cites a focus on human “regeneration” and care for the planet, suggests that the revamped institute will address human sexuality, the environment and the church’s position on artificial contraception.

With a motu proprio issued on September 19, 2017, Pope Francis closed the Vatican institute set up by St. Pope John Paul II to study marriage and family life, replacing it with a new institute with a different name and different focus.

The papal document, Summa Familiae Cura, formally ends the work that started in 1981 as the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family.  In its place the motu proprio establishes the Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences.

The new institute is intended to take a different approach to the study of family life.  It will reflect the work of the two recent Synod meetings and the Pope’s own apostolic exhoration, Amoris Laetitia.

In Summa Familiae Cura the Pope emphasized the Church must respond to the needs of troubled families, and couples struggling with the marriages, in a society that no longer supports the traditional Christian understanding of marriage.  Pope Francis also stressed the need for the Church to incorporate the perspectives of contemporary science in analyzing family life.

While praising the vision of his predecessor, Pope Francis says that the revision of the Institute is a response to “the new pastoral challenges to which the Christian community is called to respond.”  He writes:  “Anthropological-cultural change, that today influences all aspects of life and requires an analytic and diversified approach, does not permit us to limit ourselves to practices in pastoral ministry and mission that reflect forms and models of the past.”

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, who is the chancellor of the new Institute, told Vatican Radio that a key focus of its work would be “dialogue with all the human sciences, because family today rediscovers its vocation, not in the abstract.”

A sampling of views from the Peanut Gallery:

“Sexual morals as promoted by St. John Paul II? BAHAHAHAHAHA! The biggest pedophile protector ever.  First, he has Bernard Law brought to the Vatican to escape prosecution for transferring countless pedophile priests, then he claimed to be best friends and even traveled around with Maciel, the founder of the Legionnaires of Christ, and one of the most notorious pedophiles himself, along with seducing anything he could get his hands on.” – Bill

“Fortunately we will not have to suffer this man much longer.  Natural catastrophes daily say it all as to how close we are to Judgement.” – JD

“Wrong, wrong! St. Pope John Paul II had it right.  This liberal Jesuit is splitting the Church. It will not work. Many world Catholics are angry and confused.  Francis must abide by the Bible and Catholic theology all of which is the word of Christ.” – toughcritic

“With Francis, it’s always the same message: disruption and discontinuity.” – dover beachcomber

“It’s really tough to be optimistic on this for three reasons:  1) Nothing was broke so don’t “fix” it.  2) The (shudder) language used in “justifying” the change. 3) the “shudder” emphasis on Amoris Laetitia.  Speaking of which, what happened to our 4 stalwarts?” – jalsardl5053

“The Church (needs) to incorporate the perspectives of contemporary science in analyzing family life.” This sounds to me very-very suspicious. I hope, I’m wrong.” – feedback

“I supposed he is trying to make the church more relevant in the modern world but he is making it less relevant to me.” – Jerome

“That this institute will be run by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia who favored homoerotic art for his Cathedral makes my skin crawl. Viewing his mural makes me want to go and take a bath. It is so bad I will not provide a link to it. Nothing good will come from this institute!” – Anonymous

My take:  Pope Francis continues remaking the Church from a museum into a garden.





Pope Francis Does Cardinal Burke a Favor

Posted by Censor Librorum on Nov 29, 2014 | Categories: Bishops, Humor, Politics, Popes

While most of the world is thrilled by Pope Francis, a few are not.  One of the most outspoken is Raymond Cardinal Burke, 66.  burke purple

Cardinal Burke is a voice of conservatism in the Roman Catholic Church and American politics, and a prominent devotee of the Tridentine Mass.  He is intent on the “reform of the reform” of Vatican II.

Many photos of Cardinal Burke feature him in full regalia, a billowing cappa magna, lace rochet, velvet gauntlets, a towering mitre–the image of royalty, privilege and authority is unmistakable. That style is the polar opposite of Pope Francis, who is urging clerics to be pastors who “smell like their sheep.”  burke 11

Over the last year and a half Cardinal Burke has made a series of statements to the press challenging Pope Francis’ shift in pastoral style.  In an interview with the Spanish Catholic weekly Vida Nueva, published on October 30, 2014, Burke insisted he was not speaking out against the pope personally but raising concern about his leadership.

“Many have expressed their concerns to me.  At this very critical moment, there is a strong sense that the church is like a ship without a rudder,” Burke said. “Now, it is more important than ever to examine our faith, have a healthy spiritual leader and give powerful witness to the faith.”  burke hat

The “rudderless ship” remark was probably the last straw in a string of provocative challenges from Cardinal Burke.  On November 8, 2014 he was officially removed as head of the Vatican’s highest judicial authority, known as the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.  Obviously, he didn’t get the hint after he was dropped from the Congregation of Bishops in December 2013.  Cardinal Burke no longer holds any influential Vatican posts.  burke fur

At the same time, his appointment as Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta was announced.  The Knights of Malta were founded in 1048 and recognized as a lay religious order by Pope Paschal II in 1113.  It has a very elaborate hierarchy, with religious at the top, nobles next, and larger groups of knights and dames of common birth below them in their own separate categories and classes.  Each group has its own insignia, making the classes of persons easily recognizable.

Pope Francis has done Cardinal Burke a favor.  He will have ample opportunity to wear the finery he enjoys and not raise an eyebrow. The people around him will be dressed in equally rich, dramatic and historically meaningful capes and crosses.  He will also feel at home with people who are used to looking backward to the Middle Ages.  Burke10


Why Did Bishop Livieres Get Removed?

Posted by Censor Librorum on Oct 26, 2014 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, History, Humor, Popes, Scandals, Weirdos

On September 25, 2014, Pope Francis removed Bishop Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano, 69, head of the Diocese of Ciudad del Este, the second largest city in Paraguay. He took the action to preserve the “unity” of both the bishops and the faithful” and “under the weight of serious pastoral concerns,” said the Vatican in a statement. ciudad del este

Bishop Livieres, a member of Opus Dei, repeatedly feuded with the other bishops in Paraguay over seminarian formation, liberation theology and pastoral tone.

He was appointed to the diocese by St. John Paul II in 2004 with a mandate, communicated to him by the papal nuncio at the time, to oppose Paraguayan bishops’ “monolithic” support for liberation theology. He said Pope Benedict XVI personally told him in 2008 that liberation theology was “the problem in all of Latin America.”

But Pope Benedict “had a very different orientation from the present pontificate,” the bishop said. “This is a pontificate opposed to the previous pontificate.”

Soon after he was installed, Bishop Livieres opened his own diocesan seminary in Ciudad del Este, marked by a more orthodox style then the main seminary in Paraguay’s capital, Asuncion.

The man he appointed as his Vicar General, a position often responsible for the oversight of clerical sexual abuse, is the Rev. Carlos Urrutigoity.  Fr. Urrutigoity has been accused multiple times of sexual abuse of high school boys and seminarians in the guise of spiritual direction.

Fr. Urrutigoity has an interesting story of his own that mixes ultra orthodoxy with homo-erotic overtones and encounters. He began his clerical career in the schismatic Society of St. Pius X. urrutigoity

In 2002, Urrutigoity was accused of sexual abuse of young men in a highly publicized lawsuit in the diocese of Scranton, PA.  He and another priest, Eric Ensey, were suspended by then-Bishop James Timlin amid allegations that they had sexually molested students at St. Gregory’s Academy, a high school for boys operated by the Priestly Fraternity for St. Peter, an order devoted to the Latin Mass. The diocese reached a $400,000 plus settlement in the case in 2006. St. Gregory’s Academy closed in 2012.

A statement on the Diocese of Scanton, PA website describes Fr. Urrutigoity as a “serious threat to young people” and says that Bishop Timlin’s immediate successor, Bishop Joseph Martino, cautioned Bishop Livieres against accepting Fr. Urrutigoity as an active priest.

“Bishop Martino…carefully and consistently expressed his grave doubts about this cleric’s suitability for priestly ministry and cautioned the bishop of the Diocese of Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, to not allow Father Urrutigoity to incardinate into his diocese,” the statement reads.

When the archbishop of Asuncion, Eustaquio Cuquejo Verga, asked Bishop Livieres to investigate Fr. Urrutigoity, Livieres fired back publicly saying, “I think Cuquejo is a homosexual” to Paraguayan TV station La Tele.

In July 2014, Pope Francis sent a cardinal and an archbishop to investigate the Ciudad del Este diocese.  They were looking into accusations of embezzlement in the management of the diocese’s finances, severing ties with other bishops, and protecting and promoting Fr. Carlos Urrutigoity in the face of numerous warnings by other dioceses.

Shortly after the July 21-26 visit, the Vatican ordered Fr. Urrutigoity be removed from ministry, and severely restricted the activities of Bishop Livieres, including removing his authority to ordain priests.

Although the Vatican did not specify Bishop Livieres’ financial irregularities, he was allegedly accused of using funds destined for needy and abandoned children, single pregnant women, and women subject to domestic violence, to cover phone, gas and other expenses at the seminaries he opened.

Fr. Ciro Benedettni, deputy head of the Vatican press office, said issues surrounding Fr. Urrutigoity were part of the reason for the removal of Bishop Livieres, but the main motive was to put a stop to the infighting among Paraguayan bishops over the training of priests and the mismanagement of seminaries set up by Bishop Livieres.

The downfall of Bishop Livieres has several similarities to the case of Bishop Robert Finn of the Kansas City-St. Joseph, MO diocese:

-Both bishops are members of Opus Dei.

-Both were outspoken promoters of Catholic orthodoxy.

-Both protected priests credibly accused of sexual abuse.

Either something doesn’t add up morally, or priestly sexual peccadilloes count for much less than doctrinaire correctness to Catholic tradition.

Further Reading:

“Purgatory Begins for Bishop Finn”

“The Curious Case of Carlos Urrutigoity”

“Rogue Priest, formerly of the Diocese of Scanton, Living the Good Life in Paraguay”






Book Review: Inside the Jesuits: How Pope Francis is Changing the World and the Church

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jul 22, 2014 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Faith, History, Popes


In the summer of 1206, St. Francis went into the small chapel of San Damiano near Assisi to pray.  As he knelt before the crucifix, he heard Jesus’ invitation: “Francis, go rebuild my Church, which you see is falling into ruins.” “Yes!” said Francis, “This is what I want; this is what I long for with all my heart.”

800 years later, the first Pope Francis took up the same challenge–to rebuild a Church that was in almost total disgrace, disarray, and irrelevant.  The message of the Gospels had become lost to dogmatic meanness and nit-picking.

Inside the Jesuits: How Pope Francis is Changing the World and the Church by noted journalist and former Jesuit Robert Blair Kaiser, offers insights on the pope’s “Jesuit DNA.”  It is this DNA that impels him with a “holy boldness” to push the boundaries to make the world a better place, and rebuild the Church to a house of mercy and humanity.

The Jesuit DNA includes several things: a striving for the greater glory of God (ad majorem Dei gloriam); but especially to go to the edges, the margins, to learn, understand and serve. After Vatican II, the author relates that most Jesuits call salvation “being all we can be in this life” and not simply to get to heaven, but to make a difference in the lives of other people.

Pope Francis’ emphasis on humanity vs. rules and regulations is changing the culture of judgement (abortion, same-sex marriage, doctrinaire fixation (“are you pure enough to call yourself ‘Catholic?’) to a culture of mercy and mission.  He wants to be fully engaged with people, and is leading the Church to do likewise.  He starts by calling himself a sinner who has made many mistakes (when was the last time we heard a cardinal, bishop, or priest do that?) and reminds us that Christ came to us so that we might know life more fully.

The author framed this motivation wonderfully by describing his own experience as a teacher and coach at Saint Ignatius Prep, a high school for boys in San Francisco, CA: “I was trying to show them that their religion, fully lived, was something that would make them more human, happier individuals, with a humanity and happiness that would bring joy to those around them.  I wanted to destroy the image of religion as something that made people less human, less joyful, less real.”

The author doesn’t back away from the warts.  He examines Pope Francis’ time as provincial of the Argentine Jesuits and as archbishop of Buenos Aires. He has come under criticism for both periods because of his lack of support for liberation theology, and for not standing up to the military junta that caused the death or disappearance  of over 20,000 people.

The pope did not shy away from his record, but doesn’t go into specifics. He explains the Lord leads to a growth of knowledge through his faults and sins, and also that he made decisions alone and in the midst of an interior crisis. If experience leads to a conversion of heart, who are we to judge?

Robert Kaiser also raises the pope’s, Church’s, and Jesuits’ poor records and lack of engagement with women–half the Church. My good friend, theologian Dr. Mary E. Hunt, challenges the pope on this issue:  “It is intellectually embarrassing to hear a man who is so conversant with music, literature and poetry have such a palty vocabulary when it comes to women. Thus far, Francis has not had any public conversation with a woman church leader of any sort.  The continued oppression of U.S. women religious, officially approved by him, is a negative sign as well.”

The author thinks Dr. Hunt is mistaken, but I agree with her. The pope needs to address the impact of our closed, male-oriented institution on the poorest of the poor–Catholic women. Women continue to wait for meaningful action from Pope Francis.  His Jesuit DNA won’t help us there–Jesuits have little to do with women’s issues or women as a group.

One surprise in the book for me was the suggestion that 46-year-old Jorge Bergoglio had been in love. In March 1986 he went to Frankfurt, Germany for two years to pursue a doctorate. In 1987 his provincial ordered him back to Argentina, his thesis only half finished. He was put on severe restrictions for correspondence and communication. This kind of discipline is only warranted if the man has told superiors he has fallen in love, or if a fellow Jesuit found out he is having a love affair.

Would love and separation make a person more emphathetic to its effects in other people’s lives? I think so. Perhaps this period in the pope’s life has led him to emphasize mercy, forgiveness and the human vs. ideological.  Pope Francis has described himself as a sinner who has made hundreds of mistakes. It sounds like it’s true–not some stock piety.

About half the book is devoted to Pope Francis, the remainder is parables about fellow Jesuits and former Jesuits who illustrate the best of “Jesuit DNA.”  Like Marines–once a Marine, always a Marine, Jesuits forever identify themselves as brothers, and retain their values, friendships and network for a lifetime.

The men profiled include Fr. Marie Joseph Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a scientist and humanist; Fr. George Dunne, writer and social justice crusader; Bill Cain, playwright and screen writer; Fr. John Baumann, co-founder of PICO (Pacific Institute of Community Organizing); Governor Jerry Brown of California, John Dear, peace activist; and, of course, Inigo Lopez de Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits.  There is a lot to inspire all of us in their generous lives.

When Jorge Bergoglio became Pope Francis people and pundits wondered what it would mean to have a Jesuit pope?  How does he think?  What is important to him? What can we expect?

On the way back to Rome from World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro Pope Francis addressed this question by reporter Caroline Pigozzi from Paris Match:

“Good evening, Holy Father.  I would like to know if you, since you’ve been Pope, still feel yourself a Jesuit?”

Pope Francis:  “I feel myself a Jesuit in my spirituality, in the spirituality of the Exercises, spirituality, the one I have in my heart. But I feel so much like this that in three days I’ll go to celebrate with  Jesuits the feast of Saint Ignatius:  I will say the morning Mass. I haven’t changed my spirituality, no. Francis, Franciscan, no. I feel myself a Jesuit and I think like a Jesuit. Not hypocritically, but I think as a Jesuit.  Thank you.”

My Rating:  ***** Read this book if you are the type of person who likes to know the “why” behind people and events.

Inside the Jesuits: How Pope Francis is Changing the Church and the World.Published by Rowman and Littlefield, 2014. Available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and fine booksellers everywhere.


Author:  Robert Blair Kaiser is an American author and journalist, best known for his writings on the Catholic Church. A former Jesuit, Kaiser left the Society of Jesus three years before his ordination to pursue a career in journalism. He served as an award-winning religion reporter for The New York Times,  CBS News, Newsweek and Time. Throughout the Second Vatican Council, Kaiser was Time magazine’s reporter in Rome and the preeminent reporter on the Council in the English-speaking world.  For his work on the Council, Kaiser won the Overseas Press Club Award for best foreign reporting on foreign affairs.  He is the author of sixteen other books, including A Church in Search of Itself.




An Amazing Coinkydink?

Posted by Censor Librorum on Dec 28, 2013 | Categories: Bishops, Humor, Popes

Burke-Galero in real cardinal hatICKSP-Deacons-Burke

December 15, 2013:  The week Pope Francis delivers a homily focusing on “A Church That Lacks Prophecy Becomes Filled with Clericalism,” is the same week that arch conservative Cardinal Raymond L. Burke was dumped off the Congregation for Bishops.  He was replaced by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC, a moderate.

An amazing coinkydink?  I don’t think so.

In his homily Pope Francis described the role of the prophet as one who carries within themselves three moments: the promise of the past, contemplation of the present and courage to show the path toward the future. The pope stressed the words of prophets are necessary, although many times they are rejected.

“When there is no prophecy in the people of God,” said Francis, “the void it leaves becomes occupied with clericalism. And it is this clericalism that Jesus asks, ‘With what authority do you do this? With what authority?’ And the memory of the promise and the hope of going forward becomes reduced to only the present: neither the past nor a hopeful future. The present is legal. If it is legal it goes forward,” the pope said.

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis prayed that in these days leading to Christmas, that there may not be a lack of prophets: “Let us not tire of moving forward! Let us not be closed in the legality that closes doors! Lord, free your people from the spirit of clericalism and help them with the spirit of prophecy.”




Vatican Blooper of the Year – Jesus Misspelled

Posted by Censor Librorum on Dec 28, 2013 | Categories: Humor, Popes

Jesus misspelled

The Vatican had to withdraw more than 6,000 medallions minted to commemorate the beginning of Pope Francis’ papacy because of a spelling mistake.

Jesus was misspelled as “Lesus.” The Latin inscription should have been “Iesus” since the letter “J” is not used in Latin.

The phrase reads on the Vatican website: “Vidit ergo Jesus publicanum, et quia miserando atque eligendo vidit, ait illi, ‘Sequere me'” or “Jesus therefore sees the tax collector, and since he sees by having mercy and by choosing, he says to him, ‘follow me.'”

The inscription is Francis’ papal motto, taken from a meditation by the 8th century English monk, the Venerable Bede, on a passage of the Gospel in which Jesus calls St. Matthew, a tax collector, to become an apostle.

The Vatican said the Latin phrase profoundly affected the future Pope Francis at age 17 when he heard God calling him to the priesthood. In his native Argentina and in his nascent papacy, Francis has made a point of preaching mercy, and reaching out to people on the margins of society.

The medallions, which went on sale on October 8, 2013 had to be pulled from circulation after the spelling error was belatedly discovered.  Four of the coins had been sold. They are now worth a mint.