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  • Originally published 07/16/2013

    Historians in battle to safeguard Catholic archives

    A GROUP of leading academics is calling on the Scottish Government to intervene in a controversy over the Catholic Archives in Edinburgh.Historians Professor Dauvit Broun, Professor Thomas Owen Clancy, Dr Jenny Wormald, and Professor Ewen Cameron have already attempted to force the issue on the Parliament's Public Petitions Committee, calling for the Church to reverse plans to split the archives, dating back to Mary, Queen of Scots, and move on claims they are deteriorating.Although the committee has responded claiming the bid was outside its remit, it has advised those behind it to enrol the support of sympathetic politicians if they want a debate on the issue in Parliament....

  • Originally published 07/09/2013

    Garry Wills: Popes Making Popes Saints

    Garry Wills is Professor of History Emeritus at Northwestern. His study of Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1993. His latest book, Why Priests? A Failed Tradition, was published in February 2013.On September 3, 2000, Pope John Paul II beatified Pope Pius IX. (Beatification is the third and penultimate rung on the ladder to sainthood—it certifies that a genuine miracle was worked through a dead person’s intercession, establishes a liturgical feast day for that person, and authorizes church prayer to him or her.) Pius IX was a polarizing figure. He wrested from the Vatican Council a declaration of his own infallibility; he condemned such modern heresies as democratic government; he took a Jewish child, Edgardo Mortara, from his family—on the grounds that Edgardo’s Christian nurse had baptized him as an infant, making him belong to the church, not to his infidel parents.

  • Originally published 07/08/2013

    John XXIII, John Paul II to be made saints

    VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis sped two of his predecessors toward sainthood on Friday: John Paul II, who guided the Roman Catholic Church during the end of the cold war, and John XXIII, who assembled the liberalizing Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.In approving the sainthood of John XXIII even without a second miracle attributable to the pontiff, Francis took the rare step of bypassing the Vatican bureaucracy. Francis also said a Vatican committee had accepted the validity of a second miracle attributed to the intercession of John Paul.The canonization cause for John Paul began almost immediately after his death in 2005. At his funeral, crowds in St. Peter’s Square began shouting “Santo subito,” or “Sainthood now,” for the beloved pontiff....

  • Originally published 06/21/2013

    Audit finds sexual abuse was topic in 1930s

    A regional province of the Capuchin religious order that had fought allegations of sexual abuse for decades decided last year to open its files dating to the 19th century to three independent auditors, in what the order claimed to be a first in the long-running Roman Catholic Church abuse scandal in the United States.The auditors’ report, released on Tuesday, found that sexual abuse by friars in the St. Joseph Province of the Capuchin Order was discussed at meetings as far back as 1932, the first year for which minutes of meetings were available.After more than a dozen students at the province’s St. Lawrence Seminary in Wisconsin accused nine friars of abuse in 1992, it cost the province’s insurer nearly a million dollars — but 89 percent of that went to lawyers to defend the Capuchins and only 11 percent to victims for settlements and therapy, the report said....

  • Originally published 04/01/2013

    Pope Francis links Turin Shroud to Jesus Christ as cloth is shown on television for Easter

    Francis made his first remarks on the mysterious cloth since being elected Pope in a special video message as the shroud was shown live on television for only the second time in its history.His remarks came on Holy Saturday, which falls between the commemoration of Christ’s crucifixion on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday.Francis referred to the 14ft-long strip of sepia fabric, which is imprinted with the face and body of a bearded man, as “the Holy Shroud” and asked: “How is it that the faithful, like you, pause before this icon of a man scourged and crucified? It is because the Man of the Shroud invites us to contemplate Jesus of Nazareth....

  • Originally published 04/01/2013

    The Pope and the Nuns

    Image via Flickr.As soon as it was determined that the smoke was indeed white, thousands of Facebook posts, tweets, and texts began to document reactions to the election of Pope Francis. Initial cryptic comments included: “This is a surprise”; “Jesuit pope”; “Love him already”; and some cautious remarks about his aversion to liberation theology, especially as practiced by Latin American priests and nuns. Since that day, the election and recent installation of Pope Francis to the throne of Peter has continued to generate articles, commentaries, and conversations on social media sites expressing opinions about the first Latin American pontiff, and suggesting an agenda that would, in their opinion, revitalize an ancient church that is struggling to remain vibrant in the twenty-first century.

  • Originally published 03/29/2013

    Pope washes women's feet in break with church law

    ROME (AP) — In his most significant break with tradition yet, Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of two young women at a juvenile detention center — a surprising departure from church rules that restrict the Holy Thursday ritual to men.No pope has ever washed the feet of a woman before, and Francis' gesture sparked a debate among some conservatives and liturgical purists, who lamented he had set a "questionable example." Liberals welcomed the move as a sign of greater inclusiveness in the church.Speaking to the young offenders, including Muslims and Orthodox Christians, Francis said that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion in a gesture of love and service....

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Behind image of seamless transition, Vatican navigates uncharted waters

    VATICAN CITY — Sharing lunch is rarely historic, except perhaps when the two people eating are a pope and his predecessor.On Saturday, the pope emeritus, Benedict XVI — who broke church tradition by resigning rather than dying in office — ate with Pope Francis at Castel Gandolfo, the hilltop villa where Benedict is living, while reporters waited outside for any scraps of news about how the meeting went.

  • Originally published 03/24/2013

    Papa Francesco: A New Era?

    Pope Francis in Brazil on March 20. Credit: Wiki Commons.With their unending infatuation with the exotica of ritual and royalty, all of the networks provided extensive coverage of the papal resignation and election.Expect the same when Queen Elizabeth II either dies or abdicates.The appearance of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires on the loggia of St. Peter’s was greeted by a brief moment of surprise (conclave coverage suggested we would be seeing Pope Angelo Scola or Odilo Scherer -- the Italian Episcopal Conference even e-mailed an erroneous congratulations to Scola -- the papal version of “Dewey Defeats Truman.”) Then crowd went wild as the huge bell on St. Peter’s pealed out the glad tidings.

  • Originally published 03/22/2013

    Emily Schmall: How the Catholic Church Lost Argentina

    Emily Schmall is a freelance journalist in Buenos Aires who covered the ascension of Pope Francis for the New York Times.BUENOS AIRES — Hundreds of spectators stood through the chilly night in the city's Plaza de Mayo, the iconic park in front of the Catholic cathedral and government palace, to watch a live Vatican transmission of the ascension of the Argentine pope, Francis. The mass finally began shortly after 5 a.m., to a roar of cheers and chanting in unison: ‘Argentina! Argentina!'People wrapped themselves in the yellow and white Vatican flags being hawked alongside Francis buttons, calendars, key chains and posters.While Francis circled St. Peter's Square in the white pope-mobile, two students of the Catholic University, Federico Chaves and Jonathan Tiberio, both 26, swapped anecdotes about the former Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio, an advisor at their campus, who set up a program at the university for students to teach English and computer classes as volunteers in some of the city's poorest slums."We're anticipating change at the Vatican because of what he did in Argentina. He worked with everyone, atheists, homosexuals....He's shown a commitment to bring the church closer to the people, to assimilate it into life," said Chaves, an economics student....

  • Originally published 03/22/2013

    HNN Hot Topics: Pope Francis

    News Priest 'not denounced' by pope (3-20-13) Slum Priests: Pope Francis's Early Years (3-20-13) Francis and Argentina's "disappeared" (3-14-13) Did Pope Francis collaborate with the Argentine junta? (3-13-13) Why the new pope's name matters (3-12-13) Commentary: Historians

  • Originally published 03/21/2013

    Roy Bourgeois: My Prayer -- Let Women Be Priests

    Roy Bourgeois is a former Roman Catholic priest and the author of “My Journey From Silence to Solidarity.”AFTER serving as a Roman Catholic priest for 40 years, I was expelled from the priesthood last November because of my public support for the ordination of women.Catholic priests say that the call to be a priest comes from God. As a young priest, I began to ask myself and my fellow priests: “Who are we, as men, to say that our call from God is authentic, but God’s call to women is not?” Isn’t our all-powerful God, who created the cosmos, capable of empowering a woman to be a priest?Let’s face it. The problem is not with God, but with an all-male clerical culture that views women as lesser than men. Though I am not optimistic, I pray that the newly elected Pope Francis will rethink this antiquated and unholy doctrine....

  • Originally published 03/21/2013

    Conrad Black: Pope Francis, Say Yes to the Pill

    Conrad Black is the author of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom, Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, and the recently published A Matter of Principle. He can be reached at cbletters@gmail.com.

  • Originally published 03/20/2013

    A Pope of Firsts, But Will Francis Actually Change the Vatican?

    Pope Francis at the Vatican. Credit: Flickr/mazur.Pope Francis, the former Cardinal Bergoglio of Argentina, was installed on the feast day of St. Joseph as the 266th pope over the Holy Roman Catholic Church. For a religious historian like myself, his appointment has been a dizzying number of firsts: the first Jesuit to become pope, the first pope in the modern era to succeed a pope, Benedict XVI, who is still alive, the first pope from Latin America, and the first to take the name of Francis.While all of these firsts are important, they also must pass through the prism of the Jesuits' history, the Catholic Church’s history in Latin America, and by Bergogolio’s own history in Argentina during the Dirty War. While Pope Francis’s ascension to the petrine throne may signal some change in the manner in which the papacy is lived out in front of the world, will it engender real, substantive changes in the Catholic Church, and its worldwide following?

  • Originally published 03/18/2013

    Mary O'Grady: Behind the Campaign to Smear the Pope

    Mary O'Grady is a member of the editorial board at The Wall Street Journal and writes editorial columns on Latin America, trade and international economics. She is also editor of "The Americas," a weekly column that appears every Monday and deals with politics, economics and business in Latin America and Canada.Argentines celebrated last week when one of their own was chosen as the new pope. But they also suffered a loss of sorts. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a tireless advocate of the poor and outspoken critic of corruption, will no longer be on hand locally to push back against the malfeasance of the government of President Cristina Kirchner.Argentines not aligned with the regime hope that the arrival of Francis on the world stage at least will draw attention to this issue. Heaven knows the situation is growing dire.

  • Originally published 03/18/2013

    Testing the New Pope's Commitment to Poverty

    Study of portait of Dorothy Day  by Sarah Melici. Credit: Flickr/Jim Forest.In words to news media people on March 16 the new pope, Francis, explained that he had chosen his name after the medieval saint Francis of Assisi. And it was primarily the saint’s commitment to peace and helping the poor that influenced him. Since the new pope seems to have a good sense of humor, he might appreciate the following irony: Although the Catholic Church he now heads bars women from the priesthood and his church is often accused of gender bias, the twentieth-century person who most forcefully embraced the ideals of St. Francis was a woman -- Dorothy Day.

  • Originally published 03/18/2013

    Tenemos un Papa!

    Pope Francis. Painting by Dan Lacey via Flickr.At 8:12 p.m. on Wednesday, March 13, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran announced from the famed loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica “Habemus Papem,” “We have a pope.” Within minutes, as the world's 1.2 billion Catholics and curious onlookers worldwide processed the announcement that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires had been elected the 266th pope, Latin Americans and U.S. Latinos exclaimed “Tenemos un Papa,” “We have a pope!” Or, as the Huffington Post announced, “The Holy Sí! Argentine Pope.” What does it mean to have a Latin American pope?

  • Originally published 03/17/2013

    The Catholic Church's Long Struggle over Accommodating to Authoritarian Regimes

    Cesare Orsenigo, Pope Pius XII's nuncio to Nazi Germany, meets with Adolf Hitler and Joachim von Ribbentrop in early 1939. Photo Credit: German Federal Archives.The announcement last Wednesday that the College of Cardinals selected Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires, as the successor to Pope Benedict XVI, made headlines around the world. Most focused on the “simplicity” and “modest touch” of the new pope, who will reign as Pope Francis.But allegations that the new pope cooperated with Argentina’s military dictatorship in the 1970s, during the so-called Dirty War in which nearly 30,000 Argentineans were tortured or killed by the government, have tarnished his transition.

  • Originally published 03/12/2013

    Why the new pope's name matters

    Once the new pope is elected, he will have two big initial decisions to make: whether to accept the job, and what his new papal name will be.Gregory? Leo? Benedict? No one knows what the next pope will pick. But choosing a new moniker is a decision that’s tied up in history, tradition and more than a little symbolic value.In papal tradition, newly elected pontiffs choose a name to identify themselves during their reigns. The tradition has been around for centuries, even though no law or rule requires that a pope pick a new name.Chester Gillis, a professor of theology at Georgetown University, said that the pope’s choice of name offers an early indicator of what his papacy might be like....

  • Originally published 03/01/2013

    Paul Kennedy: Which Catholic Church?

    Paul Kennedy is Dilworth Professor of History and director of International Security Studies at Yale University; and the author of many books, including “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.”Being about the only professor at a liberal, tolerant, cosmopolitan Western university who is known to be a practicing Catholic — baptized at the age of two weeks — I have been asked frequently in recent times about what I think will happen to the church in the light of Pope Benedict’s resignation. Will it split further, between conservatives and liberals? Will there be an African pope? When will there ever be female priests, then bishops? What about declining attendance of the European congregations (as opposed to the surging populations in the southern world)?

  • Originally published 02/26/2013

    The pope's notorious namesake

    You won’t find many Catholic churches named after Pope Benedict IX.He was a puppet pope, installed by his powerful family at a time when rival clans ruled Rome. The young man seemed uninterested in religious life, rushing through ordination only after his election to the Throne of St. Peter in 1032.Benedict IX squandered the papacy’s moral and financial riches in bordellos and banquet halls. His violence and debauchery “shocked even the Romans,” said philosopher Bertrand Russell, which is kind of like being busted for lewdness in Las Vegas....

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    German Priests Carried Out Sexual Abuse for Years

    BERLIN — A report about child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in Germany, based on victim accounts and released by the church this week, showed that priests carefully planned their assaults and frequently abused the same children repeatedly for years.The report, compiled from information collected from victims and other witnesses who called a hot line run by the church from 2010 until the end of last year, includes the ages of the victims, the locations of the assaults and the repercussions they have suffered since. The accounts were provided in 8,500 calls to the hot line; they are not representative of abuse cases over all and cannot be individually verified. The church said the report contained information from 1,824 people, of whom 1,165 described themselves as victims.

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