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Pope pleas for peace. (via Huff Post)

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis on Tuesday (Feb. 25) lashed out at public indifference to the many wars raging around the globe, with especially harsh words for arms makers who he said profit from the violence and suffering.

“Think of the starving children in the refugee camps. Just think of them: this is fruit of war!” Francis said at the daily Mass he celebrates in the chapel of the Vatican guesthouse where he lives.

“And if you want,” he continued, “think of the great dining halls, of the parties thrown by the bosses of the weapons industry that makes the arms that wind up (in those camps). A sick child, starving, in a refugee camp — and the great parties, the fine life for those who manufacture weapons.”

But Francis did not spare the public, either.

“Every day, in the newspapers, we find wars,” he said, “and the deaths seem to be part of a normal day’s tally. We are accustomed to reading these things.” It seems, he added, “as though the spirit of war has taken control of us.”

It’s not the first time Francis has tried to bring home routine suffering that often goes unnoticed. Writing in his first “apostolic exhortation” in November, Francis asked: “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

On Tuesday, Francis noted the upcoming 100th anniversary of the start of World War I and recalled the enormous toll that conflict exacted, claiming millions of lives by the time it ended in November 1918.

“Everyone then was horrified,” Francis said. “But today it is the same! Yet rather than one great war, we have small wars everywhere. … This great war is happening everywhere on a smaller scale, a bit under the radar, and we are not shocked! So many die for a piece of land, for some ambition, out of hatred, or racial animus.”

The pope was speaking on the readings at Mass, on Tuesday taken from the New Testament letter of James, in which the author decries the wars and violence within communities and traces them to the sinful passions of those who love the world and not God.

Similarly, Francis also lamented that “this spirit of war, which distances us from God, is not just something distant from ourselves” but is “also in our homes.”

“The wars in families, the wars in communities, the wars everywhere,” he said. “Who among us has cried when they read the newspaper, when they see these images on the television? So many dead.”

During his first year as pope, Francis has sought to establish the church as a rallying point for peace and social justice, consciously channeling a key aspect of the spiritual legacy of his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi. In the past week, he made several appeals for peace in Ukraine, Nigeria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

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The Francis Effect (Guardian newspaper)




Pope Francis’s election has boosted the number of Catholics going to church, both in Italy and in the UK, according to Italian researchers. Photograph: Franco Origlia/Getty Images
Hundreds of thousands of Italian Catholics have flocked back to church since the election of the pope, according to a study published on Mondaythat credits the “Francis effect” for the boost in congregations.

Researcher Massimo Introvigne, a sociologist and head of Italy’s Centre for the Study of New Religions (Cesnur), found that 51% of 250 priests he interviewed reported a significant rise in church attendance since the election of the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio in March.

“If we project those results nationally, and if only half the parishes and communities in Italy have been touched by the Francis effect, then we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of people who are returning,” he said.

There was evidence that the 76-year-old Argentinian pope had made an even more dramatic impact in Britain. In a smaller survey, of 22 British cathedrals, 65% of the respondents had said they had noticed a rise in numbers, Introvigne added.

He said he first discovered evidence of a surge in attendance at mass in a survey he carried out soon after Francis became pope. He decided to conduct a more extensive poll to see if observance had since returned to its previous level.

“It might have been attributable to the novelty of having a new pope and the emotions stirred by the resignation of pope Benedict. But after six months I got more or less the same result,” he said.

According to two of Italy’s most senior clerics, Francis is making his biggest impact on long-lapsed Catholics. Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, the archbishop of Florence, said: “So many are returning to the sacraments, in some cases after decades.”

His account was borne out by the auxiliary bishop of L’Aquila, Giovanni D’Ercole, who said in an interview with the daily La Stampa that “Francis makes headway above all among those who had distanced themselves from Christian life.”

Introvigne cautioned that the persistence of the Francis effect would depend on how parish priests dealt with those who had previously abandoned their faith: “whether they are made to feel welcome” and whether they were given a proper re-introduction to Catholicism.

Pope Francis, who was noted for his simple lifestyle while archbishop of Buenos Aires, has refused the opulent trappings of the papacy and repeatedly advocated a simpler, poorer and less bureaucratic church. Some of his initiatives have also suggested he intends decentralising the administration of the world’s biggest Christian denomination.

In one of the first public signs of misgivings, an influential Catholic writer on Sunday disparaged the idea of a less hierarchical church and defended the Vatican bureaucracy. Vittorio Messori, whose book-length interview with the late pope John Paul II sold millions of copies around the world, wrote in the daily Corriere della Sera that the dream of a “poor, egalitarian church [reminiscent of its] origins in which faith is freed of superstructures” was at odds with the historical fact that charismatic movements that “refused to change into hierarchical institutions” were swiftly reduced to irrelevance.

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Father Greg Reynolds {from The Age Victoria (copyright)}

Retired priest Greg Reynolds leads a service run by dissident Catholics.

All creatures great and small: Father Greg Reynolds leads Mass at the Inclusive Catholics service in South Yarra, where one first-time visitor brought his dog along. Photo: Angela Wylie

FATHER Greg Reynolds wants his church of dissident Catholics to welcome all – ”every man and his dog”, one might say, risking the non-inclusive language he deplores – but even he was taken aback when that was put to the test during Mass yesterday.

A first-time visitor arrived late at the Inclusive Catholics service in South Yarra with a large and well-trained German shepherd. When the consecrated bread and wine were passed around, the visitor took some bread and fed it to his dog.

Apart from one stifled gasp, those present showed admirable presence of mind – but the dog was not offered the cup!

Father Reynolds, a Melbourne priest for 32 years, launched Inclusive Catholics earlier this year. He now ministers to up to 40 people at fortnightly services alternating between two inner-suburban Protestant churches.

The congregation includes gay men, former priests, abuse victims and many women who feel disenfranchised, but it is optimistic rather than bitter.

Yesterday a woman, Irene Wilson, led the liturgy and another, Emmy Silvius, preached the homily. Two more passed the bread and wine around.

Father Reynolds – his only clerical adornment a green stole around his neck – played as small a role as he could.

Inclusive Catholics is part of a small but growing trend in the West of disaffiliated Catholics forming their own communities and offering ”illicit” Masses, yet are slightly uncertain of their identities. The question was posed during the service: ”Are we part of the church or are we a breakaway movement?”

Father Reynolds was a thorn in the side of Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart when he preached in 2010 that it was God’s will to have women priests. He resigned as Western Port parish priest last August and had his faculties to act as a priest in Melbourne removed.

He is still a priest, though now on the dole. Mary Fenelon, who usually worships in Abbotsford, comes to this Mass because ”these people are forward-thinkers, and the church is going backwards. This is inclusive and welcoming.”

Another member is Michael Kelly, long the public face of the Rainbow Sash movement that sought acceptance for homosexuals in the church. He finds it a step forward to see a Catholic priest prepared to ”break through the intimidation and threats and oppression of a very frightened institution”. ”People have just had it,” he says.

”There’s a sense of hopelessness and despair when you look at the hierarchy, and nothing one says gets through to these guys. They are wrapped up in their own sense of entitlement.

”Intelligent, educated, adult Catholics have had enough.”

But if there’s one thing that unites Inclusive Catholics and the mainstream church, it’s their reliance on hard-working women behind the scenes. The volunteer who made the name tags given out yesterday turned 88 during the week.



Australia archbishop: Dog incident played role in excommunication

Brian Roewe     | Oct. 3, 2013   
After it looked like Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart had moved the conversation surrounding excommunicated former priest Greg Reynolds away from an incident in which a dog was fed a piece of the Eucharist, recent comments seem to have brought that particular liturgy back into frame.

Hart told NCR Sept. 26 that “from media reports, the Archdiocese is aware of the presence of Reynolds where the sacred species were given by another person to an animal.” The comment appeared to corroborate Reynolds’ assertion that although he was in the same room at the time, he did not perform the act.

In August 2012, an Australian newspaper reported that during a liturgical celebration of the Inclusive Catholics group, a first-time participant broke off a piece of the Eucharist and gave it to his dog as the Communion was passed around the room.

Reynolds has denied rumors he personally distributed the consecrated host to the dog, and a witness who attended the liturgy confirmed the dog’s owner performed the act.

Even so, that particular liturgy still may be the catalyst behind the citation of Canon 1367 in the Vatican decree for Reynolds’ excommunication.

“The conduct giving rise to Canon 1367 was the public celebration by Reynolds of a liturgy in which the sacred species was violated,” he said in a separate email Tuesday when asked to what specific act the canon referred. He did not provide further detail about which specific liturgy brought about the violation.

The Vatican decree regarding Reynolds twice lists Canon 1367, once among several canons cited as “grave reason for action” in the document’s opening paragraph, and according to canonists who reviewed the document, again in regard to a declaration of latae sententiae excommunication.

“By this decree, because of the lack of repentance, there is declared the pain of automatic excommunication (Canon 1367),” the document said, according to an NCR translation from the original Latin.

Listed under “penalties for individual delicts” in the Code of Canon Law, Canon 1367 states:

A person who throws away the consecrated species or takes or retains them for a sacrilegious purpose incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; moreover, a cleric can be punished with another penalty, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state.

Canonists who spoke to NCR said Canon 1367 can refer to a variety of acts, most commonly the use of the Eucharist in black Masses or satanic rituals. Other violations of the canon include spreading consecrated hosts on the floor or throwing away those remaining instead of storing them in the tabernacle, misusing the consecrated wine and feeding the Eucharist to an animal.

“It has to be something that is malicious and intended to malign or disgrace the concept of the Eucharist,” said Dominican Fr. Tom Doyle, a canon lawyer.

Two canonists speaking on background said it was uncommon for a guilt-by-association application of Canon 1367. Still, one said it isn’t entirely uncommon in other instances, using abortion as an example, where others besides the woman receiving the procedure could be vulnerable to some form of penalty.

Hart’s latest comment gives some clarity to his previous explanation, made both in a letter to his priests and in a statement to NCR: “The decision by Pope Francis to dismiss Fr. Reynolds from the clerical state and to declare his automatic excommunication has been made because of his public teaching on the ordination of women contrary to the teaching of the Church and his public celebration of the Eucharist when he did not hold faculties to act publicly as a priest.”

Canonists indicated it would be unusual for the latter action to be grouped into Canon 1367. Hart concurred, replying with a simple “No” when asked if the celebration of the Eucharist by a priest who had resigned and no longer held priestly faculties would qualify under the precepts of Canon 1367.

But questions still remain, canonists say, regarding procedure and ultimately whether the process still requires formal declaration of excommunication.

A total of five canonists spoke to NCR, four of them on the condition of anonymity, and reviewed the Latin version of the Vatican decree.

One canonist said a violation of Canon 1367 is a delict reserved to the Apostolic See. The canonist interpreted the canon’s reference in the decree as not declaring the automatic excommunication but rather authorizing the ordinary to begin a penal procedure to verify “with moral certainty” that Reynolds committed the crime of desecration of the Eucharist, in addition to the crime of contumacy in schism, mentioned in the decree as necessitating a censure.

But another canonist read it differently, saying Rome had declared a censure related to desecration of the Eucharist but had reserved for the ordinary the right to declare the censure related to schism.

That interpretation appears to reflect the decree’s reading by the Melbourne archdiocese. On Thursday, Reynolds made public the archdiocese’s English translation of the Vatican decree from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“By the Pontiff’s decree, in view of his (the presbyter’s) failure to repent, the penalty of automatic excommunication (latae sententiae) is declared in accordance with Canon 1367. Pardon from this excommunication is reserved to the Apostolic See,” the archdiocese’s translation reads.

In either case, both canonists agreed that while an automatic excommunication incurs immediately, to formally declare and make it public normally occurs through a written document exclusively addressing the excommunication. In his email Tuesday to NCR, Hart challenged the interpretation that the decree called for him to begin a new penal process. What makes it difficult to determine what process was completed and what was required, the canonists said, is the congregation’s apparent interruption of an already ongoing investigation within the archdiocese.

Hart had said previously that after Reynolds resigned, he had requested on several occasions to no avail that Reynolds cease both conducting public celebrations of the Eucharist and preaching contrary to church teachings. In August 2012, the archbishop initiated an investigation “to determine whether [Reynolds’] conduct warranted an application for his dismissal from the clerical state.” Prior to that investigation’s conclusion, Hart said the congregation contacted him and asked that he “send all relevant documents,” which he did in September 2012.

The timeframe Hart presented includes the Aug. 6, 2012, report from the Melbourne-based Age newspaper, which reported the dog event. Four days after that story published, Hart wrote a letter to Reynolds about the story as well as an interview conducted by a local radio station, saying that “both of which were occasioned by your public celebration of the Eucharist in a situation which is both irregular from the point of view of your suspension from the active ministry and also with regard to liturgical law.”

Hart said that Reynolds’ statement to the radio station — that he sought to provide alternative forms of Eucharist — was not “in accord with a wish to act in communion with the Church” and warned that he would take further canonical action if Reynolds did not assure him in writing he would honor the terms of his suspension, not present himself in public as a priest and not associate with groups in defiance of church authority.

After Reynolds responded to Hart, Salvano wrote him Sept. 5, 2012, informing him that the archbishop intended to begin the procedure to dismiss Reynolds from the clerical state. Salvano requested a meeting with Reynolds to discuss specific accusations against him and discuss his rights to defend himself.

Reynolds told NCR that he informed Salvano he did not wish to attend such a meeting and had no further contact with church officials until he received notice of the Vatican decree.

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Praise Bands (from a Catholic perspective)

The Beautiful Music Challenge

A blog for thoughts on Music as specifically pertains to Catholic Liturgy.

 by  Katie O’Keefe
 Worked at St. Stephen the Martyr
Attended Columbus State Community College
Lives in Columbus, OH

My kids became involved in the new youth group at our parish. This parish had great catechesis, great liturgy and beautiful music ranging from chant and polyphony to more modern works – all beautiful and always appropriate to the Liturgy.  The new youth minister however, wanted to start a praise band. He wanted something that would “reach the kids” and “get them involved”.  Some of the kids kind of looked at each other perplexed.  Many of them were already involved in the choir and those who weren’t kind of bristled at the idea that they were not involved enough. It is interesting to note that when the Youth Minister suggested a Praise Mass the kids rose up as one voice with a resounding, “No!”

So the Praise Band was born and only played at the youth group meetings.
My son is an exceptional singer and a skilled guitarist and wanted to play in the praise band. He hung around and jammed with them. He went to their practices. He helped them set up and kind of functioned as their roadie. He finally asked straight out when he could get a chance to play and he was told, “Well, we kind of have our set up already.  Maybe another time, man.” Every. Time.
So, at 16, tired of being turned down repeatedly, my son asked to join the choir and was welcomed with open arms.
My problem with a praise band is not just that it violates the ethos of the Mass by drawing attention away from the Eucharist and putting the focus on ourselves, our experience and the music that makes us feel good. It is also exclusionary in the most insidious way. While saying, “We’re inclusive. We bring the youth to Mass,” praise bands disallow any growth from the box they’ve put the youth into: Your job, as a youth, is to appreciate my gift to you and don’t get in my way while I share that gift.
Praise bands, like the folk groups of the 70’s and 80’s, are an exclusive club that allow a limited number of people to fully and actively participate. Even without showmanship and even with the most humble leaders, the congregation listens and appreciates, but it is only welcome to participate on a limited basis which makes it a performance. Like Abercrombie and Fitch CEO Mike Jefferies famously said, “We’re aiming for the cool kids. Some kids don’t belong and can’t belong.” Some would argue that a choir excludes in this fashion, too. I would counter that anyone can join the choir; not everyone can sing or play with the praise band.
After all, how many guitarists does a praise band need? A maximum of two.
How many basses can a choir have? As many as you can cram in the choir loft.
There are a lot of people who see nothing wrong with having a praise band at Mass. After all, it’s just music. And even better, it’s music inspired by the love of God. Praise band backers will tell you that Praise and Worship music is designed to encourage participation of young people in the Mass by meeting them where they are in their experience of the culture. It speaks to them in a way that nothing else can speak to them. But of course, the problem is that it leaves them there. It never brings them to the remarkable collection of 2,000 years of Catholic musical tradition.
By cutting off the rest of musical tradition, we cripple our youth. We teach them that Mass should engage and entertain them. We spoon feed them the most basic messages of Christianity: God loves you and He wants to be part of your life. But we never tell them that sometimes it’s going to be hard and will involve tough choices. We teach them that the liturgy should conform to them. And, if the liturgy does, then why not the rest of Catholic teaching?
By separating the youth out of the rest of the congregation, we isolate them the beauty of the music that the saints listened to. We segregate them from the universality that the Church offers. They lose the depth of a hymn text that can be heard over and over, with more and more layers of meaning brought forth, because that takes concentration and dedication. To give them the gift of music that is drawn from ancient and new sources is to give them the gift of their faith reflected in art. It teaches them that the world did not begin when they woke up this morning. It teaches them that there is wisdom in the people who went before and have walked this road.
Sure, Praise and Worship music is fun and engaging, but when it is no longer fun to be Catholic, then what? The youths leave. They find some place where they are entertained.
So, now, 40+ years into the experiment of opening church music to “something more engaging for the youth”, we have two fully adult generations of people who cut their teeth on this music. Two generations of people who believe that the Mass should be fun and engaging are leaving the Church in droves.
Isn’t about time that we asked ourselves if the music has anything to do with that exodus?

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True Brotherhood

Muslims protecting Catholic Christians at Mass in Egypt – stunning!Image


for those among us who are blinded by hate: Human Shield…. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.



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August 17, 2013 · 07:59

16 July

Council of Trent

Council of Trent (Photo credit: jimforest)

The Catholic Church went dry today in 1562 when the Council of Trent affirmed that lay people are not allowed to receive the wine at Mass.

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The Golfer

A guy was getting ready to tee off on the first hole when a second golfer approached and asked if he could join him.
The first said that he usually played alone, but agreed to the twosome.
They were even after the first few holes. The second guy said, “We’re about evenly matched, how about playing for five quid a hole?”
The first guy said that he wasn’t much for betting, but agreed to the terms.   The second guy won the remaining sixteen holes with ease.
As they were walking off number eighteen, the second guy was busy counting his £80.00. He confessed that he was the pro at a neighbouring course and liked to pick on suckers.
The first fellow revealed that he was the Parish Priest.
The pro was flustered and apologetic, offering to return the money.
The Priest said, “You won fair and square and I was foolish to bet with you. You keep your winnings.”   The pro said, “Is there anything I can do to make it up to you?”
The Priest said, “Well, you could come to Mass on Sunday and make a donation……   And, if you want to bring your mother and father along, I’ll marry them. 

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Silence is Golden

An elderly couple is attending Mass.  About halfway through, the wife leans over and says to her husband, ‘I just let out a silent fart; what do you think I should do?’
He replies, ‘Put a new battery in your hearing aid.’

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Higgs Boson

Higgs Boson

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February 21, 2013 · 11:52

Higgs Boson

Higgs Boson

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July 6, 2012 · 10:12