1. Germany’s synodal assembly draws praise, criticism from participants.

By Catholic News Service, February 4, 2020

The first synodal assembly on the future the Catholic Church in Germany drew both praise and some criticism, with many of the 230 participants lauding what they called a special atmosphere in the debates on key reforms.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops’ conference, said the spirit of the talks had been “positive and encouraging” and referred to the synodal path process as a “spiritual experiment,” reported the German Catholic news agency KNA.

But there was criticism too, particularly from Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, who said: “All my fears were confirmed, actually.” He said the synodal path had installed a form of Protestant church parliament, and delegates who were skeptical of the reform process had found it comparatively difficult to have their say.

In an interview with KNA, the cardinal also said the talks had been marred by theological shortcomings.

“My impression is that much of what belongs to theological doctrine is no longer shared here with us, and instead one believes that one can shape the church in a completely new and different way,” he said. Many arguments presented had not been compatible with the faith and teaching of the universal church, he added.

The synodal assembly is the highest decision-making body of the synodal path, an effort by the bishops’ conference and Central Committee of German Catholics to restore trust following a September 2018 church-commissioned report that detailed thousands of cases of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy over six decades. Catholic observers from eight neighboring countries as well as delegates from other denominations and churches monitored the Synodal Assembly in Frankfurt Jan. 30-Feb. 1.


2. Father Martin urges Catholic college leaders to support LGBT students.

By Carol Zimmermann, Catholic News Service, February 4, 2020

Jesuit Father James Martin, who for the past few years has been writing and speaking about how the church can better minister to LGBT Catholics, brought his message to about 400 Catholic college and university presidents and school officials Feb. 2 at the annual conference of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities in Washington.

The priest, who is editor at large at America magazine and author of the 2017 book Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion and Sensitivity, said he was honored to address the group of campus leaders and pointed out that he was not an expert, a theologian or someone in higher education.

What he could offer, he said, was research he did for his presentation based on discussions with Catholic college and university leaders and LGBT students and faculty members.

He acknowledged from the start that the issue can be “a contentious topic.” “But it need not be,” he said, pointing out that Catholic college and university campuses should see those in the LGBT community as “gifted and graced people” in need of care, support and advocacy.

For starters, he told the group in the Washington hotel conference room that their schools should stand with members of the LGBT community as a “visible sign for how much we value their God-given dignity.”


3. New agreement on Catholic schools allows ‘students to have access to the very best’

By Christopher White, Crux, February 4, 2020

In a major new agreement, the Archdiocese of Chicago has entered into partnership with an independent foundation that will take over the operational control of 30 of the city’s Catholic schools.

The $47.5 million dollar arrangement between the Chicago archdiocese and Big Shoulders Fund, a private foundation dedicated to promoting the work of Catholic education, was announced last week in a move hailed by Cardinal Blase Cupich as an effort to strengthen the archdiocese’s commitment to Catholic education.

The ten-year agreement is said to be the largest of its kind entered into between an outside organization and a diocese regarding the operational commitment.

Of the 205 schools currently operating in the archdiocese, five of which will close at the end of the year, the new arrangement will take on a 51 percent stake in 30 of the schools and take on their financial risks. The foundation will also continue its support to another 75 schools in the archdiocese.

As a part of the agreement, the archdiocese will continue its current level of support, totaling $44.9 million.

In a statement, the archdiocese of Chicago said that under the arrangement the foundation would pursue new programming for the schools, but that the archdiocese would retain control over personnel.


4. Abu Dhabi marks interfaith effort a year after Pope’s visit.

By Associated Press, February 3, 2020, 8:15 AM

Interfaith leaders gathered on Monday in Abu Dhabi to mark one year since Pope Francis’ historic trip to the Arabian Peninsula, a visit that saw leading Muslim clerics gather alongside the pope to promote co-existence.

Abu Dhabi hosted Monday’s meeting to showcase its continued efforts in promoting interfaith dialogue as it prepares to break ground this year on a compound that will house a mosque, church and synagogue side by side. The Abrahamic House of Fraternity project is due to be completed in 2022.


5. Colorado’s Catholic bishops back death penalty repeal.

By Catholic News Agency, February 3, 2020, 7:01 PM

The Catholic bishops of Colorado have backed a bipartisan bill to repeal the death penalty that appears set to become law, after five previous attempts failed.

On Jan. 31 the Colorado Catholic Conference said its bishops have been “active in their support for this bill.” The conference praised the State Senate for passing the repeal bill.

S.B. 20 is expected to pass the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives and be signed into law by Democratic Gov. Jared Polis. The legislation would end capital punishment for crimes committed on or after July 1.


6. Analysis: Will Pope Francis Send Amazon Celibacy Decision Up the River?: While the draft leaked last week is far from the finished article, the wording of the text already suggests that a commission will be the next step.

By JD Flynn and Ed Condon, National Catholic Register, February 3, 2020, Opinion

A leaked draft of an anticipated apostolic exhortation on the Amazon started a flurry of speculation last week that Pope Francis plans to allow the ordination of married men to the priesthood for ministry in the region.

But for all the talk about viri probati, it’s likely that the pope’s next move will be to call for even more conversation— establishing a commission to discuss the possibility of ordaining married men to be priests in the Amazon, without actually committing to the idea.

A draft version of the exhortation has been circulated widely Vatican departments, a normal part of the process before a final version is presented for the pope’s signature. On a topic as sensitive as clerical celibacy, several dicasteries are expected to weigh in, especially the Congregation for Clergy and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

While the draft leaked last week is far from the finished article, the wording of the text already suggests that a commission will be the next step.

The leaked text’s section on viri probati said that “the competent authority should establish criteria and provisions to ordain” married men to the priesthood.

In the jargon of the Vatican, the language of establishing “criteria and provisions” is a sure sign that a study commission is on the horizon.

Caught between his progressive courtiers and his own conservative disposition, the pope may hope he can punt the ball as far as his successor. But if South American bishops (or German ones, for that matter), decide to ordain married deacons to the priesthood without Roman approval, Francis may be forced to confront the issue sooner than he wants – or expects.

In that case, getting ahead of the pope would likely prove an unwise tactic: While Pope Francis might sometimes support a diocese that has acted on its initiative to address a pastoral need, if he senses that his tolerance for a new idea has been taken advantage of, or that his authority is being usurped, he could effectively kill ongoing discussion about viri probati.

On the other hand, the more avid defenders of celibacy, including a large number of the pope’s own curial advisors, might be equally wary of appearing to try to box the pope in before he has made up his mind.

For those who hope to see more married priests in the Church – and for those who don’t – if the pope punts the ball, the smartest play is to wait until it has landed.

This means, of course, that there will likely be no swift resolution to the discussion of ordaining married men for the Amazon. The ball will be in the air. Who the pope, or his successor, directs to eventually catch and run with that ball – and several others now hanging somewhere above the field – is anybody’s guess.


TCA Media Monitoring provides a snapshot from national newspapers and major Catholic press outlets of coverage regarding significant Catholic Church news and current issues with which the Catholic Church is traditionally or prominently engaged. The opinions and views expressed in the articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Catholic Association.
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