SEPTEMBER 30, 2016 Quo Vadis, Papa Francisco?  38-CONFESSIONAL ABSOLUTION WITHOUT A SHRED OF REPENTANCE  Pope Francis’ first book The Name of God is Mercy, A Conversation with Andrea Torniel…


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An Open Letter to Pope Francis – Randy Engel

SEPTEMBER 27, 2016  An Open Letter to Pope Francis – Randy Engel   See the Open Letter of Randy Engel at QUO VADIS PAPA FRANCISCO 03-HOMOSEXUALITY THE SEX ABUSE CRISIS AND THE GAY LOBBY The follo…

Source: An Open Letter to Pope Francis – Randy Engel

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Garland of $$$$$ or Rupees. for Cardinal Alencherry and Bishops


Photos received from Joe Mullappali, Chicago BY ALMAYASABDAM · 20/10/2016

Syromalabar procession in progress in Jalandhar/Chicago?

The only thing that counts in USA is Dollars

It is to make a Harvest of $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ they make frequent trips to US!


In this procession by your action you are proclaiming to whole world:

“We are servants of the Mammon of Inidquity!”

When will you stop your Pallikrishi and $ Koithu?

(Church cultivation for $ harvest?)

And to you God fearing laity:

“Flee from these Prelates as from Mortal Sin”

(“Fuge prelatum tamquam peccatum!”)

Latin saying

james kottoor

(Note: Just look at Cardinal George Alencherry and bishops decorated with garlands of $$$$$$ or Rs. Rs. Rs. Notes leading a procession of Church festival.The above photo was sent to me by my Knana friend in Chicago, Joe Mullappallil.)

Comments in English & Malayalam received on

Garland of Notes for Cardinal & Bishops!


From: Joe Mullappallil Date: 2016-10-20 6:10 GMT+05:30

to: James Kottoor

Hi Koottoorji

Look at the Money mala for cardinal and Bishops. Shame on them!

We are meeting MR. Moolechalil this weekend in chicago.


Joe Mullappallil

2. Fr. Dominic Emmanuel, 20/10/16/, frdominic@gmail.comrdominic@gmail.com to me Since when did Gandhi begin to appear on Dollar Bills though? fr.dominic james kottoor, ,20/10/16/ Quite true dear dominic. Since when did Indian bishops started public processions in US parading garlands of Rupees of Gandhi or $$$ notes though? james


Joseph Mattam sj, 20/10/16/joemattam@jesuits.ne

to me Dear James, They are just fools to parade their greed. When will it come to their senses? God help them, if he can. Joe


isaac gomes,20/10/16

to Joseph, me

Only the other day, on 2nd October 2016, Cardinal Alencherry, along with Cardinals Telesphore Toppo and Baselios Cleemis, was parading himself at Netaji Indoor Stadium, Kolkata to commemorate the sainthood of Mother Teresa of Calcutta (photographs attached). While we all know that Mother dedicated her life in the service of the dying destitute and the marginalised, whom are Cardinal Alencherry and his Bishops serving by proudly wearing garlands of Dollars in public?

No wonder CBCI leads by these Cardinals and Bishops does not insist on the implementation of Parish Finance Committees for fear of being asked to account for their overseas jaunts and unaccounted for donations they receive. In keeping with the adage: “Money always leaves its trail behind”, no wonder now-a-days even parish priests are attacking even kidnapping Bishops to claim a share of the handout or freebies the cardinals and bishops receive!




Swami Sachidananda Bharathi

to me, jmattappally

My dear Dr. James,

Consumerism and materialism are cancerous growths eating into the soul of humanity today. The Church of Christ which is called to counter these cancerous maladies with the power of the Holy Spirit is herself enslaved by them.

The garlands of Dollars or Rupees worn by our Cardinal and Bishops show how deep this moral cancer has spread into the soul of the Church.I was deeply pained when I saw our Cardinal Alencherry wearing such a Garland. I thought he was a good follower of Pope Francis. I have been nurturing great appreciation for him. In fact, I had written a letter to him only last month appreciating some of his values and statements.

A spiritual regeneration of the Church, beginning with the Syro-Malabar Church, the richest Church in the world, is the crying need of the hour.For this, we need dedicated and courageous disciples of Christ from that background. The Syro Malabar Church needs an Integral Revolution to spiritualise the religious, social, political and economic dimensions of its life. ‘Disciples of Christ for Peace’ is called by the Holy Spirit for this very purpose.

I will be visiting our ‘Dharma Bharathi Ashram’ at Mulanthuruthy near Kochi during the last week of December. I wish to meet you and few other really interested persons from the Syro-Malbar Church in the Ashram during one of those days.

I will be grateful if you could serve as a Convener of this first meeting to plan out an Integral Revolution for the spiritual regeneration of the Syro Malabar Church. The day can be any day between 23rd Dec 2016 to 02 Jan 2017 and time can be from 3PM to 6 PM. You are free to chose the day as it is convenient to you and let me know at your earliest.

George Moolechalil, Mathew Tharakunnel and Joseph Mattapally are to be included in the team. All four of you should also speak out your heart on this subject.We will thereafter work out a plan of action as to how to proceed with this divine mission.

Looking forward to your response and with much love

Yours in Christ Jesus our Sadguru


Augustine Pamplany <apamplany@gmail.com>

21/10/16/ to me

Dear James Kottor,


I am in receipt of your mail and the pictures of the bishops with garlands of currencies. While I appreciate your probable goodwill, I would exhort you to examine and verify the facts objectively.

It is clear from the picture that the bishops are garlanded with Indian Ruppees and not with dollars. This garlanding was done during their recent trip to North India. This is a common cultural practice very intimate to the ordinary folk in several of the North Indian States. It is loaded with a lot many symbolisms. The currencies of Rs. 10 used for the religious leaders of particular meaning. Refusing to accept this garland would be tantamount to insult to the hosts.

Any practice should be understood and appropriated within a context. Cultural sensitivity is fundamental to mature religiosity.Your aggressive tactic seem to have stretched out the meaning and blown up the issue out of every constructive proportions. While the priorities and Value system of the Church and Church leaders need to be reoriented in several respects, there are gentler ways for the faithful to keep the leadership in focus. Constructive criticism should emerge out of the love for the Church.


Fr Augustine Pamplany


James Kottoor, 21/10/16

Dear Fr. Augustine,

Greeting and many thanks for your well-meaning, timely and constructive reaction on the whole.

CCV first received the report from a trusted source in Chicago and so the assumption was that it happened there. Photos never lie and photos were of Prelates parading themselves with garlands of money, which is atrocious to say the least and counter-witness to a poor Jesus made naked and crowned with thorns. But on closer look we too wondered how Rupee Garlands migrated to Chicago. On continued search CCV now stands corrected on it, that is, on the location where it was paraded.

We respect fully your view that traditional folklore practices should be respected. But we beg to disagree just a 100 % that they should be approved and sanctified with the blessings of the Church. That precisely is the reason why Casteism is still practiced even by bishops in India, after centuries of respecting that tradition. Recall many articles we wrote about the kidnap and torture of Kadppa bishop for being a Dalit and that by his subordinate Reddy priests. Only Cardinal Oswald Gracious of Bombay reacted immediately and publicly condemning the act, but not even CBCI president Baselius Cleemis even after so many concerned persons wrote letters to him.

Contrast this with the Circmcission issue of pagans who become Christian in Acts. The Apostles never relented even one bit and Paul had to protest violently in the face of Peter publicly on the issue. Why go that far. Just take the reaction of Jesus himself to

the sanctified traditions of Scribes, High priests and Phaarisees in the whole of Mat.23. Recall also the cleansing of the temple. Didn’t the “Sweet Jesus, meek and mild” become “bitter Jesus rough and wild?” Didn’t he, after resorting to: Samam, Danam, Fedam, take up the whip(Dendam) and overturn the cash tables of worshipers of money in the temple? How will you reconcile Jesus’ use of this physical violence with the popular presentation of Him as the paragon of Non-violence? In short, whom are we to follow, Jesus of history, the crazy Christ (who made mess, as Francis exhorts the young to do) or thousands of tradition crazy divided and fighting Churches?

CCV’s unwavering view is that practice of Caste and Constantenian pomp should be whipped out lock stock and barrel, from all churches, starting with the Syromalabar Church which has become notorious as a Church of Pomp, show, exhibition and worshipers of tradition – St.Thomas tradition.

Cardinal Alancherry is a very good friend of mine who phones me back when I fail to connect with him. Wise men disagree in an agreeable way and fools disagree with ranker and ill will. So dear friend, no ill will is implied in CCV’s 100% disagreement with you. Many thanks once again for your reaction and God bless. james kottoor


Fr. Vincent Pereppadan <pereppadan@gmail.com>

21/10/16/ to Augustine, me

Dear Fr Pamplany,

Thank you for the very apt objective response.

I hope Shri James Kottoor will respond to it. As an honest Christian, he is obliged to apologize for this hyper action without any objective basis.

Thank you for that brotherly Christian correction.

Love,vincent pereppadan


almayasabdam 20/10/2016 at 5:19 pm

This photograph is widely circulated among social media the world over, followed by very hitting comments. However, it is not clear if this parade happened in Delhi or Kerala or Chicago. Also it is nt clear that the bills are fake or original. In Delhi, currency garlands are a sign of respectful welcome according to some and Cardinal Alanchery might have been surrendering to their choices. However, unlike his predecessors, Mar Alanchery has no reservation in receiving any volume of luxury he is showered upon. In Ahmedabad a collection of 17 lakhs Rs were spent to arrange a reception for him. Very recently he was part of an imperial coronation at Preston. On the one side he advocates simplicity and on the other isde it is he who blesses all the luxury temples built on the name of Jesus and Christianity. It is this controversy that the general public basically questions. Reply


Bens 20/10/2016 at 9:50 am

It is not a procession that happened in US. it is a photo of the reception at a meeting in Jalandhar on this Monday.


Jose Paul , Delhi, josepaul321@yahoo.co.in, 22/10/16

to me

Works at St. Luke’s Sen Sec School Solan (H.P.)

Either the cardinal and these bishops should be ashamed of claiming to be the followers of Jesus or they should be bold enough to denounce Jesus as a crazy spiritual leader and remove all the traces of Jesus especially the concecrated body and blood of Jesus from the so called church palaces.

We, the lay people want to follow Jesus the saviour and follow his teachings. It is time that these enemies of Jesus get out our way. We will be happy to see them follow Jesus in His real way of life. We long to see Jesus present in them, not their glittering colourful garments, the gold ring, gold plated staff and the flag post of their mansions covered with gold.

Wearing the currency garland by these leaders of the Church is really demeaning to the church and its teaching. It is a crime in our nation. More than that it is a devilish act for the ones who teach about and supposed to follow Jesus. It is time for these prelates to ask apology to people of the church for showing a sinful example. When will we see the catholic church is redeemed from the clutches of this devilish pomp and show ?

In the recent past, we have heard many stories of desecrating the body and blood of Jesus by some communal elements in different parts of the country. In the eyes of the Lord, these elements are far better people than those who lock Him up in a box in their palaces and lead a life of utter luxuary against all the teachings of jesus. The communal elements do things because of their belief system or ignorance about jesus. But our so called leaders do it knowing fully well that what they do is not the Jesus way of Life.

Jose, Delhi


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Gordons Funeral Timings


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Mr. Gordon Jacobs- R.I. P.

Mr. Gordon Jacobs

Mr. Gordon Jacobs

Mr. Gordon Jacobs the President of the Association of Concerned Catholics passed away early this morning. Under his leadership various initiatives of transparency were taken up.Gordon was one of the few people who had the guts to call a spade a spade.

Gordon would not mince words and was one of the few people who was willing to stick his neck out without taking any personal benefit for himself or his family.

Gordon has always been a helpful person and was always there to help persons whenever they needed him. He always stood for the truth and never supported a person who was wrong even if he happened to be his friend.

May His Soul Rest in Peace.




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Dreaming of Possibilities? Syromalabar Diocese in Chennai! When? Soon or Never? By dr. james kottoor


     On Aug.30th 2016 CCV (Church Citizens’ Voice)  published the article: “Now or never?  Syro-malabar Diocese in Chennai?” by  P.C.Joseph, a spokesperson for  Catholics in Chennai who are opposed to creating a different, divisivse Rite-specific diocese and new divisions  in the already existing, smoothly functioning and longstanding Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore  of the Latin Rite which takes good care of Catholics belonging to various Rites.


        Since this scribe had been writing on the subject for long from the sixties, at the request of the that group in Chennai I visited in the last week of September to meet the  Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore to find out his thinking and discuss it with the group who were  working for a happy solution for the last 50 years. The minds of former Archbishops, starting from R. Arulappa in the 1960ies followed by Archbishops Casimir Gnanadickam sj, Arul Das James, A.M.Chinnappa sdb  have been racking their brains to solve this issue for good, without much success. Now it is for the present  Archbishop George Antonysamy, formerly in the diplomatic service,  to try his turn and luck.

No Demand from Laity

              The meeting with Archbishop Antonysamy took place on  September 30th afterfoon on St.Thomas Mount. He was just finishing his retreat with the diocesan priests and was very gracious to meet me and express his thinking on the issue. Very frankly he told me, “not a single lay person ever approached him with the request of setting up a Syromalabar Diocese in Chennai.” The clamour  for it  first and foremost has always been from the part of Syromalabar Bishops and then priests of that Rite, who are going to benefit from such a new Ecclesiastical structure.

                 By benefits what is meant are positions like Bishoprics, positions of Parish priests and heads of  important institutions in the new diocese. The simple lay people are not the least bothred about these things. It is something like those who form new political parties for the sake of becoming MPs or MLAs or other profitable positions in the new political party.  This is beautifully expressed in the complaint of the Syromalabar Church’s oft repeated argument quoted ad nauseam at various occasions: “We produce 70% of the clergy of this country but we control only about 0.04% of the territory. Therefore we are justified in wanting more territory.”

         From this as anyone can clearly understand,  it is all about  Control: financial and political. It is precisely for this reason,  writers like me never hesitated to call this “Religious Colonization” pure and simple. True evangelization or spreading the good word is just the opposite, serving the poorest of the poor, and caring for the afflicted and abandoned, not ruling over territories or lording it over people which is diametrically opposed to the spirit of the good news Jesus preached by his words and deeds — especially his mendicant life of three years treading the dusty roads of Palestine, without having even a postal address, let alone Episcopal palaces, or posh air-conditioned rectories or offices to stay in and exert authority.

Evangelization is incarnational

          Evangeliztion is incarnational,  as Jesus  did, becoming one with the people of the place, not importing one’s own culture  and tradition.  Since Jesus was born in Israel, he became a Jew, lived a Jew and died a Jew with the inscription “Jesus the Nazarene King of the Jews (INRI) on his cross.  Had he been born in India, he would have been a Hindu,  said this scribe, and the Archbishop readily agreed.

         To start a new Syromalabar diocese anywhere the first thing needed is the consent of the Local functioning Bishop. Now that person is Archbishop Antonysamy. His wish is, and it has to be the wish of the people of the place, Chennai, which is overwhelmingly against.  Some 40 years ago when a consultation of the people was done under Archbishop R. Arulappa, all participants readily welcomed Kerala priests and sisters to work in various parishes, as most of them have  been known for their  real missionary spirit and zeal.  But when it came to entrusting certain parishes to Syromalabar priests,  opposition was too strong and reportedly only  2 among the big gathering voted for entrusting. That thinking of the people reportedly continues even today. In any case, it has to be ascertained.

Peoples’ Synod Suggested

        So the Archbishop told me, that he is thinking of inviting Cardinal George Alanchery, the head of the SMC, other  interested  Syromalabar bishops and priests, as well as the people’s representatives in Chennai for holding a Synod in Chennai to asses the general thinking of the people of God and act accordingly. On his own, he cannot, he will not  and he should not say “YES” or “NO” to a Syromalabar Eparchy, in Chennai, which is right and proper. No one can object to his stand.

         I discussed this thinking of the Archbishop on  Oct.3rd with the group headed by  P.C.Joseph, T.J. George, Peter Manavalan  and others in Chennai. The right outcome of such a consultation will depend on the  proper representation of the members of the synod, depending on whether the participants are mostly nominated Yes-men and women of the bishop or the Parish priests or elected persons and therefore representing the views of the local people.

        When  the present Pope  ordered a survey of the people of God (lay people) on “Challenges facing Christian Families” all over the world for the last two Vatican Family synods, most of our Indian bishops never conducted any  real survey, but sent the opinions of the bishops and their council of priests as the opinion of the laity. That should not happen in this consultation on a SM Diocese in Chennai.

Voting with Slips

              To prevent such a mishap, what I would suggest is the following. Once the date of the Synod of the people is fixed, all parish priests may be requested to announce it in their parishes with a sermon highlighting the pros and cons of a new Syromalabar Diocese and request the laity who wish to take part in the Synod to vote by dropping a slip with the voter’s: “Name, postal address and phone and with the inscription: “I am for the Syromalabar diocese”  or “I am against a Syromalabar  diocese” and drop it in the collection box  to be put up in every  parish. A period of three Sundays should be given for the laity to drop their votes. Those who voted in this way should be invited for the Synod to discuss various issues. Of course the organisers of the Synod may work out better ways for people’s participation.

            The major threats afflicting the Church in India are manifold. Remember the priestly prayer of Jesus “that they may all be ONE”  which included not only the believers and followers Jesus, but of the whole world, followers of different religions, unbelievers and atheists. That is why Jesus presented himself as the Son of Man, the ideal humane human being for all times, peoples and places.

Six Major threats

           The main threats to this unity in India is: 1. First it’s age-old  divisive Caste system and caste mentality  afflicting the whole church starting with the Bishops. A clear proof of Bishops and  priests infected with caste mentality was the recent kidnap on last April 26th of Bishop Gallela of  Kadappa,  a Dalit by his own three parish priests who belonged to the superior Reddy caste. I wrote several articles on it and sent them to all Indian Bishops.  A major aberration was that practically no Catholic weeklies wrote on this Kidnap. No area of India is free from this Caste mentality. In Kerala they have the community of  Puthuchristianies (newly converted from Pulayas and Parayas) and separate places and positions allotted to them in the Church in Kerala.  In Tamilnadu and Andhra this caste division is more sharp and biting.

  1. Second is the inter-Rite rivalries between various Catholic Rites in India – Latin, Syromalabar(SMC) and Syromalankara Churches. This can be compared to two main political parties – Congress and BJP – and the ever so many skeleton parties sticking to them to get visibility, political and financial benefits. The Syromalabar and Malankara churches may be compared to skeleton parties, which they are sure to object although facts may prove the contrary.
  2. A third threat shattering the quality of the Catholic community is the pure blood marriage (Endogamy) practiced by the Kottayam Diocese in Kerala which is part and parcel of SM Church and endorsed silently and promoted by word and writing by many Bishops themselves. In the present case we have the latest letter of Bishop Angadiath of Chicago diocese supported by Cardinal Alancherry and Archbishop of Kottayam. We discussed this clearly racist practice, against the decrees and directives of the Vatican, especially of the Easten Rite many times in CCV and sent them to all Indian Bishops, with not a word of response from any of the bishops, except one stay bishop of Faridabad in Delhi.

Clergy-Laity divide

  1. Fourth is the sharp Clergy-laity divide in almost every diocese in India where they have not constituted either the
    Diocesan and Parish Pastoral Council to guide the spiritual needs of the parish or the Parish Financial council to look after the financial needs and issues which are not to be left to the whims and fancies of the Bishop, Parish priests and their yes-men. This is a directive from the  50 year old second Vatican Council, still to  be implemented in most of the dioceses and parishes in India.
  2. Fifth is the exhibition of the pomp and posh living of the Pyramidal structure of the Church which Jesus turned upside down down when he washed the feet of his disciples and when Pope Francis gave his momentous address on the Synodality of the Church during the two Vatican Family Synods. This scribe wrote it more than 40 years ago as New Leader editor.

       Caste system in India has only four grades or steps in the ladder upwards and down wards – Bhramins, Shetriays, Vaisias and Sudras the good for nothing Dalits and untouchables.   But the pyramidal government structure in the church has many more steps – from the Pope at the very pinnacle of the Pyramid  to the good for nothing laity at the bottom with ever so many descending divisions like –  Cardinals (His Eminences), Archbishops (His Graces), Eparchs, Bishops(His Ecellencies), Monsignors, Priests, Religious, Chevaliers(from the laity) and finally the riffraffs called the laity.

Francis & Inverted Pyramid

          When Pope Francis overturned this Pyramidal  structure in his epoch making Synodal speech, he placed himself one step below  the bottom group laity to truly deserve the title (“Servus servorum”)   Servant of Servants. Recall his start at the very outset of his pontificate, calling himself  a sinner (“I am a sinner” in his first interview) not calling himself “His Holiness”.  For this  and many other things Elton Johnson graphically described Francis as: “Miracle of humility in an Era of vanity.”

                      His latest description of the laity was that the clock has stopped and now it is the “Hour of the Laity” when every one should look up to (not look down on) the  laity to draw inspiration and listen to what they have to say in pastoral and financial practice. Are the bishops and the clergy listening to these admonitions of Pope Francis? To Solve the burning issue of starting a new Syromalabar Church in Chennai, this is a MUST, that is, listening to the  people of Chennai and drawing inspiration and guidance from them. Readers with different or better views and suggestions are cordially invited to send in their suggestions for publication in the CCV  for further reflection, modification and action.

  1. All honorific appellations and different styles of royal dress in red and purple, in silk and satern must be wiped out as an insult to  the “Behold the Man” half naked and going to be crucified. Jesus never wore a special glitering royal dress of a prince even during his royal ride into Jerusalem on the back of an ass with the accompaniment of olive branches, not gold studded ambrellas and golden or silver crosses. Here the first need of the Church is to evangelize the so-called “Evangelizers”.

         There are many more things to say. But it is enough to point out, what is happening to many organised religions, especially to Islam and the start of divisions within Islam into Sunni and Shia, which reminds us of the bitter animosities between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland.  The Rite rivalries in the Church in India has all the potential to grow into such an open confrontation between Suni and Shia, if the sharpening divisions are not nipped in the bud. Unity is strength, divided we fall, the whole Church in India, both Syro and Latin. Let not misguided zeal for the House God (are they shining posh cathedrals?)  lead us literally to ZERO!

Contact at: jameskottoor@gmail.com, Mob:09445219203

                    (This write up will be forwarded to all Indian bishops for information, reflection, sharing, reaction and new suggestions. Please do something similar or better for the greater good of the public or (ad majorem Dei gloriam) for the greater glory of God! which in fact is the creation of a humane humanity!


 Published in Church Citizen’s Voice(CCV) Kerala, 10/7/16;



isaac gomes,     Kolkatta, 10/7/16
to me,


A very pointed article, especially the six points which ail the Catholic Church.  But unfortunately it is our Laity stalwarts like John Dayal who are mum on Casteism among Catholics.  The Casteist issue helps him pose as a leader of the Laity which is absolutely misplaced.



Isaac, Kolkatta



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Pope is now clear Second families can be Better than broken families

Pope is now clear

Second families can be Better

than broken families

Andrew Brown, in the Guardian UK, 14 September 2016

The last time Pope Francis intervened on the issue of divorced and remarried Catholics, he was ambiguous. His new, clear stance will upset conservatives

Pope ‘agrees that suitably trained priests can decide on their own initiative whether remarried couples are to be admitted to communion even when they are having – brace yourself – sex’.

(Note: Given below are two reports from the Guardian UK, one by Andrew Brown and another by Stephanie Kirchgaessner, on Pope’s final approval of admitting the divorced to communion.

Admtting to communion civilly divorced and remarried was the isse the bishops could not resolve after two years of synodal discussions, though Francis and Cardinal Walter were for it, but wanted to get the consensus of bishops. To bring together the fighting factions, the conservative traditionalists led by a group of 7 who even wrote a book to defend their hard position and others willing to accept the hint given by Pope, he finally wrote his apostolic exhortation, Joy of the Gospel, after the two Synods. Even that failed to produce a consensus.

Papal exhortation also had explicitly said, it was not the final word and it was not closing all discussion, and Francis himself was not satisfied with the wording of the exhortation. It was when he was waiting for a better lucid explanation, that bishops of Argentina, his home country, came out with a more clear explanation which satisfied Francis and he at once endorsed it saying: “The document (the Argentenian draft) is very good and completely explains the meaning of chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia. There are no other interpretations.” More explanation on the modalities of admitting the divorced and remarried should be forth coming. james kottoor,editor)

Pope Francis has two modes of dealing with opposition – patient manoeuvring, which can go on for years; and sudden blows, delivered in a few short memorable words. On the question of how to deal with divorced and remarried Catholics, he has been until this week an exponent of persuasion and the long war of manoeuvre. He summoned two meetings of bishops from around the world, in 2014 and 2015, and had them argue with unprecedented ferocity in public over whether and how the Catholic church should recognise second marriages.

Heavyweight cardinals proclaimed that this could not be done. Seven of them published a book just before the second meeting to underline their beliefs. One of the leading conservatives, Cardinal Robert Sarah, compared western sexual liberalism to Isis – both, apparently, sent from the devil: “We need to be inclusive and welcoming to all that is human; but what comes from the Enemy cannot and must not be assimilated. You can not join Christ and Belial! What Nazi-Fascism and Communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual and abortion Ideologies and Islamic Fanaticism are today.”

Sarah has also demanded that priests celebrate the mass with their backs to the congregation, as they did before the great changes to Catholic worship brought about the second Vatican council in the 1960s. This suggestion was slapped down very firmly and publicly by the Vatican.

‘One of the leading conservatives, Cardinal Robert Sarah, compared western sexual liberalism to Isis – both, apparently, sent from the devil.

Against the inflexible stance of Cardinal Sarah and other heavyweight conservatives – like the Australian cardinal George Pell – have been a variety of liberal voices, mostly from western Europe but also from parts of the developing world, where families form and

reform without much in the way of bureaucracy. The document that appeared from the clash between these two views was a very long and apparently ambiguous summary written largely by the pope himself.

This restated the unchanging doctrine that marriage is a lifetime commitment, but it left open the possibility that the church should recognise that it clearly doesn’t function as one in many societies today. This is what already happens all over the western world. Married couples, where one or both have been married before, are in practice allowed to take communion even when they have not been through the process of “annulment” by which the church declares the first marriage invalid. This has always been something that was much easier for the rich and well-connected to achieve. But the studied ambiguity of the pope’s document, Amoris Laetitia, allowed conservatives to continue to maintain that this didn’t and shouldn’t ever happen.

One right-wing Catholic blogger wrote last year that conservatives are longing for Francis’s death. The pope is 80. That ambiguity has now ended. In a letter to the Argentinian bishops, who had published a liberal interpretation of the document, the pope says that “there are no other interpretations”. This means that he agrees that suitably trained priests can decide on their own initiative whether remarried couples are to be admitted to communion even when they are having – brace yourself – sex (one of the more delightful conservative positions is that remarried divorcees are of course welcome to take communion providing they aren’t actually doing it with each another.)

This is a slightly flippant way of looking at the matter, but Francis is not flippant about marriage. He supports these reforms because he believes that second families are sometimes better than broken ones.

But neither are his opponents simply posturing in their opposition to him. One rightwing Catholic blogger wrote last year that conservatives are longing for Francis’s death. The pope is 79. He has only one lung. What he has done may not change doctrine but it

ensures that the contest to choose his successor will be extraordinarily bitter, and fought for very high stakes.


Pope endorsement softens

stance on divorced Catholics

Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Rome,13 September 2016

Pope Francis praises Argentinian document stating some in ‘irregular family situations’ could receive communion

Pope Francis has issued a remarkable endorsement of major changes in the way priests approach Catholics who are divorced and remarried, in a move that could open the door to some of them receiving communion.

The Vatican announced on Tuesday that Francis sent a letter to bishops in Argentina on 5 September in which he praised a document they had written that said priests could – in some cases – offer the “help of sacraments” to Catholics living in “irregular family situations” as part of a broader effort to support and integrate divorced and remarried Catholics into the life of the church.

“There are no other interpretations,” Francis wrote.The pope’s praise of the document was the most direct evidence that Francis supports a significant change in the way individual priests deal with divorced Catholics. Divorce is considered a sin, and the debate over how the church approaches prevalence has become divisive, pitting progressives within the church who espouse a more gentle approach against traditionalists who do not want it to veer from hardline condemnation.

At the centre of the new development is a document that was written and released by Pope Francis in April called Amoris Laetitia, an apostolic exhortation that examined how the church ought to deal with the changing modern family. It was written after the church convened two synods on the family to debate the issues.

In it, Francis said priests and bishops need to rely on their personal judgement about an individual’s circumstances when they determine whether strict church teachings – including about marriage and divorce – ought to apply to the individual. At the time, he said that his apostolic exhortation did not mark the end of the debate within the church, and that the issues were still up for discussion.

But Francis’s latest endorsement of the Buenos Aires document, in effect, a set of concrete guidelines that were written in Argentina and could be seen as a progressive interpretation of Amoris Laetitia, could indicate that Francis is concerned about

possible misinterpretations of his document, including by reactionary forces within the church.

The Argentinean bishops did not endorse a change that would allow all divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion. But they said that, if civilly remarried couples could not abstain from sex, as the church dictates they should , and if they were unable to receive an annulment of their previous marriages, then it would be possible to take a “journey of discernment” that

Francis wrote: “The document is very good and completely explains the meaning of chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia. There are no other interpretations. And I am certain that it will do much good. May the Lord reward this effort of pastoral charity.” The words could be seen as a rebuke of a very different interpretation of Amoris Laetitia that was released by the conservative archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles Chaput.

Chaput released a statement in July in which he said that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics were welcome to accept Holy Communion as long as they abstained from sex and lived out their relationships like “brother and sister”.

Chaput also advised Catholics who were attracted to people of the same sex that they ought to frequently seek penance and could still consider entering heterosexual unions despite having “some degree of same-sex attraction”.


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