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VATICAN CITY (RNS) Anticipation is mounting for a series of closed-door discussions on Thursday and Friday, when the cardinals will hold what are expected to be frank talks about issues such as contraception, cohabitation, gay marriage and whether divorced and remarried Catholics can receive Communion.


  1. Pope Francis was presented with centuries, even millennia, of problems to resolve in a church that has always been plagued with clericalism. A part of clericalism are the aspirations of young seminarians and priests studying in Rome who are eager to climb the hierarchical ladder. Romans who are familiar with that youthful clerical ambition deridingly refer to it as “Romanita.”

    Clericalism is an evil that has always harmed the church. It could not exist except for the positions of the clergy over non-clergy, supported by their claim of “sacramental powers” that give them dominance over the non-clergy who are usually put down with the pejorative title, “lay people.” Clericalist clergy and lay people, royalty and subjects.

    Martin Luther revisited the topic and became convinced that the positions of priest and bishop were inventions, later distortions of positions temporarily assigned by various Jesus communities to particular members in which those members served the larger community. Other reformers followed Luther. We now have all the divisions of Christianity, some of whom, from time to time, seek some form of union, ecumenicity.

    However, the stronger and more dangerous practice of Christianity and later Catholicism has always been SECRECY. The blame for that can be placed on the non-Christian Emperor Constantine who called the Council of Nicaea in 325 for the sole purpose of politically exploiting the vastly growing communities of Jesus followers. Royalty has always protected itself against its subjects with secrecy and punishment ranging from murder to excommunication. Christian bishops claimed royalty and pursued those same practices after Nicaea.

    John Paul II defended the autonomy of bishops and seldom interfered with them, not even when they were hiding the sexual abuse of children by themselves and priests. Benedict was not much different except that he give the crimes a bit more lip service. Remember, John Paul and Benedict colluded to place the handling of all sexually abusing clerics under Benedict’s control when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

    There is hope that the likes of Cardinal Kasper of Germany and other clear thinking and strong-willed German Catholic clergy and “lay people” will pursue a practice of disobedience to Vatican edicts which they find contradictions to the precepts of Jesus in any ways. There is a group of German priests and “lay people” who properly resent the term “lay people,” but I think their suggested substitute is rather awkward.

    The plague of secrecy could not exist and continue to do harm to the People of God if “lay people” were properly respected and included at all levels of thinking and management in the church. Formally, “lay people” are relegated to being the payers of the bills racked up by the clergy, including hush money for crimes, accounting and legal fees, and court costs and awards for sexual crimes against the very kids of those who pay the bills. They clergy does not pay the bills. Few clergy admittedly have kids.

    It is long past time when the ranks of cardinal and archbishop should be abolished. It is much longer past the time when “lay people” should be termed less downgradingly and when they have full participation in all church thinking and management. The church will continue to die away if that does not happen. Perhaps that death is unavoidable. Perhaps it is the new sacrifice needed to renew life in the true and full People of God.

    • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

      I don’t know what the future holds for the Catholic Church –but one thing I know is wrong is the speculation about the Church dying unless it obeys Western orders.
      For according to “The Next Christendom” by historian (non-Catholic) Philip Jenkins Christianity and Catholicism is being re-invigorated powerfully by the burgeoning number of conversions in the so-called Third World (or Southern World.) He wrote the book a few years before we had a “Southern-Third World” pope. And in spite of liberals in the Church expecting a Third World revolution-Third World Christians and Catholics are turning out to be very, very traditional in their faith.
      He had some famous quotes for those waiting with bated breath for the Catholic Church to collapse or radically change.
      St. Vincent de Paul (about 1620) recalled Jesus’ promise that his Church would continue until the end of days–he also noted that Jesus had said nothing about the faith necessarily surviving in Europe.
      Then in 1850 Lord Macaulay famously warned that the Roman Catholic Church may still exist in undiminished vigor, when some traveler from New Zealand shall in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul.

  2. Whatever the result, the reform will dictate its decision.
    Americans and other free people have been showing less and less
    interest in Dictatorships of all kinds.

    If The Lord’s Kingdom is not of this world
    then how about we just leave it to the next world and abandon this nonsense for a few centuries?

  3. “Francis, go out and build up my house, for it is nearly falling down.”

    I pray for this man every day.

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