1. Amazon archbishop backs ordination of married priests.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, September 16, 2019

According to a Spanish missionary archbishop who’s been in Ecuador since 1998, “We must thank God that there are still prophets like Pope Francis” who think about the future.

Specifically, the bishop backed the ordination of married men as priests in the Amazon, supporting the idea of calling viri probati, or tested married men, into the priesthood to serve isolated rural communities.

Archbishop Rafael Cob of the Diocese of Puyo believes that an Oct 6-27 Synod of Bishops on the Pan-Amazon region convened by Francis is “historical.”

On Saturday, Cob spoke with a group of journalists, including Crux, currently in Ecuador on a trip to the Amazon organized by REPAM, an ecclesial network from the region collaborating with the synod.


2. Slow Road to Catholic Schism.

By Ross Douthat, The New York Times, September 15, 2019, Pg. SR9, Opinion

Thanks to a question from my colleague Jason Horowitz, the pope himself weighed in recently, noting that “there has always been a schismatic option in the church, always.” That’s demonstrated by recent history as well as the deep past, the miniature schisms after the First and Second Vatican Councils as well as the big 16th- and 11th- century breaks. In each case, Francis argued, the schism tended to be an “elitist separation stemming from an ideology detached from doctrine … so I pray that schisms do not happen, but I am not afraid of them.”

That papal formulation is an excellent way to understand what the different Catholic factions think is happening right now. When liberals talk about schism, they have in mind the activities of the conservative wing of the American church, which they believe is engaged in an “elitist separation” driven by right-wing ideology and money — one that simultaneously seeks to depose Francis (the former papal nuncio Carlo Maria Viganò’s letter alleging papal complicity in a sex-abuse cover-up being the main attempted coup) and indulges in narratives that veer close to sedevacantism, the belief that the pope is not, in fact, the pope.

The anti-Francis spirit in American Catholicism was the “schism” my Times colleague was asking about, and it clearly preoccupies the pope’s inner circle. But meanwhile conservative Catholics fear that a different “elitist separation” is happening — one led by liberal theologians and funded by German money, which seeks a kind of Episcopalian evolution on contested moral issues. Conservatives see this version of schism being advanced in Germany itself through a doctrinal renovation that the Vatican keeps trying to gently redirect, and in Rome through the upcoming synod on the Amazonian region, which they fear will undermine clerical celibacy and welcome pantheism and syncretism.

But having been alarmist in the past, now that everyone is talking schism I want to be more cautious. The pope has risked a great deal in his pontificate, but he has consistently avoided pushing conservatives into a theologically-untenable position, choosing ambiguity over a clarity that might cleave his church.


3. California Puts Abortion Pills in Public Universities.

By Pam Belluck, The New York Times, September 15, 2019, Pg. A21

At a time when conservative states are sharply limiting abortion access, California signaled a new frontier in abortion-rights on Friday with the passage of legislation that would require all public universities in the state to provide medication abortion on campus.

Anti-abortion groups say they are likely to challenge the legislation if Gov. Gavin Newsom signs it into law. He has a month to decide. A spokesman declined to say what he will do, but last year during his campaign for governor, Mr. Newsom said he supported a similar effort.

The abortion pill method, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2000, now accounts for about a third of American abortions, and studies have shown it to be safe and effective in most cases. The F.D.A. requires that the first of the two drugs, mifepristone, be dispensed by a certified medical provider after a consultation, but women can then take one or both of the drugs at home.

 Kristi Hamrick, a spokeswoman for Students for Life of America, said her organization called medication abortions “toilet bowl abortions,” adding that “at the rallies, we often bring toilet seats as a visual.” Her group contends that medication abortions are damaging to women’s health.

“We also are very concerned about the conscience rights of people — students whose fees will be used to underwrite these health centers,” she said.


4. Planned Parenthood and Former Chief at Odds.

By Shane Goldmacher, The New York Times, September 15, 2019, Pg. A29

Leana Wen, the recently fired former president of Planned Parenthood, appears headed toward an increasingly contentious exit, after accusing the organization’s leadership of trying to “buy my silence” in a dispute that threatens to prolong and magnify an acrimonious transition at the top of the nation’s best known women’s health care and reproductive rights group.

Dr. Wen has been engaged in two months of fraught negotiations over her severance package since she was fired in July. She led Planned Parenthood for less than a year and accused the organization of withholding her health insurance and departure payout as “ransom” to pressure her to sign a confidentiality agreement.

She made the accusations in a barbed 1,400-word letter to Planned Parenthood’s board of directors this past week, which was obtained by The New York Times. “No amount of money can ever buy my integrity and my commitment to the patients I serve,” Dr. Wen wrote.

The board of Planned Parenthood fired Dr. Wen, 36, in July after sharp disagreements over what officials there described as her abrasive and flawed management style. Dr. Wen blamed her sacking on disagreements over her reorienting the organization further from abortion politics and more toward its role as a women’s health provider.

In her letter, Dr. Wen wrote she believed that de-emphasizing “abortion care is the best way to protect it.” “However,” she went on, “there is a vocal minority” including many national staff and board members “who prefer a stridently political, abortion-first philosophy.”


5. Thousands of fetal remains discovered.

By Marisa Iati, The Washington Post, September 15, 2019, Pg. A3

More than 2,000 medically preserved fetal remains were found at the Illinois home of a deceased abortion provider as they sorted through his belongings, authorities said.

A lawyer for Ulrich “George” Klopfer’s family called the Will County Coroner’s Office Thursday to report that the family had found what appeared to be fetal remains, the county sheriff said in a statement. Klopfer, who died Sept. 3, worked for decades at the Women’s Pavilion clinic in South Bend, Ind., and at clinics in Gary and Fort Wayne.

Investigators arrived at Klopfer’s home and found 2,246 fetal remains, according to the sheriff’s office.


6. Investigation In Missouri Shows Abuse By the Clergy.

By Elizabeth Dias, The New York Times, September 14, 2019, Pg. A11

The Missouri attorney general will refer a dozen men who previously served as Roman Catholic clergy for potential criminal prosecution, his office announced on Friday after a yearlong statewide investigation into clergy sexual abuse.

The investigation found that 163 priests or clergy members were accused of sexual abuse or misconduct against minors.

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis said in a statement that “the Archdiocese of St. Louis remains committed to working with authorities, to bringing healing to victims and their families, and to ensuring a safe environment for all of our children.”


7. Against all odds, Pope Francis has made Synods of Bishops interesting.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, September 14, 2019

A Synod of Bishops is merely consultative, lacking the power to do anything other than make recommendations to a pope. Frankly, for most of its history, even that role seemed terribly anemic, with outcomes generally determined well in advance. During the St. John Paul II years, the Polish pontiff would sit on the dais during synods with his prayer book, and the running joke was that he was actually reading the conclusions of the event before it was even over.

Of the 28 previous synods, even Catholics who pay close attention to Church affairs probably would be hard-pressed to name the dates and themes of more than, say, five.

You have to give this to Pope Francis: Against all odds, he’s found a way to make synods really, really interesting.

This week, an official of Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Relations actually had to go on national television, flanked by a Catholic cardinal, to assure his countrymen that the government of President Jair Bolsonaro isn’t threatened by the looming Synod on the Amazon and doesn’t think the meeting violates a treaty between the Vatican and Brazil governing the Church’s status in the country.

However, there’s also strong ad intra buzz around the synod, meaning ferment over its implications for internal Church policies, given the likelihood of debate over the viri probati, or tested married priests. Should the synod endorse an experiment with the viri probati, no matter how limited or geographically restricted, some critics worry it would create a slippery slope leading to the de facto abolition of mandatory clerical celibacy in the Latin Church.

In other words, Francis once again has managed to guarantee that the world will be watching when the curtain goes up on his fourth Synod of Bishops.


8. Bishops say reducing refugee numbers ‘wholly counter to our values’.

Catholic News Agency, September 13, 2019, 12:00 PM

As the Trump administration reportedly considers further cuts to U.S. refugee admissions, the leader of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee has stated his opposition to any such plan.

Any “further reductions in the number of refugees” accepted into the U.S. “would be wholly counter to our values as a nation of immigrants,” Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration said on Friday, in a joint statement with conference president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo

The bishops were responding to reports by the New York Times that the White House is considering further reductions to U.S. refugee admissions from the current cap of 30,000, which is already the lowest cap on record for the U.S. refugee resettlement program.


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