Here's a hodgepodge of news stories (and commentary) about Catholic-themed issues previously discussed on this blog:
1. Today's San Francisco Chronicle carries a full-page ad by more than 100 prominent local Catholics and donors, calling on Pope Francis to remove Salvatore Cordileone from his position as archbishop of San Francisco. Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross write,
The plea follows months of dissent within the archdiocese over Cordileone’s emphasis on traditional, conservative church doctrine — including asking high school teachers and staffers at Catholic schools to sign a morality clause that characterizes sex outside of marriage and homosexual relations as "gravely evil."
In their open letter to the pope, Cordileone’s critics say his morality-clause push is mean-spirited and "sets a pastoral tone that is closer to persecution than evangelization."
2. As David Gibson reports for Religion News Service, the Vatican issued a peremptory announcement today that it has ended its investigation of the Leadership Conference of American Women, the organization that represents the large majority of American Catholic nuns. Gibson writes,
A brief statement from Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and leader of the effort to rein in the nuns, who were seen as too liberal, shed little light on what the long-running investigation achieved and seemed aimed at moving past the contentious saga.
Mueller said he was confident that the mission of the nuns "is rooted in the Tradition of the Church" and that they are "essential for the flourishing of religious life in the Church.” The original report had accused the nuns of promoting “certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith."
3. For National Catholic Reporter, Jamie Manson reports on a conference sponsored last week by the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology on the theme "Pope Francis and the Environment: Why His New Climate Encyclical Matters." As Jamie Manson notes, the conference was in anticipation of the pope's forthcoming encyclical on the environment. She also points to a link to a video of the conference discussions at the website of the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology.
4. At Religion Dispatches, Patricia Miller looks at the meme that Roe v. Wade and its legalization of abortion in the U.S. proved controversial because the nation was not "ready" for this Supreme Court action. She notes that at the time Roe v. Wade was handed down, a solid majority of Americans supported laws that would allow a woman, in consultation with her doctor, to end a pregnancy during the first trimester.
And then backlash set in, due primarily, she notes, to a decision by the U.S. Catholic bishops "to organize a top-down effort to quash the movement" of support for such laws. Citing Linda Greenhouse and Reva Singel in Yale Law Journal, she writes,
The National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ strident anti-abortion advocacy, and the robust pro-life network they created with the church’s resources, caught the attention of strategists for the Republican Party, who theorized that abortion could be used as a wedge issue to break Catholics away from the Democratic Party. In fact, during the 1972 election campaign, well before Roe, President Nixon used the abortion issue to attract Catholic voters.
Miller predicts that there will be the same manufactured backlash to any Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide — and that this is to be expected, given the way in which both issues reflect an ongoing cultural battle over "the meaning of family, the authority of traditional (usually religious) leaders, the meaning and limits of sexual expression and autonomy."
5. For Commonweal, Grant Gallicho looks at the outrage at Pope Francis's appointment of Juan Barros — a priest accused of covering up sexual abuse of minors by a fellow priest — as bishop of Osorno, Chile. Gallicho sees the pope between a rock and a hard place with the protests against his decision in this case. Gallicho's take on the situation in which Francis finds himself:
Tough to say. It's not as though the pope is left with any good options. Leave Barros in, watch the Diocese of Osorno burn, and risk blowing up the sex-abuse commission. Remove him and earn the ire of the world's bishops for giving in to the mob. (I wouldn't downplay that worry; it would be widely viewed as a dangerous precedent.) Should the appointment have been made in the first place? I don't think so. But it's been made. And now that the Congregation for Bishops has announced that there is no objective reason not to have appointed Barros, the pope's hands are pretty well tied. Do commission members appreciate that bind? I hope so. Because this already confounding case won't be clarified any time soon. This may not be the hill they want to die on.
I think Grant Gallicho is correct to say that the top members of the Catholic hierarchy would view any decision by Pope Francis to remove Juan Barros in response to popular discontent as a "dangerous precedent." With its monarchical system of governance, the only non-transparent, non-accountable top-down system of absolute monarchy left in Western culture, the leadership structure of the Catholic church is locked into a position of never giving in, never admitting that popular opinion or the views of those it governs matter or even deserve a response.
The only effective way to address this problem would be to dismantle the system, to admit that the Catholic church made a dire and fatal decision when it turned itself into a religious clone of the Roman Empire at the time of Constantine. I'm not persuaded Francis is prepared to take such a step.
And so I hold little hope for the protest against Salvatore Cordileone's malfeasance and betrayal of sound pastoral leadership in San Francisco. But, then, did the Vatican not back down in the matter of American nuns, when there was widespread hue and cry among American Catholics about the unfairness of this inquisitorial action?