Does the Successor of Peter need “theological structuring”?

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The statue of St. Peter

The statue of St. Peter

The Bishop of Rome “has everything it takes “to enounce” the faith of the Church”. The Roman Curia plays an “instrumental and vicarious” role in relation to the Pope’s ministry. As Pope, the Pope does not belong to any particular theological “School of thought”. Fr. Benoît-Dominique de La Soujeole, OP, Professor of dogmatic theology at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Fribourg (Switzerland), goes over some essential distinctions which the Catholic Church recognises and maintains regarding the relationship between theology, doctrine and magisterium

Gianni Valente
Rome

In a recent interview with La Croix, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, acting as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, mentioned that one of the duties of his office is the mission to “theologically structure” Pope Francis’ pontificate given that the current Successor of Peter is not a theologian by profession. In reference to the considerations expressed by the Prefect of the former Holy Office, Vatican Insider addressed a series of questions to Fr. Benoît-Dominique de La Soujeole, OP regarding the tasks of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and what Church Tradition teaches about the relationship between theology, doctrine and magisterium. In his answers, the Dominican professor runs through, in a simple and clear manner, some “fundamental” facts which sometimes seem to be obscured by the endless speculations of numerous individuals throughout the blogosphere who play at being “agents of Orthodoxy”.

 

Fr. Benoît-Dominique de La Soujeole, OP is a Dominican of the Province of Toulouse, France (where he was born in 1955). Since 1992 he has been a member of the editorial board of authoritative journal La Revue thomiste de philosophie e de théologie. Since 1999 he has held the title of Professor of dogmatic theology (Church and sacraments) at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Fribourg (Switzerland), where he is also Prior of the Dominican monastery of St. Albertus Magnus.

 

Does providing a “theological structure” to the pontificate feature among the tasks of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith?

First of all we must clarify these words. The Congregation in which Cardinal Müller performs the role of Prefect, is the Congregation De doctrina fidei. According to article 48 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus of 26 June 1988, its duty is “to promote and safeguard the doctrine on faith and morals in the whole Catholic world”. Doctrine (from the Latin docere, which means to teach) is the intelligence that the Church has of its faith, which the Episcopal College along with its head – the Bishop of Rome guarantees thanks to a specific assistance from the Holy Spirit. Theology is, in itself, the intelligence that a person (the theologian) or a group of people (a “school of thought”) has of the faith of the Church. Theology does not receive special assistance from the Holy Spirit, but presents opinions that are freely discussed by theologians. The only requirement in terms of the relationship between theology and doctrine is that theology must not contradict doctrine. So, in answer to your question, it seems to be that the term “theological” which the cardinal used in his expression “theological structure” is taken in a very broad sense and could refer to doctrine instead. What the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus says in general about the Roman Curia in points 7 and 8 of its introduction, could then help one to understand the cardinals cardinal’s expression: The nature of the Curia is ministerial and in some way instrumental (n° 7), assisting the Roman Pope in a vicarious manner in his personal duty as pastor of the entire Church and in his relationship with the bishops (n°8). As such, the Congregation De doctrina fidei assists the Pope in the responsibility he has as guarantor of the faith of the Church, providing him with the adequate “instruments” listed in article 51 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus.

 

Cardinal Müller’s words make it seem like if a Pope is not a “theologian by profession” then his pontificate may require the tutelage of a class of theologians that work in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Do you consider this way of defining the relationship between the pontifical Magisterium and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to be plausible?

Every Pope, due to the very fact that he is Pope, possesses the charisma of Peter, which means he has the task of strengthening his brothers in the faith (Luke 22:32) with the assistance of the Holy Spirit.  It is a role of judging (in the sense of telling the truth) which Peter and his successors have. With regard to this role, the Congregation De doctrina fidei provides assistance through preliminary work done prior to the Pope carrying out his role and through the work of implementation, after the Pope has carried out his role. The extent to which the Pope may turn to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, depends on the extent to which the Pope is in a position to do all of the preparatory work by himself.

 

Does it still make sense to make even an implicit dialectic distinction between “theologian” Popes and “pastor” Popes?

The distinction between “theology” (or doctrine too) and “pastoral care” is a distinction, it does not mean the two are separate. Pastoral care is doctrine put into practice. All parts of the doctrine have a pastoral purpose. All Popes are both doctors of the faith and pastors of the Church. A “dialectic” relationship, in the sense of a Hegelian-type dialectics of opposition makes no sense whatsoever.

 

Individual Pope figures aside, can the Successor of Peter’s ministry be considered theologically “lacking” and in need of a certain “theological structuring” by individuals other than the Pope?

Certainly not! The Pope has everything it takes to enounce the faith of the Church. The Congregation De doctrina fidei helps the Pope in the preparation and implementation phases but the “crux” consists in enouncing the faith of the Church and this is the Pope’s very own and personal ministry. By “structuring”, Cardinal Müller may have meant this, above all preparatory, work.

 

In the Apostolic structure of the Church, which the Catholic Church believes is according to the will of God himself, who is the custodian of the depositum fidei? Is it the Pope with the bishops or the Roman Curia with its Congregations and bodies, including the Doctrinal dicastery?

It is the Pope himself. The Roman Curia has a merely instrumental and vicarious role: it does not exist or operate by its own right but within its own essential dependence on the Pontiff. When the See of Peter is vacant, all the work of the Congregations is suspended (except from day-to-day business).

 

Does the Pope have to have a “theological line of thought” of his own, an original, recognised and characteristic theological profile of his own?

The Pope, by virtue of being Pope, does not belong to any specific theological “School of thought”. He enounces the faith of the Church (doctrine) in keeping with the Tradition which he currently represents. He is not “theologian” but “doctor”. He may as an individual have his own preferences, his own background, his own personal intellectual formation, but these elements are not criteria for interpreting his magisterial teaching. The principal criterion of interpretation, as Benedict XVI recalled in his speech to the Curia in 2005, is that of substantial continuity with Tradition.

 

Do the Vatican Congregations or the Pope’s collaborators partake in some way in the charisma of infallibility which the Pope in certain cases possesses?

Infallibility is a strictly personal charisma that the Pope has; the Congregations do not share in it. The decisions taken by the Congregations “in forma communi” (not in specific form), are decisions taken by the Congregations in their function as vicarious instruments of the Pope; their authority is real but they do not carry the personal authority of the Pope at the same level as decisions approved by him in specific form.

 

Certain expressions and slogans of journalistic language claim that in the years in which Wojtyla was Pope, there was a sort of “diarchy” in existence, with Pope John Paul II almost sharing his ministry with Joseph Ratzinger, entrusting him with managing doctrine. Is this a legitimate interpretation of the reality of the time or is it misleading, from the point of view of the nature and structure of the Catholic Church?

From the point of view of the dogmatic nature of the Church, this interpretation is not a legitimate one. The papal office is strictly personal. This does not mean a Pope may not be particularly close to the Prefect of a Congregation and in specific cases to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as was the case with John Paul II and cardinal Ratzinger. But there is no doubt that dogmatically, the doctrinal responsibility lay with the Pope on the basis of his personal charisma.

 

Does the idea of a papacy that is “lacking” in “theological structure” terms echo the old medieval theories about the possibility of a “heretical Pope”?

I don’t think so. The theological structuring Cardinal Müller speaks of – as far as my understanding of the expression goes – is an active collaboration in the Pope’s personal ministry and certainly not an office of oversight that prevents the risk of papal deviation!

 

What can we learn, in terms of the relationship between theology and the magisterium, from the theological experience of St. Thomas Aquinas (bearing in mind, for example, the evolution of his thinking regarding the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception)?

If one accepts the distinction between doctrine and theology, one must think that theology prepares the insights (the doctrine) that will come from the Church (from the Council and from the Pope). When a theological opinion is adopted in the magisterium, it ceases to be theological and become doctrinal.  St. Thomas Aquinas was given the title Doctor communis because he is the doctor whose views were adopted the most by the magisterium. This said, some of St. Thomas’ opinions were not adopted but were in fact contradicted (for example those on the Immaculate Conception). The theology-doctrine distinction also applies to St. Thomas.

 

People have reflected on the relationship between theology and the magisterium for years. Is theology an instrument of the magisterium and/or of the Holy See or does it have its own legitimate autonomy beyond the scope of the magisterium?

Theology is the intelligence of the faith. It is therefore based on the faith in its current state of intelligence (=doctrine) and seeks to “go further”. Theology is not therefore autonomous in the strict sense, as it is rooted in what the Church believes according to its current intelligence.  Within this dependence, it is “free” to develop the intelligence of the faith, and the conclusions it reaches are verified by the magisterium, whether it rejects these, adopts them or remains silent, until the question is not sufficiently clarified.

 

In the post-Conciliar years, there was often talk of certain theological circles wanting to exercise a “parallel magisterium”. Could this temptation arise again, perhaps in new guises, among “bishop-theologians” who have been given positions of responsibility within the Church?

The “parallel magisterium” of theologians is nonsensical. There is only one magisterium and its basis is sacramental (episcopal ordination, with the unique office that is due to the Bishop of Rome). Some theologians have in fact exercised a very strong and negative influence thanks to certain media.  This “parallel magisterium” is the denial of the distinction between doctrine and theology. If a bishop is also a theologian, when he adopts a position, it is his duty always to clearly distinguish between his role as doctor of the Church (=doctrine) and his competence as a theologian. When it seems that a doctrinal point requires further study in order to respond to the questions of our time, those who are the magisterium (bishops and the Pope) must examine the sensus fidei of the ecclesial community (not just the theologians but also spiritual men and women and the saints…) in order to try to discern what it is the Holy Spirit may be trying to say and express it in the most appropriate terms, as is written in point 12 of the conciliar Constitution Lumen Gentium. Today’s media culture tends to eliminate the distinction between doctrine and theology when a bishop expresses himself, and this is deplorable and can create confusion in the spirit of the faithful.

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The Church in Mumbai and BCS should stop having double standards

Today I went for mass in St.Michaels Church Mahim and an announcement was made that as per the new DP plan St.Michaels Church and its graveyard was not shown in the DP plan and that the new proposed road would mean that the Cross in front of the Church would have to be shifted and the road would almost touch the door of the Church.

As soon as I came out of Church BCS members were taking signatures from catholics to protest against the said DP plan.

Now let me make things very clear that I personally feel that one must protect ones property but one must also apply those same standards to themselves.

As per the new DP plan open spaces and gardens are being reduced and the mandatory open spaces needed for an individual will not longer be available.

Now the Church itself passed a plan for Marinagar , Mahim in the year 1994. Catholics purchased flats after seeing and acting on the said plan. The Church collected its pound of flesh in terms of money.

Based on the said plan which had recreational gardens,  catholics paid a much higher rate than what was the  then prevailing in Mahim.The said rate was 33%   higher than what the Charity Commissioner was informed when sanction to develop the property was obtained.

In the year 2010 the same church passes a plan whereby two of the proposed recreational gardens have disappeared and on the spot where the same gardens were shown the church has now passed plans to build two buildings one which is 15 storied and one which is 17 storied.Despite my letters to the Cardinal Oswald Gracias nothing has been done to right the wrong which will affect two societies having more than 150 catholic families. The Church has now collected their pound of flesh once more knowing fully well that the society too owns the gardens in proportion to the FSI consumed in the building since the project is a layout.The Church is also a silent spectator to the forgery of documents which shows tenants who were already permanently rehoused as yet to be housed.

I had written about this to the BCS but the BCS did nothing it did not even respond way back in the year 2009 telling them of how the gardens area was being reduced.

To top it all BCS purchased an office in the said building proposed on my society’s gardens.

On one hand they hold seminars,  use the mass to make announcemnts and collect signatures on how to protect open spaces and yet on the other hand they themselves are abettors  of the same  act of reducing open spaces directly or indirectly.

In fact it can be argued that the road widening is for a public cause , unlike Marinagar where the Church has fooled Catholics and only catholics are the loosers.

Stop fooling people and stop having double standards. In last 30 years giving scholarships and collecting signatures can be done by any NGO. You dont need to be a catholic NGO.In fact history will show that the office bearers have used the post to get benefits for themselves and not for the community.

A.M.Sodder

 

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Sex abuse commission members meet cardinal to discuss controversial Chilean bishop

Marie Collins, right, is a member of the papal commission (PA)

Members of papal commission met one of Pope Francis’ top cardinal advisers to express concerns over appointment of Bishop Juan Barros

Four lay members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors met with one of Pope Francis’ top cardinal advisers at the Vatican on Sunday to voice their concerns about the appointment of a Chilean bishop, accused of covering up for an abusive priest.

The four said in a written statement the same day that Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, who is also the protection commission’s president, “agreed to present their concerns to the Holy Father” about the nomination of Bishop Juan Barros to the Diocese of Osorno, Chile.

The bishop had been accused of covering up for a priest who was known to have committed sexual abuse. Bishop Barros, however, denied having had knowledge of Father Fernando Karadima’s criminal behaviour, prior to news about the abuse in the press.

Commission member Marie Collins from Ireland expressed her satisfaction with their discussion at the Vatican, posting on her Twitter feed on April 13 that she was “heading home after a good meeting” with Cardinal O’Malley.

The three other members of the 17-person commission at the 30-minute meeting included Peter Saunders, Dr Catherine Bonnet and Baroness Sheila Hollins. Collins and Saunders are both survivors of clerical sex abuse.

“Although we are not charged with dealing with individual cases, the protection of minors is our primary concern,” the four members said in their statement. “The process of appointing bishops who are committed to and have an understanding of child protection is of paramount importance.”

Bishops, they said, must be able to “enact effective policies” on sex abuse and “carefully monitor compliance.”

The commission members had scheduled their meeting with Cardinal O’Malley to coincide with his arrival in Rome for another weeklong session of the nine-member Council of Cardinals, set to start April 13.

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Canadian Supreme Court bans prayers at council meetings

In 2013, the Quebec Court of Appeal ruled Saguenay could keep its prayer tradition, but the Supreme Court of Canada reversed that ruling (PA)

In the name of neutrality of state, nine judges agreed that prayers should not be allowed at council meetings anymore

Canadian cities must put an end to prayers during council meetings, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled.

The court said such prayers go against freedom of religion and conscience. In a unanimous decision and in the name of neutrality of state, all nine judges agreed that prayers should not be allowed anymore.

The case submitted to the highest Canadian court pitted the mayor of Saguenay, a town 124 miles north of Quebec City, against Alain Simoneau and the Quebec Lay Movement. In 2006, Simoneau complained that the tradition of praying at the beginning of council meetings violated his right to freedom of conscience and religion. A Quebec human rights tribunal agreed with him and told Mayor Jean Tremblay and the city of Saguenay to drop the prayer and pay Simoneau $30,000.

In 2013, the Quebec Court of Appeal ruled Saguenay could keep its prayer tradition, but the Supreme Court of Canada reversed that ruling.

However, its ruling not only applies to the city of Saguenay, but to all cities and towns across Quebec and Canada. It said the freedom of conscience and religion provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom and the Quebec Charter “must be given a generous and expansive interpretation … to ensure that those to whom these charters apply enjoy the full benefit of the rights and freedoms.”

Major cities, including Ottawa and Calgary, said they would stop saying prayers while they studied the impact of the court ruling.

Tremblay is one of the very few Quebec politicians to openly talk about his Catholic faith. On April 16, he said he was “disappointed” by the Supreme Court’s ruling and said although he would not oppose the court, Quebec residents should “stand up” for their traditions.

Bishop Andre Rivest of Chicoutimi, Quebec, the diocese in which Saguenay is located, said he was not surprised by the ruling.

“I supported the mayor, so I’m obviously disappointed. I’m the pastor of a region where about 95 percent of the population is Catholic, so praying is in our population’s nature,” he said.

Though the Quebec Lay Movement heralded the decision as a major victory, University of Montreal constitutional specialist Sebastien Beaulac stressed that the main argument coming out of the ruling is the importance of the neutrality of the state.

“Here, the Supreme Court sets the record straight and takes into account Canadian reality as it is. It is not a decision against Catholicism, since its content might be extrapolated to all religions. It is the idea of a public office not being associated with any religion that is the backbone of the ruling. Tremblay can still be Catholic: However, he can’t use his position to promote his faith,” he said.

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Demonstrators disrupt Chilean bishop’s installation ceremony

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Bishop Juan Barros was jostled at the installation ceremony (PA)

Protestor accuse Bishop Juan Barros of protecting a priest accused of sexual abuse

A bishop being installed in his new assignment in southern Chile expressed disappointment with hundreds of black-clad demonstrators who interrupted the ceremony by marching into a cathedral and shouting at him to leave the diocese, saying he protected a priest accused of sexual abuse.

“You have to distinguish between showing a disagreement in a good way and this, because interrupting a Mass is a big shame,” Bishop Juan Barros said in reference to the demonstration organised against him on March 21 while he was being installed as new bishop of Osorno.

Witnesses described the scene inside the Cathedral of St Matthew as chaotic.

The New York Times reported that television images showed clashes between the bishop’s supporters, who carried white balloons, and demonstrators, carrying black ones.

The demonstrators, numbering about 3,000 inside and outside the cathedral, according to local media reports, included politicians and members of Congress. They held signs and called for Bishop Barros to resign.

A supporter of Bishop Barros tries to restrain protestors

They accused the bishop of complicity in the case of Father Fernando Karadima, who the Vatican in 2011 found guilty of sexually abusing minors and ordered him to “retire to a life of prayer and penitence.”

Bishop Barros denied having any relationship with Father Karadima on March 23.

“I’m going to join the community of Osorno,” Bishop Barros said.

The controversy began in January, soon after Pope Francis appointed Bishop Barros to Osorno. Among those objecting to the appointment were former Chilean President Eduardo Frei Montalva and Fr Alex Vigueras, provincial superior of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Chile.

At least one Chilean bishop said he thought the protesters were “taking political advantage” of the situation.

“It was artificially created and it is not healthy,” said Bishop Cristian Caro Cordero of Puerto Montt, Chile.

Protests related to clerical abuse involving Father Karadima also have occurred at public appearances of Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello of Santiago, and Chile’s national police force has provided a security detail for him since June.

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The disastrous appointment of Bishop Barros could spell trouble for Pope Francis

Bishop Juan Barros attends his first Mass at the Cathedral of St Matthew in Osorno with protestors gathered in the pews (CNS)

The Vatican has made a huge unforced error and it doesn’t seem to realise it

What on earth is happening in the Diocese of Osorno, Chile? Quite a few observers are bewildered by the recent appointment of Bishop Juan Barros to the diocese.

Let us start with what happened when the newly appointed bishop was enthroned in his cathedral this Saturday last. A fight – yes, you read that correctly – broke out as His Lordship entered the cathedral, between the rival factions in the diocese, those who support the new bishop and those who oppose him.

This is hardly what you would expect to see in any church, let alone in a cathedral, let alone at the show of unity that the entry of a new bishop is supposed to be.

Moreover, one sees that no less than 30 priests and deacons of the diocese wrote to the papal nuncio to make clear to him that they did not want Bishop Barros as their bishop.

One thing is certainly clear: Bishop Barros, perhaps through no fault of his own, is a divisive figure. As bishop, he is meant to be the focus of unity. Even before he has started his time as bishop, he has failed. So, why was he appointed?

At this point things become murky. Bishop Barros was already Bishop of the Armed Forces, so this was a transfer, not a promotion. It seems he was a protégé of one Fr Fernando Karadima, who was found guilty of child abuse. While there is no suggestion that Mgr Barros is a child abuser, some allege that he was too close to Karadima and complicit in the cover up of Karadima’s crimes. He firmly denied this.

That much can be said without fear of contradiction. But why, then, did the papal nuncio, with the full consent of the Vatican, decide to move the bishop to Osorno, against the will of a large section of the people? And why is it the official Church line that this was the correct thing to do?

The Huffington Post draws several conclusions from this fracas that may or may not be correct. The appointment may well be an indication that Bishop Barros has powerful and important friends in high places, both in Chile and in Rome.

But it may be a simple miscalculation on the part of the Church, namely, that moving the bishop to Osorno would be something that would attract little notice. (It is, from what I can determine, a pretty small diocese.) If that is the case, how wrong that calculation proved to be.

The best commentary I have read on the matter comes from the ever-excellent John Allen and can be read here.

My own reflections are as follows.

First, someone, somewhere, the person with whom the idea of this appointment originated, simply does not get it. Anyone perceived to have a poor record on clerical abuse is toxic. Any attempt to place someone like Bishop Barros over a diocese is going to lead to a strong reaction. This should have been foreseen. Which leads to the question: given that this was such a huge unforced error, where were the checks and balances that should have kicked in and effectively stopped this appointment getting beyond the very first stage?

So what we have here, not for the first time, is clear evidence that the process of consultation that leads to the appointment of bishops is not working.

Secondly, the Vatican has set up a child protection commission. This was seen as a hopeful sign. But if you are going to have a commission that you yourself set up, you have to take its advice seriously. There is now the serious risk that the Pope will lose the confidence of his own commission, for several members of it are not happy. This would be catastrophic.

Allen puts it better than I could:

The Barros situation is worrying for Francis because members of his own anti-abuse commission have broken ranks, including the two abuse survivors on the panel: Marie Collins of Ireland and Peter Saunders of the United Kingdom. It’s not clear if Francis fully grasped this at the time, but when he named survivors to that group, he was handing them significant control over his reputation. If Collins and Saunders were ever to walk out, saying they’d lost confidence or feeling that they’d been exploited for a PR exercise, it would have a vast media echo.

Long gone are the days when problems like these could have been solved in the corridors of power. The world is watching. My guess is that Bishop Barros will be removed sooner or later, simply because he has been handed an ungovernable diocese.

But the truth is he should never have been appointed in the first place. Can you imagine the uproar there would have been if this had happened under Benedict XVI’s watch? As it is Pope Francis still has the media onside – but that will not last forever. As Allen says, a tipping point may have been reached.

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Sex abuse commission members meet cardinal to discuss controversial Chilean bishop

Marie Collins, right, is a member of the papal commission (PA)

Members of papal commission met one of Pope Francis’ top cardinal advisers to express concerns over appointment of Bishop Juan Barros

Four lay members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors met with one of Pope Francis’ top cardinal advisers at the Vatican on Sunday to voice their concerns about the appointment of a Chilean bishop, accused of covering up for an abusive priest.

The four said in a written statement the same day that Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, who is also the protection commission’s president, “agreed to present their concerns to the Holy Father” about the nomination of Bishop Juan Barros to the Diocese of Osorno, Chile.

The bishop had been accused of covering up for a priest who was known to have committed sexual abuse. Bishop Barros, however, denied having had knowledge of Father Fernando Karadima’s criminal behaviour, prior to news about the abuse in the press.

Commission member Marie Collins from Ireland expressed her satisfaction with their discussion at the Vatican, posting on her Twitter feed on April 13 that she was “heading home after a good meeting” with Cardinal O’Malley.

The three other members of the 17-person commission at the 30-minute meeting included Peter Saunders, Dr Catherine Bonnet and Baroness Sheila Hollins. Collins and Saunders are both survivors of clerical sex abuse.

“Although we are not charged with dealing with individual cases, the protection of minors is our primary concern,” the four members said in their statement. “The process of appointing bishops who are committed to and have an understanding of child protection is of paramount importance.”

Bishops, they said, must be able to “enact effective policies” on sex abuse and “carefully monitor compliance.”

The commission members had scheduled their meeting with Cardinal O’Malley to coincide with his arrival in Rome for another weeklong session of the nine-member Council of Cardinals, set to start April 13.

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