Monday, January 16, 2017

Order of Malta chief withdraws cooperation after accusing Vatican's inquiry of links with fund in Geneva

The leader of the Knights of Malta has doubled-down his opposition to a Vatican inquiry into his sacking of a top official by seeking to discredit members of the investigation and by setting up his own commission to investigate them.  

In a letter the Grand Master, Matthew Festing, claims the make-up of the commission announced by the Holy See is unfit to investigate because they have links to a fund in Geneva, thus making them unable to objectively assess the situation. 

The move is the latest in an ongoing battle between the Order of Malta and the Vatican over the sacking of Grand Chancellor, Albrecht von Boeselager, in a row about the distribution of condoms in Myanmar.  

Festing provides no further details to back up his latest assertion and stresses “there is nothing to suggest anything untoward”. But he claims that evidence has been presented to him that warrants his action to set up his own inquiry.   

“The makeup of the group of people has raised serious questions within the Grand Magistry. There are serious accusations of a conflict of interest for at least three of the members who have been proved to be linked to a fund in Geneva,” the Grand Master writes in a letter sent to the order’s leadership which has been seen by The Tablet. 

“Needless to say there is nothing to suggest anything untoward, but personal and financial links make the commission members clearly unfit to address the situation objectively. The proof presented to me have prompted me to put in place a professional commission of inquiry into the situation.” 

As a result Festing says the Vatican’s commission will be kept at “arms length” until his own investigation concludes, a position that further ups tension between the order and the Holy See. 

The order has already refused to co-operate with the Vatican commission into von Boeselager’s dismissal as they are a sovereign entity (the group has diplomatic relations with more than 100 countries and observer status at the United Nations). 

But the Vatican has insisted it has the power to inquire into the circumstances around the action against von Boeselager’s as the knights are also a Catholic religious order who ultimately owe obedience to the Pope. 

Francis set up a commission before Christmas to be led by seasoned papal diplomat Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, a former envoy to the UN in Geneva. 

He is being assisted by Fr Gianfranco Ghirlanda, a former rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University; Marc Odendall, an investment banker; Jacques de Liedekerke, a lawyer; and Marwan Sehnaoui, president of the Order of Malta in Lebanon.

Festing does not name the fund in question, although Odendall is listed as treasurer of the Swiss-based Caritas in Veritate Foundation which has the Holy See’s representative to the UN in Geneva as its president. The foundation’s aims are to promote the Church’s position in public debate and international negotiations.   

There is no suggestion that Odendall’s involvement in this fund causes a conflict of interest, and Festing’s claims are so far unsubstantiated.  

The Grand Master sacked and suspended his respected Grand Chanceller in what also appears to have been about a long running power struggle at the top of the order.  

Cardinal Raymond Burke, the order’s patron and prominent Francis critic was present at the dismissal with both he and Festing claiming the action was backed by the Pope and the Holy See. 

But letters have revealed Francis made no request for Boeselager to be dismissed and instead called for the situation to be resolved with dialogue. 

The row has laid bare the internal resistance faced by the Pope with Cardinal Burke also threatening to “formally correct” Francis over his concessions to divorced and remarried Catholics. 

This dispute over condom distribution - something which von Boeselager says he stopped - reveals the clash between the Pope’s vision for a Church of compassion and dialogue, and Cardinal Burke's vision of a Church based on rules. 

Pope sends condolences to Kyrgyz town devastated by plane crash

Pope Francis prays at Rome's Piazza di Spagna, Dec. 8, 2015. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.Pope Francis Monday sent a telegram to survivors of a cargo plane crash in the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan, expressing his sorrow for all those who died and sending his prayers for the rescue efforts.
“Deeply saddened to learn of the tragic crash of a cargo plane near Bishkek, Pope Francis sends his condolences to all those who have lost loved ones, particularly in Manas, and commends the souls of the deceased to the mercy of almighty God,” the Jan. 16 telegram stated. 

“In praying for the search and rescue efforts, his holiness invokes upon the nation the divine blessings of strength and consolation,” it continued, sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin on behalf of Pope Francis.

At least 37 people were killed Monday after a Turkish cargo plane crashed into the village of Dacha-Suu, 16 miles northwest of the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, while trying to land at the airport which serves Bishkek.

The plane, traveling from Hong Kong to Istanbul, was scheduled for a stopover at the Manas airport, according to airport officials in Bishkek, the AP reports. 

The plane crashed at 7:40am local time, destroying half of the village, including 15 homes and dozens of buildings, some of which burst into flames after being hit by debris from the plane.

The four members of the flight’s crew were among those who died. 

Another 15 people, including six children, were hospitalized, according to the health ministry.

The reason for the crash is still unknown. 

Though there was fog at the airport the morning of Jan. 16, the weather conditions were not considered critical, the AP reports. The Kyrgyz deputy prime minister said that “according to preliminary information, the plane crashed due to a pilot error,” the BBC reports.

Kyrgyzstan has declared Tuesday a day of national mourning.

Priest's house at Belfast cathedral recommended for historical listing parochial house which is attached to one of the most picturesque cathedrals in Northern Ireland is set to be given historical listing. 

The dwelling at St Peter's Cathedral in west Belfast has been recommended by the Department of Communities for B1 listing, just one category below the top tier A, which is reserved for some of the most special constructions in the country.

The building at St Peter's Square, just off the lower Falls Road, has been described in the listing notes as a four storey L-shaped ashular parochial house.

Construction started in 1867, one year after the main cathedral was completed. 

The site - which is now surrounded by densely packed housing - was given to the bishop in 1858 for the construction of a church by the Belfast baker, flour merchant and philanthropist Bernard Hughes. 

John O'Neill completed the work on the cathedral when the original architect, Father Jeremiah McAuley, left Belfast to complete his ecclesiastical training. 

The parochial house has been added to since the original design, with a two storey entrance portion and small extensions to the rear. 

However, much of the original historic fabric and fine detailing survives throughout, such as the steep slated gables with corbelled eaves and original joinery and cornicing internally. 

The parochial house and cathedral are observed in the listing notes as the "most significant group of historic buildings in the immediate and wider area, with the twin spires of the cathedral visible across much of the city".

Belfast city councillors who sit on the council's planning committee are set to discuss the recommendation for listing at a meeting tomorrow evening.

The minutes for the meeting include a recommendation that the committee, in recognition of the heritage value, supports the proposed listing by the Department for Communities.

This second survey of all of Northern Ireland's building stock is currently under way to update and improve on the first list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest, which began in 1974.

Church "distressed" at Koran offence says Primus

The head of the Scottish Episcopal Church says the Church is “deeply distressed” at the offence caused by the reading of a passage from the Koran in a Glasgow Cathedral.   

The Primus, the Most Revd David Chillingworth, also condemned a subsequent wave of abuse received by St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral. 

Police have confirmed they are investigating offensive online messages received by the cathedral.

Members of the city's Muslim community had been invited to join the congregation at an Epiphany service as a way of promoting understanding between the two faiths. The passage that was read out, sparking criticism, related to the Virgin Birth.  

In an online post the Primus said: “The decisions which have led to the situation in St Mary’s Cathedral are a matter for the provost and the cathedral community but the Scottish Episcopal Church is deeply distressed at the widespread offence which has been caused.  We also deeply regret the widespread abuse which has been received by the cathedral community.” 

He pledged to bring those involved in developing interfaith relations together: “Those who seek to work in the area of interfaith relationships must weigh carefully whether the choices which they make are appropriate or otherwise. In today’s world, those judgements must give careful consideration to good relationships which have been carefully nurtured over many years in a local context.  They must also weigh carefully the way in which national and international issues shape perceptions of what is appropriate or inappropriate.”

He added: “Our intention will be as a church to explore how, particularly in the area of worship, this work can be carried forward in ways which will command respect. Our desire is that this should be a worthy expression of the reconciliation to which all Christians are called."

Responding to the furore, the Cathedral's provost, the Very Revd Kelvin Holdsworth, in his sermon on Sunday, said the Epiphany service was aimed at promoting understanding between the two faiths – but said he had  witnessed a ‘storm of abuse’ from ‘10,000 'Christian' voices claiming to know what happened here that night’.  

“I would not have wished the week that I have had on anyone,” he went on. “The international hue and cry about our Epiphany service was not something anyone here was seeking.  Our aim and the aim of all involved was to bring God's people together and learn from one another - something that did, beneath the waves of the storm happen, and continues to happen. Nobody at that service that night could be in any doubt that we proclaimed the divinity of Christ and preached the Gospel of God's love.”

Priest files complaint over RTÉ comedy sketch

A Co Kerry priest has lodged a complaint with the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland over the “ridiculing of the Eucharist” on the Late Late Show.

Fr Kevin McNamara, parish priest in Moyvane near Listowel in north Kerry, wrote in this weekend’s Moyvane parish newsletter about his “hurt beyond words” at hearing the host described as “haunted bread” by a member of the Rubberbandits hip hop comedy duo, “on the so-called flagship chat show ” of the national broadcaster.

The priest who is a native of Co Clare and was for many years based in Killarney, where he was hugely popular, and outspoken, said the phrase which he found so offensive was endorsed by presenter Ryan Tubridy.

Fr McNamara said he felt it was time to call a halt to the “disrespect for religious belief and for those of us who respect religious beliefs.”

The religious were “fair game” in this country for all sorts of remarks but the description of the eucharist on the Late Late on January 6 was “an all-time low”.

“We live in an age where there is great emphasis on the need for clean air, clean water and a healthy environment, but how much attention do we give to fostering a clean soul, heart and mind?, the address began in the newsletter to parishioners.

Fr McNamara outlined his complaint in detail: “On the Late Late Show of January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, there was a discussion in which the holy eucharist [holy communion] was referred to as ‘haunted bread’.

“During a discussion about whether religious practice long in decline, might be on the rise, comedian David Chambers, who performs as ‘Blindboy Boatclub’ in the comedy duo The Rubberbandits, said that young people attending midnight mass at Christmas were “not going there for haunted bread, but because it was a family event.

“Everyone at midnight mass is half-cut anyway”.

The priest told parishioners that “presenter Ryan Tubridy said he thought the phrase ‘haunted bread’ was a “great expression”.

“Mr Chambers said, ‘that’s what it is’, arguing that the Church ‘does not want us to use critical thinking’ and is ‘asking us to eat the ghost of a 2,000-year-old carpenter’”, Fr McNamara said.

On hearing that fellow guest Michael Harding had been a priest, he murmured ‘sorry about the haunted bread stuff’, the priest wrote.

“Isn’t it time we paid attention to creating a clean environment for soul, heart and mind? Fr McNamara has asked parishioners. 

“It hurt me beyond words to see the eucharist ridiculed on RTÉ’s so-called flagship chat show.

““I have made a complaint to the Broadcasting Authority,” the priest informed his parishioners at the Church of the Assumption.

Group claims 'nobody has been refused entry' to Catholic schools outside Dublin

A group representing Catholic primary schools is insisting there is no baptism requirement for their school places.

It comes as the Minister for Education Richard Bruton is due to announce plans this morning to legislate on the controversial school admissions system.

Under the so-called 'baptism barrier', many children cannot access religious primary schools unless they have been baptised in a Christian faith.

The Catholic Primary Schools Management Association says it only arises in cases of oversubscription for school places, when preference may then be given to a baptised child.

General Secretary Seamus Mulconry insists it is mostly a problem in the Dublin area.

He said: "There are a few in the commuter belt, but the vast majority of oversubscribed schools are in Dublin, and in affluent areas in Dublin.

"Nobody has been refused entry down the country, because their child hasn't been baptised, because oversubscription is not happening in rural areas."

In a speech later today, it is believed the Minister will say he believes it is unfair that publicly funded religious schools are able to give preference to children of their own religion ahead of those of no religion who may live closer to the school.

On Newstalk Breakfast, the Minister said he is aiming to ensure Ireland has "the best education service in Europe", and wants the system to accommodate people of different faiths.

"Ireland has changed very substantially, and we now need to respond to the new environment", he said. "Many parents want choice and don't marry in the Catholic or any other denominational setting."

Minister Bruton said allowances need to be made for these families as 96% of primary schools are denominational.

Meanwhile, new research by the campaign group EQUATE shows that almost one in four parents of children of school-going age would not have baptised their child if they did not need it to gain entry to their local school.

EQUATE Executive Director Michael Barron says there is growing momentum across Irish society to remove the baptism barrier.

He said: "We've heard from parents who actually regret baptising their children against their beliefs solely on the basis of getting their children into a local school", he said. "We heard last year from Archbishop Diarmuid Martin who said he really did not believe in the practice of baptising children to get into your local school.

"I think there's widespread agreement that it's really not a practice that anybody can really support in a modern democracy."

School baptism rule to be scrapped

Image result for Education Minister Richard BrutonEducation Minister Richard Bruton is to tackle the "baptism barrier" that gives Catholic children priority admission to nine out 10 of the country's primary schools. 

Bowing to growing pressure for change, he says he plans to limit or remove the role that religion can play in the school admission process. It is the first such move by any Irish government.

Mr Bruton says the system is 'unfair' and does not reflect the reality of modern Irish society, where the number of Catholic-controlled schools is now well ahead of the proportion of families who are practising Catholics.

A Catholic-first admissions policy means many children cannot get into their nearest school because they are not baptised - and many parents are baptising children purely for school-entry purposes.

According to a new survey by Equate - which has been campaigning for reforms to the system to reflect social and cultural change in Ireland - 24pc of parents of school-age children would not have baptised their child if they didn't need to in order to gain entry into their school.

"It is unfair that preference is given by publicly funded religious schools to children of their own religion who might live some distance away, ahead of children of a different religion or of no religion who live close to the school," Mr Bruton said.

The minister will set out his plans today at a seminar organised by Equate, when he will put forward four options for discussion:

Catchment area approach, prohibiting religious schools from giving preference to children of their own religion who live outside the catchment area ahead of non-religious children who live inside the catchment.

'Nearest school rule', allowing religious schools to give preference to a religious child only where it is that child's nearest school of that particular religion.

Quota system, which would allow a religious school to give preference to children of its own religion in respect of only a certain proportion of places, meaning the remaining places would be allocated based on other admissions criteria, such as proximity to the school or a lottery.

Outright prohibition on religious schools using religion as a factor in admissions, meaning all places would be allocated based on other factors.

Adoption of any option faces considerable obstacles because of the legal entitlement enjoyed by denominational schools in relation to protecting their religious ethos - and admissions polices are a vehicle for this.

But Mr Bruton who, soon after taking office last year, asked officials in the Department of Education to explore options, clearly believes any difficulties are surmountable.

He is inviting the views of all interested parties, and hopes to have proposals to table when a Labour Party bill in this area comes to committee stage in June.

Mr Bruton acknowledges a number of potential difficulties in the road ahead, including avoiding possible breaches of the Constitution, traditionally put forward as the reason why the State could not introduce changes in the 'Catholic-first' rule.

He also says he is conscious of the need to protect schools of minority religions, such as Protestant, Jewish and Islamic, from the unintended consequences of any change.

He insists reform must not lead to 'postcode lotteries', such as other countries have experienced, resulting in pronounced divergence in quality of schools in more advantaged, compared to less advantaged, areas.

Overall, 96pc of primary schools are under the patronage of Christian religious organisations. In particular, 90pc are of Catholic ethos.

But Mr Bruton says Ireland must move on from the system of patronage/ ethos "that we have inherited and reflects a very different era in Ireland; change is needed to meet the needs of today's families".

"Over one-third of couples who are getting married are choosing to do so in a non-religious ceremony, and all the evidence points to a population in which very significantly fewer than 90pc of young families are religious," he added.

CW and the Eyes of Rome

CW Editor: It seems that we are indeed being well read in Rome and it leaves us to wonder whether it is the Irish Boyos on Ad Limina checking in or indeed perhaps (please God) someone in the Vatican is actually checking out what is ACTUALLY going on in this little country as opposed to the sanitised version presented to them by the Boyos....and the posts in relation to George Byrne and Diarmuid Martin hit over 1,200 views in 6 hours!!!

Lay Catholics frustrated over failure to raise celibacy issue

A group of lay Catholics has expressed "deep frustration" over the bishops' failure to bring proposals on ending the celibacy requirement for Catholic priests to Pope Francis during a visit to Rome this week. 
According to a spokesman for the Association of Catholics in Ireland (ACI), there is a solution to the current chronic shortage of priests in the Irish Church but the bishops are "sticking" their heads "in the sand hoping the problem will go away".
The comments come after the Irish Independent revealed a middle-aged man has claimed he was sexually assaulted by a young cleric he met through a gay dating site.

Over 26 bishops representing every diocese in Ireland have begun a visit to Rome this week. 
But following an "inconclusive discussion" on celibacy, they decided not to bring a proposal to the Pope's attention that priests who left ministry to get married should be invited to return to ministry.

The ACI has warned that the growing shortage of priests needs to be addressed "as a matter of urgency to ensure access by the faithful to Eucharist in the years ahead".
The ACI lay reform group said it fully supported Bishop Leo O'Reilly of Kilmore's proposal to set up a commission to examine the issue of celibacy. 

That proposal emerged as a recommendation from a listening process last year among the laity and priests in Bishop O'Reilly's diocese. 
In its statement, the group pointed out that, in seeking the establishment of a commission, Bishop O'Reilly was "reacting positively to the urging of Pope Francis who, speaking about the shortage of priests, said that local bishops are best acquainted with the needs of the faithful and should be courageous and bring concrete suggestions for reform to Rome".

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Noel McCann of the ACI, said: "In addition to ordaining married men, the ACI believes there is a cohort of ordained priests who left active ministry to marry, without seeking laicisation, who could be invited back into ministry right now."
The high percentage of priests over 65 years of age in Ireland and the low intake of seminarians suggest that in 10 years' time, many parishes will be without a resident priest.
The clustering of parishes has already resulted in some parishes being without a daily Mass, while others can only provide prayer services on selected weekdays without the distribution of communion. 

"The crisis is clear, what is causing the crisis is clear, but what are we doing about solutions? Where is the urgency in terms of addressing the issue?" Mr McCann asked.

Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus

V. Lord, have mercy on us.
R. Christ, have mercy on us.
V. Lord, have mercy on us. Jesus, hear us.
R. Jesus, graciously hear us.
V. God the Father of Heaven
R. Have mercy on us.
V. God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
R. Have mercy on us.
V. God the Holy Ghost,
R. Have mercy on us.
V. Holy Trinity, one God,
R. Have mercy on us.
V. Jesus, Son of the living God, R. Have mercy on us.
Jesus, splendor of the Father, [etc.]
Jesus, brightness of eternal light.
Jesus, King of glory.
Jesus, sun of justice.
Jesus, Son of the Virgin Mary.
Jesus, most amiable.
Jesus, most admirable.
Jesus, the mighty God.
Jesus, Father of the world to come.
Jesus, angel of great counsel.
Jesus, most powerful.
Jesus, most patient.
Jesus, most obedient.
Jesus, meek and humble of heart.
Jesus, lover of chastity.
Jesus, lover of us.
Jesus, God of peace.
Jesus, author of life.
Jesus, example of virtues.
Jesus, zealous lover of souls.
Jesus, our God.
Jesus, our refuge.
Jesus, father of the poor.
Jesus, treasure of the faithful.
Jesus, good Shepherd.
Jesus, true light.
Jesus, eternal wisdom.
Jesus, infinite goodness.
Jesus, our way and our life.
Jesus, joy of Angels.
Jesus, King of the Patriarchs.
Jesus, Master of the Apostles.
Jesus, teacher of the Evangelists.
Jesus, strength of Martyrs.
Jesus, light of Confessors.
Jesus, purity of Virgins.
Jesus, crown of all Saints.

V. Be merciful unto us, R. spare us, O Jesus.
V. Be merciful unto us, R. graciously hear us, O Jesus.

V. From all evil, R. deliver us, O Jesus.
From all sin, deliver us, O Jesus.
From Thy wrath, [etc.]
From the snares of the devil.
From the spirit of uncleanness.
From everlasting death.
From the neglect of Thine inspirations.
Through the mystery of Thy holy Incarnation.
Through Thy Nativity.
Through Thy Infancy.
Through Thy most divine Life.
Through Thy labors.
Through Thine agony and passion.
Through Thy cross and dereliction.
Through Thy faintness and weariness.
Through Thy death and burial.
Through Thy Resurrection.
Through Thine Ascension.
Through Thine institution of the most Holy Eucharist.
Through Thy joys.
Through Thy glory.

V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
R. spare us, O Jesus.
V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
R. graciously hear us, O Jesus.
V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
R. have mercy on us, O Jesus.

V. Jesus, hear us.
R. Jesus, graciously hear us.

Let us pray.

O Lord Jesus Christ, Who saidst, "Ask and ye shall receive, seek, and ye shall find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you." Grant, we beseech Thee, to us Thy suppliants, the gift of Thy most divine love, that we may love Thee with our whole heart, and in all our words and works, and never cease from praising Thee.

O Lord, give us a perpetual fear as well as love of Thy Holy Name, for Thou never ceasest to govern those Thou foundest upon the strength of Thy love. Who livest and reignest world without end.

R. Amen.

Gay teacher files suit against NC Catholic school for being fired

A former Charlotte Catholic school teacher who claimed he was fired for being gay has filed a federal lawsuit against his former employer, saying his firing violates the Civil Rights Act.

In 2012, Lonnie Billard was named Charlotte Catholic’s Teacher of the Year. He taught English and ran the school’s theatre department before scaling back to work as a long-term substitute.

The lawsuit, filed on Billard’s behalf by the ACLU and the law firm Tin Fulton Walker & Owen claims that his firing violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex and other characteristics.

Billard announced on his Facebook page in October of 2014 that he and his partner Rich were planning to get married in 2015. 

According to Billard, it wasn’t long before he was relieved of his duties.

“I got a call telling me I would not be allowed to teach anymore,” Billard told our sister affiliate WCNC. “As it was explained to me that because I had posted on Facebook to my friends that my longtime partner Rich — Rich and I were going to get married this spring. Apparently there were a couple of teachers that were unhappy with that.”

David Hains, spokesperson for The Charlotte Roman Catholic Church Diocese, the organization that oversees Charlotte Catholic, says Billard was fired because he went against teachings of the Catholic Church.

“Well, the Catholic Church opposes same-sex unions,” Hains said in a statement. “Marriage can only be between one man and one woman. He’s not being picked on because he’s gay. He lost his job as a substitute teacher because he broke a promise because he chose to oppose church teaching, something he promised he would not do.”

Billard said at the time of his employment, most people at the school knew he and Rich were a gay couple, with Rich often coming to school events.

“I loved being part of the Charlotte Catholic school community, and the classroom has always felt like home to me,” Billard said. “I know that the Catholic Church opposes same-sex marriage, but I don’t think my commitment to my husband has any bearing on my work in the classroom. I have never hidden the fact that I’m gay and my relationship with my partner was no secret at school. But whether or not the school previously knew that I am gay is not the point. People should be able to fall in love and get married without risking their jobs.”

In Ethiopia, Church works against genital mutilation

Image result for genital mutilationA commission of the Eastern-rite Ethiopian Catholic Church recently held a three-day conference with school leaders and teachers to help them counter the practice of female genital mutilation.

In a news release, the bishops’ conference stated that “fear of stigmatization and being unfit for marriage are the causes that lead parents and even women themselves to the practice.”

In 2013, Ethiopia’s bishops forbade Catholics from taking part in genital mutilation, which continues in some rural areas despite being illegal under civil law.

The East African nation of 102.4 million is 44% Ethiopian Orthodox, 34% Muslim, and 19% Protestant. 

The Ethiopian Catholic Church has 83,000 members.

Six years on, the UK Ordinariate continues to “go forward in faith” (Comment)’s been six years. 

I remember sitting in a guest house at EWTN in Alabama—where I was working on a new history-and-traditions series at the time—and watching, via my computer, a great event unfolding in my native city of London. 

And I thought: “This is history…but because I know the Cathedral so well it looks just, somehow, ordinary!” And somehow “ordinary” was exactly the right words because—forgive the pun—I was watching Msgr. Keith Newton being established as the ordinary of the newly-created Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. 

He and two other former Anglican bishops were ordained as Catholic priests in Westminster Cathedral; he was appointed as ordinary and the other two as vicars-general. Msgr. Newton is the ordinary—with the rank and style of a bishop—because he cannot actually be a bishop, as he is married (to Gill, who, incidentally, has since become a good friend and with whom I have been carol-singing at London Bridge railway station). 

It was indeed history—Anglicans being invited to come into full communion with the Catholic Church, entering as groups along with their pastors, bringing with them their Anglican traditions in music and liturgy and pastoral practice. Pope Benedict XVI had called out “to groups of Anglicans”—Anglicanorum Coetibus—with an invitation that had come as a result of Anglican pleading. 

With the ordination of women in the Church of England, it looked as though hopes for reunion had ended, a door slammed shut, years of well-intentioned dialogue ending in a fruitless void. But Benedict salvaged something and opened a new chapter of history. For those who wished to come into full communion, a new door opened. 

Six years on, it’s worth looking at how things are going. 

It didn’t get off to an easy start, and things still are not easy. An initial press conference made a cheery show of goodwill, with the archbishops of Canterbury (CofE) and Westminster (RC) making friendly noises. But it was uncomfortably clear that there was an air of discomfort. After all, this was an effective acknowledgement that the CofE had moved into a sort of backseat position as far as Rome was concerned. 

Like it or not, the Anglicans were now going to be spectators and friendly visitors in Rome, not potential members of the family. The ordination of women, so far from being a minor issue (“What’s the problem? Women can be bus drivers and Prime Ministers can’t they? So why not priests?” a dear Anglican friend said to me in genuine puzzlement), was and is a central issue. The Catholic Church cannot ordain women and this has been reaffirmed clearly by Pope Francis, affirming the clear message of Pope St. John Paul—and of the unchangeable practice of the Church right back to Christ himself and his Apostles. 

The creation of the Ordinariate undoubtedly ruffled some feathers. It also proved difficult to explain to some cradle-Catholics. People asked—and still ask—“But are they real Catholics?”

Over and over again, it has to be emphasized: yes, they are. 

A priest of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham is a Catholic priest, just like a Dominican priest, or a Franciscan one, or a Jesuit one. They celebrate the Roman Rite of Mass, but if they wish they can use the Ordinariate form, which incorporates some prayers from the Anglican tradition, in words familiar to Anglicans over four centuries of use in England’s churches. And they can incorporate in their ministry some expressions and traditions from Anglicanism—Evensong, Sunday School, Harvest Thanksgiving… 

In Devon, an energetic local Ordinariate group led by Father David Lashbrooke raised funds and bought a Methodist church that was due to close down; they are now transforming it into a busy little Catholic church dedicated to Our Lady of Walsingham and St. Cuthbert Mayne ( a local Catholic martyr of the 16th century). 

In Kent, Father Ed Tomlinson and his team took on a small Catholic hall which served as a Mass-center on Sundays; it’s now a thriving church with a lovely sanctuary, statues, devotional side-chapel, and packed pews—with a new hall built alongside for the Sunday School and other activities. 

At London Bridge, the rather run-down Church of the Most Precious Blood was given to Ordinariate care; it now has a new floor, new heating, a new confessional, beautiful vestments, a children’s choir singing chant—and is full every Sunday and with a good weekday congregation. 

Processions now go through the streets in May—carrying a statue of Our Lady, of course—at Corpus Christi, at the Assumption, and at the feast of Christ the King. I was invited last spring to celebrate St. George’s Day in the village of Gainford in County Durham; here the lovely Catholic church in the heart of the village is now in the care of Father Ian Grieves of the Darlington Ordinariate, and I have never celebrated St. George in greater style or with more gusto. And every year in Holy Week, Ordinariate priests from across Britain gather at the central London church at Warwick Street near Piccadilly Circus for the Chrism Mass, with the papal nuncio in attendance, and lavish music from a splendid choir.  

But there has been coolness from some quarters—Catholic quarters: “These people say women can’t be priests,” said an indignant voice at one Catholic gathering where the subject of the Ordinariate came up. “So does Pope Francis,” I reminded her.  Then there is an innate conservatism of many Catholics—not without value in its way, but it can take strange forms: “Why can’t these people just become, well, normal—I mean, just join a parish and merge in?” 

Well, why do we need anything new, ever? Why didn’t Mother Teresa stay in her perfectly good convent and continue teaching geography to girls at a Calcutta high school? Why did John Paul invent World Youth Day? Why have a big pro-life rally every January in the USA and have people driving through the night to get there? Why don’t the Neo-Catechumenate just stop doing mission work? 

I’m not sure where the Ordinariate is going next. The journey so far has required courage and faith. An Anglican clergyman seeking to lead his flock into full communion with the Catholic Church will lose his home, his status, his livelihood. 

And the flock—even though they disagree with current Anglican stances on women priests, same-sex “marriage,” the Eucharist, the nature of Christ himself, and more, have their own conservatism. 

One former Anglican who is now an Ordinariate member described the reaction of his parish when the issue lay starkly before them: “They just kept saying ‘But, Father, we are Anglicans. We agree with everything you’re saying—but we don’t want to become Roman Catholics.’ And then there’s the church building—they are very attached to it…” 

People are often also tribal: they have their own sense of identity and say things like, “My family has always been Anglican” (not strictly true, of course, given the realities of history, but…). There are nuances of identity that defy easy analysis. And sometimes people take positions that have a bit of absurdity about them, like the poor lady who told me she simply couldn’t go to church anymore because there was now a woman priest who talks about “gay rights,” but “the Catholic Church is something for other people. I just stay at home. And I’m rather unhappy.” 

So things proceed slowly. Some Anglicans seeking full communion with the Catholic Church will quietly make their own decisions and join a local Catholic parish, following an RCIA course. Some Anglican clergy will opt simply to apply to become priests in the local Catholic diocese. 

But the Ordinariate has a special calling, fulfils a special need. Unwittingly, one of the things it has done has been to give something of a boost to cradle Catholics, who relish its contribution to good liturgical practice, good music, and a strong sense of the glory of the Catholic Faith. 

When Msgr. Keith Newton spoke to Pope Benedict after the first couple of years of the Ordinariate’s existence, the latter took his hand after hearing reports of how things were going and said, “Just go forward in faith.” 

And I think they’ll do just that.

'I have to do this': Why some Catholic women are defying Church doctrine and becoming priests

Marie Bouclin giving mass The curtains are drawn as Marie Bouclin transforms the wooden coffee table in her modest living room in Sudbury, Ont., into an altar, lighting candles and filling a chalice with red wine.

A dozen of her parishioners sit in a semicircle around her. 

One woman is so worried she might be identified, she asks that her face be blurred in any photos.

Bouclin, one of only two Canadian bishops in a small movement of Roman Catholic women being ordained outside the official Church, leads the room in a service that goes against 2,000 years of Catholic tradition and doctrine.

"In the early Church, people gathered in their homes," Bouclin says. "Who can say that what we're doing is not valid? Sometimes, we have to obey God and not men. And as much as some Catholics don't want to hear this, the Pope is not God."

Bouclin, 75, became a nun when she was 18, but after seven years, she decided to leave the convent to get married and raise three children. She obtained a Master's degree in theology from the University of Sherbrooke, focusing on the study of women who had been abused by clergy.

That led Bouclin to begin working with an organization called Women's Ordination Worldwide. 

In 2007, she became a priest herself, and in 2011, she was elected by the other priests in the women's ordination movement in Canada to serve as their bishop.
Bouclin is a self-described heretic.

"A heretic is someone who thinks differently," she says. "So, yes, I suppose I am."

Bouclin says she believes the Roman Catholic Church is sexist.
'It's the men's Church. I think they are afraid of change. I feel they are afraid of women.' - Marie Bouclin, bishop
"It's the men's church," Bouclin says. "I think they are afraid of change. I feel they are afraid of women. Women are the other. They are not to be trusted. They are going to take over. There seems to be that fear."

When women in the movement get ordained, they are automatically excommunicated by the Vatican.  

Still, Bouclin insists she loves the Catholic Church, as do many of her parishioners. Anita Corriveau, 70, drives almost four hours from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., to Sudbury to pray with Bouclin.

"I feel like I'm hiding in the house. I don't want to hide," says Corriveau. "Open the doors."

Worldwide movement

The female priest movement began in Germany in 2002 when a bishop in good standing with the Catholic Church, referred to within the movement as "Bishop X," ordained seven women in secret.

Having a bishop within the Church perform the ordinations, members of the movement argue, allowed the apostolic succession — the line of bishops stretching back to the time of the apostles — to be preserved.

Bouclin says there are now 182 female priests and 16 bishops in 14 countries across the globe. Canada has 15 women who belong to the movement.

As one of a small number of bishops, it's Bouclin's mission to help find suitable candidates and ordain them.

Pat Cook, 70, is one such candidate. Bouclin met her at the ordination of another woman in 2015.

Cook, a retired teacher, says she was exhilarated by the ceremony and soon after began her own journey. She insists that if the priesthood had been an option when she was young, she would have chosen it.

"The call has been with me for a long time," says Cook. "Genesis tells us that God created us all male and female alike. I think the Church is wrong in excluding women. I think women are capable of being leaders. I think women are capable of being priests."

Cook admits to being nervous about her ordination, but mostly, she says, she wants to get it over with so she can help the people in her Toronto community.

"I will follow the rules," she says. "I just can't help that I am a female. And I won't apologize for that."

A recent New York Times/CBS poll reported that 64 per cent of Catholics in the United States support women's ordination. 

Meanwhile, the Vatican remains opposed to the idea, saying that the ordination of any woman is invalid. At a press conference in November, Pope Francis reiterated the church's long-held position and hinted that women will never become priests in the Roman Catholic Church.

Rev. Thomas Rosica is the English-Language press attaché for the Holy See. He admits it can be a challenge for the Church to explain why women can't be ordained.

"We live in a society where people expect much for the language of equality," he says.
'My heart goes out to them, but I am sorry, we have certain rules.' - Thomas Rosica, Holy See press attaché
"If a man can do it, a woman can do it. If a man can run for president, then a woman can run for president. So, everybody thinks that equality is the determining factor, but that's an equality that the world speaks of. The Catholic Church is basing its decision on a huge historical period, a huge tradition."

Rosica stressed that there are many ways that women can contribute to the Church without becoming priests.

"My heart goes out to them," Rosica said of the women who want to be ordained. "But I am sorry, we have certain rules. As with any organization and corporation, any workplace, [if] you don't play by the rules, you can't be a full part of it. But nobody is saying they don't love Jesus."

Ordination day

Mid-afternoon on a warm Sunday in November, Cook walks nervously down the centre aisle of a United Church in Toronto that has agreed to host her ordination.

There are about 50 people in attendance, including several members of Cook's family.

"I am feeling nervous but joyous and blessed," Cook says. "I just hope I am worthy. It's the culmination of my life."

When Bouclin steps up to the podium to officiate the ordination, she can't resist mixing politics with religion.

"Pope Francis reiterated that there would never be ordained women in the Catholic Church," Bouclin says. "How disappointing that he should be looking back, backward, and adopted the position of his immediate predecessors."

Bouclin says she doesn't care if some Catholics dismiss her and the women she ordains.
"To be honest, I feel sorry for people who are so closed-minded," she says. "Someone saying 'You are not a priest. You are not a bishop' doesn't take anything away from me. If anything, they're the losers."

Bouclin invites Cook to sit in a chair in front of the altar and lays her hands on Cook's head.

"I ask you, 'Are you ready to be ordained for priestly ministry in the Church by the laying on of our hands and the gift of the Holy Spirit?'" Bouclin asks.

Cook quietly states that she is.

"I am following who I am," Cook says after the ceremony. "I am being authentic. I am being me. So, if I hurt people by being a Roman Catholic woman priest, then I am sorry. I don't want to hurt people at all ever, but I have to do this."