✣Jesuit author’s talks are cancelled amid backlash
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia has called for “Christian civility” after a heated debate over the Jesuit writer Fr James Martin. Fr Martin was disinvited from three lectures – two in America, one in London – because the organisers were concerned about a possible backlash.
Fr Martin’s recent book Building A Bridge has been much debated. While Cardinal Kevin Farrell praised the work, Cardinal Robert Sarah argued that it downplayed the importance of chastity.
What Catholic commentators said
In the Washington Post, Fr Martin defended his book against its critics.
It was, he said, “a call for respect on both sides”, and he had been surprised by the response. However, he said, “I am at peace with the book and with the mission to love and advocate for LGBT Catholics.”
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat said that the bad-tempered debates within the Church were “the all-but-inevitable result of the Pope’s decisions to stir the Church’s tensions into civil war again, and then to fight for the liberal side using ambiguous statements and unofficial interventions rather than the explicit powers of his office.” Some Catholic institutions try to “pretend” there is no conflict, Douthat said. But “the only serious course is to invite serious argument and encourage respectful debate.”
On Twitter, Fr Martin thanked Douthat for his article, but said: “This Church still sounds more like a series of propositions than an encounter with Jesus.” At The Catholic Thing, Robert Royal argued that this divided faith from reason, “as if the serious developments of Christian thought over centuries have usurped the centrality of the ‘encounter with Jesus’.”
In First Things, Fr Paul Mankowski SJ said that the division between the Church and the LGBT community, lamented by Fr Martin, reflects real differences. “What percentage of those who claim membership in ‘the LGBT community’ also endorse the teachings of the Catechism”, such as that “Sacred Scripture … presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity”? There are “a stalwart few, no doubt, but their number is tiny”.
✣First ever corruption trial opens at the Vatican
Two Italians, the former treasurer and president of the Vatican-run Bambino Gesù paediatric hospital in Rome, face charges of diverting €422,000 (£371,000) from hospital funds to renovate the flat of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, former Vatican secretary of state. It is the first ever financial criminal trial to be held at the Vatican.
Why was it under-reported?
The trial may not have grabbed the headlines because there is no clear storyline attached to it. The alleged crime took place in 2013, several months after Pope Francis’s election. If the prosecution is successful, it could be read as a triumph of Francis’s reforms. The problem, though, is that Cardinal Bertone, a key player in the drama, is absent from the courtroom. He has denied knowing anything about the misuse of funds. But until he is grilled publicly about his role it is hard to see how the trial can be presented as a victory for financial accountability.
What will happen next?
The two accused, former hospital president Giuseppe Profiti and ex-treasurer Massimo Spina, face between three to five years in prison and fines starting at £4,300 if found guilty of embezzlement. They say the apartment was to be used for fundraising, justifying the cost of the renovations. Profiti insists he did nothing wrong and would do it again. For some Vatican watchers it is a gripping case. “I feel like I’m watching an episode of Narcos,” one reporter told Crux’s John Allen, in a reference to the Netflix drama about drug lords.
✣The week ahead
Pope Francis will visit the northern Italian cities of Bologna and Cesena on Sunday. He will visit the basilica where St Dominic is buried and meet refugees who landed on Italy’s coast. The trip coincides with the 300th anniversary of the death of Pius VI, who was born in Cesena. Pius, a strong critic of the French Revolution, died in exile after Napoleon invaded the Papal States.
Jacob Rees-Mogg will give a talk on Friday entitled “Faith in the Future”, about faith in public life, at Cornerstone, an archdiocesan centre in Cardiff. The talk, which begins at 1.30pm, will be attended by Archbishop George Stack.
A blessed Sacrament procession will be held in London on Saturday. The procession will start at St George’s Cathedral, Southwark, and finish across the Thames at Westminster Cathedral. It will be led by Auxiliary Bishop Paul Mason of Southwark. The annual procession started in 2010 as a way of giving thanks for Benedict XVI’s visit.
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