By Mary E. Hunt

Mary E. Hunt, WATER

Mary E. Hunt, WATER

Now that the smoke has cleared from St. Peter’s Square, the future of the Roman Catholic Church is on the minds of many. Catholics are eternally hopeful, so the news of the papal election of an Argentine Jesuit, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a man of simple personal ways, engendered a certain enthusiasm.

My first official act in the new pontificate was to call a wise octogenarian friend in Buenos Aires, my favorite city in the world, to join in that country’s pride and get an initial assessment of the man. Her reaction was what I would have expected from a Catholic in Boston if Cardinal Bernard Law had been elected. Her one word that stood out was “scary.”

Progressive Catholics had low expectations of the conclave since only what went in would come out, only hand-picked conservative, toe-the-party-line types were electors. Moreover, the process was flawed on the face of it by the lack of women, young people, and lay people. It was flawed by a dearth of democracy. Not even the seagull that sat on the chimney awaiting the decision was enough to persuade that the Holy Spirit was really in charge. Read More…

By Jon O’Brien

Jon O'Brien, President of Catholics for Choice

Jon O’Brien, President of Catholics for Choice

Every time there’s a papal election, Catholics and non-Catholics alike turn their eyes to Rome, and sometimes wonder why they do so. Those who are not Catholic, and those who are, may feel alienated by what they hear from the Vatican when a pope is firmly in place, so why pay attention to cardinals jockeying (secretly) for power? The reason is that the person who sits on the Throne of St. Peter matters. Though he may reside in tiny Vatican City, the pope and his representatives are in nearly everyone’s backyard: through the global reach of Catholic healthcare, a privileged role at the United Nations, as the head of a church a billion strong, and because what he says generally makes the papers. And though we don’t have a vote in the conclave, when the white smoke billows out of the Sistine Chapel, we all have a stake in the result.

For example, Catholic healthcare provides approximately 25 percent of all AIDS care worldwide. Here you can see some of the best of Catholic values in practice, but unfortunately they are often held back by some of the hierarchy’s worst ideas. As pretty much everyone knows, doctors, nurses, and counselors at Catholic facilities are often forbidden to distribute condoms as part of HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment programs. So despite the best intentions of healthcare providers, and notwithstanding the fact that the money used for these programs comes from many people who absolutely know condoms are critical in the fight against AIDS, patients just can’t get what they need because the Vatican bans condoms. Read More…

By Philip Pullella, Reuters

VATICAN CITY – The Roman Catholic Church must open itself up to women in the next pontificate, giving them more leadership positions in the Vatican and beyond, according to Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, a senior cardinal who will be influential in electing the next pope.

In an exclusive interview with Reuters, Cardinal Sandri, 69, an Argentine, also said the next pope should not be chosen according to a geographic area but must be a “saintly man” qualified to lead the Church in a time of crisis.

He said one of the greatest challenges facing the Church was trying to win back those suffering from a “loss of faith” who had “turned their back on God” and the Church of their fathers.

Sandri, an experienced diplomat and past number two in the Vatican bureaucracy, is expected to wield great influence in the choice of the man to succeed Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

“The role of women in the world has increased and this is something the Church has to ask itself about,” Sandri said in his office just outside St Peter’s Square where he heads the Vatican department for Eastern Catholic Churches.

“They must have a much more important role in the life of the Church … so that they can contribute to Church life in so many areas which are now, in part, open only to men … This will be a challenge for us in the future.”

Read the full story on

By Steve McSwain, Huffington Post

I was reading recently of the bravery of the Irish Catholic priest, Fr. Tony Flannery, who, at 66, is being threatened by the Vatican.

No! I thought. The Vatican never threatens anyone!


The history of Christianity, and not just in Catholicism but in all Christian denominations, is similar. The Church has found that it thrives best not in a world it sacrifices itself to redeem — not in a world it lays down its life in order to give life to others — but, instead, it survives best by demanding coercion, by making itself into a “god” and insisting this God can only be known “our” way; by making its beliefs into an idol that the faithful must bow the knee. The church has found that, by drawing lines in theological and doctrinal sands, battle lines between “us,” the theologically “correct” and “them,” the doctrinally “wrong,” that, by doing so, the church wins.

But does it really?

Of course, it does not, as history has repeatedly demonstrated. Unfortunately, however, history, at least as far as the church is concerned, has never been a very good teacher for church leaders.

For all the good the church has done, and it has done much good, the history of Christianity is in large measure the history of madness. This morning’s story is simply another case-in-point.

Last year, for example, the Vatican suspended Flannery’s ministry. And, today, Flannery is being threatened with charges of “heresy” and possible “excommunication” from the church.


Read the full article at Huffington Post.