1. Top Vatican cardinal ‘skeptical’ on married priests for the Amazon.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, October 3, 2019

A senior Vatican official once rumored to be a candidate for the papacy, said Wednesday that he’s skeptical about ordaining married men to address priest shortages in rural areas such as the Amazon, instead he issued a ringing defense of priestly celibacy.

“I am skeptical, and I think I’m not the only one,” said Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican’s powerful Congregation for Bishops, in a rare press conference Wednesday to present his latest book.

“Above me there is someone who is even more skeptical who has authorized the debate, and that’s OK,” Ouellet said.

Asked if he meant Pope Francis, Ouellet refused to give a yes or no response, but technically speaking the pontiff is Ouellet’s only superior and he’s also the man who set the stage for debate on the ordination of married men known as the “viri probati,” or men of proven virtue, during the Oct. 6-27 Synod of Bishops on the Amazon.

Ouellet’s words came during the launch of his book Friends of the Bridegroom: For a Renewed Vision of Priestly Celibacy, which addresses the challenges priests face amid a decline in vocations and, as he said on Wednesday, a reputational crisis caused by the sex abuse scandals.


2. Even in Trump/Francis era, US and Vatican still see alliance on religious freedom.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, October 3, 2019

Right now, it might be hard to imagine any greater contrast between a pope and a president than Francis and Donald Trump – one the pope of immigrants, the other an advocate of border walls; one a critic of an “economy that kills,” the other an avatar of free market capitalism; one the chaplain of the fight against climate change, the other the contrarian who pulled the U.S. out of the Paris accords. On top of all that, Pope Francis has made no secret of his personal ambivalence about America and Americans, recently quipping that he considers it an honor “when Americans are attacking me.”

Yet the truth of it is, both the U.S. and the Vatican have powerful motives for keeping their relationship green despite those obvious tensions, because both parties perceive they need the other.

The Vatican wants to be a serious global player and needs the leverage the Americans can bring, while no American president can afford to write off an institution that claims one-sixth of humanity as its membership, not to mention one-quarter of the voting age population of that president’s own country.

All of which brings us to a remarkable event that unfolded on Wednesday in the Vatican, co-sponsored by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State and the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See titled “Pathways to Dignity.” The idea was to focus on three areas where the U.S. and the Vatican, even in the era of Francis and Trump, more or less see eye-to-eye: Religious freedom, the fight against human trafficking, and humanitarian assistance.

In a sign of how seriously the U.S. took the moment, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo showed up to deliver an opening address, and Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback was there to headline the opening panel. Probably the reason I was asked to moderate the opening panel is that, like Pompeo and Brownback, I’m from Kansas, so it was sort of an all-Sunflower State lineup.

To be sure, there weren’t many practical new ideas to surface at Wednesday’s event, nor were there many hard questions that might reasonably have been asked of both the U.S. and the Vatican – whether the cozy relationship the U.S. enjoys with Saudi Arabia, for instance, compromises its ability to challenge the Saudis about injustices at home and support for extremism abroad, or whether the Vatican’s recent deal with China actually has made the prospects for religious freedom worse rather than better.

Nevertheless, the mere fact that leading lights of both Francis’s Vatican and Trump’s America could pool resources around the defense of religious freedom suggests the breadth of a potential coalition – suggesting that this 35-year-old relationship, even now, still packs a punch.


3. Nuclear weapons, interfaith ties top pope’s agenda in Asia.

The Associated Press, October 2, 2019

Pope Francis will voice his opposition to nuclear weapons and honor victims of Japan’s 2011 nuclear disaster during a visit to the country that is expected to be a highlight of his upcoming trip to Asia.

The Vatican on Wednesday released the details of Francis’ Nov. 19-26 visit to Thailand and Japan, which includes stops in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, which were destroyed by U.S. atomic bombs at the end of World War II.

In Thailand, Francis will meet with the supreme Buddhist leader and hold a meeting with other faith leaders, focusing on interfaith dialogue on the first leg of his trip. In Bangkok, he is likely to speak out about poverty and human trafficking, both problems in Thailand and issues of concern for the pope.

In Japan, Francis will travel to Nagasaki where he will issue a message about atomic weapons, the Vatican said. There he will also honor 26 martyrs killed in 1597.

Nagasaki, in southwestern Japan, is rich in the legacy of Christian missionaries dating back to the samurai era, and the visit there is likely to be particularly poignant for Francis: He longed to be a missionary in Japan but was prevented from going because of poor health when he was a young priest in Argentina.


4. Vatican cardinal skeptical about married priests for Amazon.

By Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press, October 2, 2019

A top Vatican cardinal has expressed skepticism about ordaining married men to address the priest shortage in the Amazon, defending the value of priestly celibacy on the eve of a big Vatican meeting where the issue is officially up for debate.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet held a rare press conference Wednesday to launch his book “Friends of the Bridegroom: For a Renewed Vision of Priestly Celibacy,” which speaks openly about the challenges facing priests today amid a decline in vocations and reputational damage from sex abuse scandals.

Ouellet, a Canadian who heads the Vatican’s bishops’ office as well as the Holy See’s commission for Latin America, acknowledged that the Amazon region was suffering from a priest shortage and that he was open to debate about how to address it during this month’s Amazon synod.

But he said he was skeptical about the proposal to ordain married men, noting that the region doesn’t even have enough catechists to teach lay people about their faith, much less train indigenous deacons or priests.

Ouellet’s skepticism is significant, given he is a top Vatican adviser to Francis, knows well the reality of the Latin American church, and is by no means part of the anti-Francis group of conservative cardinals, bishops and laity who oppose the synod agenda.


5. ‘Undisguisedly indifferent’: Bridgeport diocese issues report on its own abuse record.

Catholic News Agency, October 2, 2019, 1:30 PM

An investigative report on decades of clergy sexual abuse in the Diocese of Bridgeport was published on Tuesday, highlighting failures of past leadership, including by senior Churchmen.

“The abuse crisis has wounded the entire Church, first and foremost the victims and their families but in a larger sense all those affected by the abuse. That includes our many good and faithful priests,” stated Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport on Sept. 27, in advance of the report’s release.

The report, commissioned by Bishop Caggiano in October of 2018, was the result of an almost year-long investigation by the law firm Pullman & Comley, LLC into clerical sexual abuse of minors and the diocese response to it since its founding.

On Tuesday, Caggiano tweeted that the report “will be painful to read” but it “will also provide another step in the ongoing healing and spiritual renewal of our Diocese.”

Overall, 281 individuals were reported as abused by 71 priests in the diocese since 1953, nearly all of the cases involved minors. Just ten priests were responsible for over 60% of the reported incidents. There has been no report of abuse since 2008.


Subscribe to the TCA podcast!
“Conversations with Consequences” is a new audio program from The Catholic Association. We’ll bring you thoughtful dialogue with the leading thinkers of our time on the most consequential issues of our day. Subscribe today or listen online and enjoy our entertaining and informative weekly episodes.