In case you weren’t raised Catholic, let me tell you that when Pope Benedict XVI announced earlier today that he would be resigning the papacy effective February 28, it was a big deal. A pope hasn’t resigned in over 600 years. Popes are encouraged to hold the position until their death to avoid the divided loyalties that may arise when you have a pope and an ex-pope alive at the same time.
Tag: catholic church
As you’ve probably heard, Baltimore’s new archbishop, William Lori, sent a letter urging “Catholics and faithful citizens” to “show up on election day and do our part by voting against Question 6,” the bill that would establish marriage equality in Maryland. But some of Baltimore’s Catholic leaders are speaking their mind in quite a different way.
To get ready for his new high-profile role as the Roman Catholic archbishop of Baltimore, William Lori went on Meet the Press to decry society’s moral decay. Particularly, Lori had beef with the “erosion of religious liberty,” in the form of religious institutions being forced to provide coverage for contraception in their employee healthcare plans.
“Religious liberty?” Is everyone picking up this new definition from Rick Santorum? Will America’s religious groups only be free when everyone else is forced to abide by their religious convictions? Is that the new bizarro meaning of liberty? I know, I know. The sticking point is that these institutions would be footing the bill for something that doesn’t square with their beliefs. But surely of all the things your money is used for without your approval (war, unmanned drone assassinations, etc.), the pill has got to be the least of your worries.
Lori said that America’s various faiths “contribute to a moral consensus that underlies our laws.” An interesting statement, when there is no “consensus” on contraception within Christianity, let alone among the several religions. Presbyterians, Unitarians, and Anglicans, among others, are in fact for it. And anyway, you want to talk about consensus? 98 percent of sexually experienced Catholic women have used contraception — how’s that for consensus?
At the end of March, the Senate passed a bill that would allow employers to refuse to cover anything they find morally objectionable. So, if you’re working for a Catholic institution that ends up denying you contraception coverage, you can be happy you don’t work for Jehovah’s Witnesses; they probably wouldn’t cover blood transfusions.
You could hardly blame Cardinal Edwin O’Brien for leaving his post as Baltimore’s archbishop last summer. He was named grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, and that’s a hard gig to turn down. But O’Brien’s ascension has meant that Baltimore has been archbishop-less for nearly a year — leading, no doubt, to even more untrammeled vice and revelry than usual.
That can all stop, though — thank you-know-who! — because we’ve finally got a new archbishop. William E. Lori, soon to be the 16th archbishop of Baltimore, comes to Charm City from Bridgeport, where he was in the tough position of dealing with a sex abuse scandal. He instituted a zero-tolerance policy (there wasn’t one before?), tried to block the public release of church documents, and fought Obama on the religious exemption to the health care law. He’s a busy man!
If things suddenly feel a bit more holy this week, it’s because the bishops are in town. To be more specific: the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ national meeting took place in Baltimore on Monday. On the agenda: hiring a lobbyist, fighting for religious exemptions in states that allow same-sex marriages, and trying to create religious loopholes in Obama’s health care plan so the parish won’t have to pay for anyone’s contraception. In other words, the Catholic leadership is feeling embattled. And they’re trying to figure out what to do about it.
It’s a tricky time for Church leadership. Catholic organizations have done good work worldwide, but now that the Church’s views are increasingly at odds with mainstream culture, they’re finding themselves stymied by government restrictions. To take one striking example, the Church has long been an advocate for refugees, including victims of human trafficking. But recently the Department of Health and Human Services didn’t renew a contract with the bishops’ refugee services office because the group, as the ACLU puts it, “impose[s] religiously based restrictions on reproductive health services.”
Meanwhile, the bishops are facing criticism from the left as well. Steven Krueger, director of Catholic Democrats, pointed out that despite the tough economic times, the group’s agenda included no mention of poverty. For a group with a history of embracing social justice causes, Krueger says, “this certainly will represent to a vast majority of Catholics a tone-deafness on the part of many, many bishops.” Or perhaps the bishops have other issues on their plate.
Archbishop Edwin O’Brien has received a Vatican appointment to lead the Order of the Holy Sepulchre. The Catholic knightly order, of which Archbishop O’Brien was previously a Grand Prior, was founded during the First Crusade to maintain control of Christian holy places around Jerusalem.
Today, the Order is no longer military. Rather its knights and dames (who number more than 23,000 across five continents, according to The Sun), support Christian interests in the holy land through philanthropy.
O’Brien has a long career in the clergy—he was an Army chaplain during Vietnam—but has only presided over the archdiocese of Baltimore since 2007, during which time he has overseen over a controversial restructuring of Catholic schools, campaigned for global nuclear disarmament, and urged our Catholic governor not to support same-sex marriage.
The promotion involves a move to Rome and implies that O’Brien will soon be made a cardinal. He will remain Archbishop of Baltimore until a successor is named.
Dissent within the Catholic Church is always complicated. The dogma of infallibility of the Church, that in certain circumstances the accuracy of the teachings of the Church is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit, is an article of faith for Catholics. You would assume a concept like this would preclude disobedience among church figures and active laity, which is why the recent ordination of four Roman Catholic women as priests in Catonsville is so remarkable.
The Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement began in Germany in 2002, when seven women were ordained by three bishops. Despite a 2008 Vatican decree that promises excommunication for women seeking ordination and bishops who participate in the ceremonies, the movement has been gathering momentum since the “Danube Seven,” as the first women priests are called, have gone on to ordain more women, with more than forty women ordained in the United States alone.
Of the four women ordained in Catonsville (two of whom are local), at least three are married, which further puts them at odds with the Vatican’s position on eligibility for priesthood.
It doesn’t seem likely that the Vatican will change its position on the ordination of women anytime soon, especially considering Pope Benedict XVI’s conservative papacy, which just in the last couple years has put great effort into a constriction on the practices of Catholic nuns. Given the long-running decline in the number of priests, perhaps it should reconsider.
The whole issue has yet to come to a head. Time will tell whether the women’s ordination movement will eventually be accepted into the larger Catholic fold or produce a new schism in the Church. Either way, it’s history in the making, and Catonsville will have played at least a small part.