The Papacy 2015 – 2017

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Pope Francis declares evolution and Big Bang theory are real and God is not ‘a magician with a magic wand’

Francis goes against Benedict XVI’s apparent support for ‘intelligent design’ – but does hail his predecessor’s ‘great contribution to theology’
(The Independent UK) The theories of evolution and the Big Bang are real and God is not “a magician with a magic wand”, Pope Francis has declared.
Speaking at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pope made comments which experts said put an end to the “pseudo theories” of creationism and intelligent design that some argue were encouraged by his predecessor, Benedict XVI.
Francis explained that both scientific theories were not incompatible with the existence of a creator – arguing instead that they “require it”.
“When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so,” Francis said. (October 2014)

29 September
The pope is writing a document on fake news – and that’s the truth
(Reuters) – If you ever wondered how to say “fake news” in Latin, it’s “nuntii fallaces” – and Pope Francis is writing a document on just that.
Francis announced it himself in a tweet to his nearly 40 million followers on Friday, saying the theme of his message for the Roman Catholic Church’s next World Day of Social Communications will be “The truth will set you free. Fake news and journalism for peace.” In Latin, … that would be “Veritas liberavit vos. Nuntii fallaces et diurniariorum opus ad pacem.”

13 July
Pope Francis allies accuse Trump White House of ‘apocalyptic geopolitics’
Article vetted by the Vatican offers scathing critique of Steve Bannon, who is Catholic, the Trump White House and ‘evangelical fundamentalism’ in the US
(The Guardian) The article in La Civiltà Cattolica, which is vetted by the Vatican before publication, lays out a scathing critique of “evangelical fundamentalism” in the US, arguing that, on issues ranging from climate change to “migrants and Muslims”, proponents of the ideology have adopted a twisted reading of scripture and the Old Testament that promotes conflict and war above all else

30 June
Pope Francis may be about to dismiss Vatican’s doctrinal chief
(RNS) The Italian Catholic website Corrispondenza Romana reported Friday (June 30) that Francis would not renew the term of Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, a conservative German cardinal who heads the powerful department responsible for church doctrine. … Mueller also supported the four cardinals — including American conservative Raymond Burke — who sought clarification of Francis’ position about Amoris Laetitia.
Burke was dismissed from a key Vatican position and later removed as chaplain of the chivalric order of the Knights of Malta after a leadership scandal in which the pope intervened.

24 May
The Pope’s Gifts to Trump Send Some Clear Messages
(NYT) Pope Francis and President Trump discussed terrorism and the radicalization of young people in a meeting on Wednesday in which two global leaders with starkly different world views sought to bridge the chasm between them with a handshake, a private audience and a mutual pledge to work for peace.
In a larger meeting with American and Vatican officials, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, urged Mr. Trump not to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord.
The pope, by turns dour and smiling, welcomed a more effusive president to the seat of a religion that claims more than 70 million followers in the United States. The two stuck mainly to protocol, avoiding a public reprise of the barbs they aimed at each other during Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign or the pope’s thinly veiled critiques of Mr. Trump as a symbol of a dangerously reinvigorated nationalism.
But there appeared to be a message in the gifts the pope gave to his guest. They included a copy of his influential essay on the importance of saving the environment, a rebuke to the climate change skepticism espoused by Mr. Trump. [We hope these were the Power Point versions, given Mr. Trump’s notorious aversion to reading.] Francis also presented him with a medallion engraved with the image of an olive tree — “a symbol of peace,” he explained.

Donald Trump has just met with the new leader of the secular world – Pope Francis
It’s an odd sight to see the head of the Catholic Church – with his anti-war, anti-corruption, anti-violence and pro-environment beliefs – greeting the President whose policies are not those of the Western people he claims to represent
(The Independent) After two days lecturing a collection of head-choppers, dictators, torturers and land thieves, Donald Trump at last met a good guy on Wednesday. Pope Francis didn’t ask for a $100bn (£77.2bn) arms deal for the Vatican. He wouldn’t go to war with Iran. He didn’t take the Sunni Muslim side against the Shia Muslim side in the next Middle East conflict. He didn’t talk about Palestinian “terror”. And he looked, most of the time, grim, unsmiling, even suspicious.
Trump, Pope Francis meet at Vatican
Leaders’ often opposite world views collided head-on early last year
(CBC) The visit began with a handshake between the two men. Trump could be heard thanking the Pope and saying it was “a great honour” to be there. They then posed for photographs and then sat down at the papal desk, the Pope unsmiling, as their private meeting began.
It ended a half hour later when Francis rang the bell in his private study. The pontiff was then introduced to members of Trump’s delegation, including his wife Melania, his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as aides Hope Hicks and Dan Scavino.
We note the absence of Steve Bannon

7 February
For His Next Trick, Steve Bannon Will Undermine the Pope
(Esquire) At the root of things is the fact that the pope gave the boot to Raymond Cardinal Burke, a theological reactionary and a guy who was born 500 years too late to be the high cleric of his dreams. This touched off a major squabble with the Knights of Malta. They’re serious power brokers within HMC even though they dress like Albanian ushers and despite the fact that just talking about them makes me start hearing “Hail, Hail Freedonia” in my mind. Burke was their chaplain. I do not know if a sword and a falcon goes with that office.
If it wasn’t clear already, it should be now. Stephen Bannon, the last descendant of House Harkonnen, is not someone who wants to “disrupt the elites,” or whatever techie garbage he likes to toss around. He wants to establish himself at the head of a new, worldwide authoritarian elite that will reach into every institution and that will demolish any of those institutions that stand in the way of what he wants. The man is a political thug, and Burke is a theological thug. Marriage made somewhat lower than heaven.
Steve Bannon Carries Battles to Another Influential Hub: The Vatican
(NYT) When Stephen K. Bannon was still heading Breitbart News, he went to the Vatican to cover the canonization of John Paul II and make some friends. High on his list of people to meet was an archconservative American cardinal, Raymond Burke, who had openly clashed with Pope Francis.
While Mr. Trump, a twice-divorced president who has boasted of groping women, may seem an unlikely ally of traditionalists in the Vatican, many of them regard his election and the ascendance of Mr. Bannon as potentially game-changing breakthroughs.
Just as Mr. Bannon has connected with far-right parties threatening to topple governments throughout Western Europe, he has also made common cause with elements in the Roman Catholic Church who oppose the direction Francis is taking them. Many share Mr. Bannon’s suspicion of Pope Francis as a dangerously misguided, and probably socialist, pontiff.
5 February
US cardinal Raymond Burke stokes papal tensions by meeting nationalist in Rome
Pope Francis’s harshest critics are aligning themselves with Trump and his acolytes around the world, including Matteo Salvin
(The Guardian) Burke, who is one of four cardinals who signed an open letter to Francis last year questioning new guidance allowing priests to decide whether divorced and remarried believers should be able to receive communion, praised Trump after his election in November. He said the surprise victory represented a clear win for pro-life causes and said the US president tended to surround himself with “very sound advisers”.


25 October
Vatican bans Catholics from keeping ashes of loved ones at home
Cremation guidelines state remains cannot be scattered or kept at home but rather stored in a sacred, church-approved place
“in order to avoid any form of pantheistic or naturalistic or nihilistic misunderstanding, the dispersion of ashes in the air, on the ground, on water or in some other way as well as the conversion of cremated ashes into commemorative objects is not allowed.”

mother-teresa2 September
Mother Teresa to become saint amid criticism over miracles and missionaries
Critics challenge her approach to suffering, views on abortion, and ‘superstitious, black magic’ canonisation
The Guardian) Aroup Chatterjee, a doctor, grew up in Kolkata and now works in the UK. He is one of Mother Teresa’s most vocal critics. “Many rogues have become Catholic saints,” he said. “What bothers me is that the world makes such a song and dance about a superstitious, black magic ceremony.” According to his 2003 book, Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict, based on the testimonies of scores of people who worked with the Missionaries of Charity, the medical care given to sick and dying people was negligible. Syringes were reused without sterilisation, pain relief was non-existent or inadequate, and conditions were unhygienic. Meanwhile, Mother Teresa spent much of her time travelling around the world in a private plane to meet political leaders. …
Three years ago, a study by academics at the University of Montreal concluded that the Vatican had ignored Mother Teresa’s “rather dubious way of caring for the sick, her questionable political contacts, her suspicious management of the enormous sums of money she received, and her overly dogmatic views regarding … abortion, contraception and divorce.”
Slate reprint of Christopher Hitchens’ 2003 Mommie Dearest — The pope beatifies Mother Teresa, a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud.
31 August
Mother Teresa may deserve to be made a saint. But why now?
Paul Vallely
Canonising in haste is a big mistake. As time passes, a candidate’s weaknesses fade from public memory
Hitchens’s critique is polemical – his 1995 book on her is framed with attacks on religion in general – but it airs concerns raised by an Indian doctor, Aroup Chatterjee. It has interviews with volunteers from the Kolkata Home for the Dying Destitutes, who spoke of needles reused without sterilising them, too few drips, and little pain control beyond aspirin. The Lancet visited in 1994, and said the home failed to distinguish between dying patients and those who could be cured.
All this stemmed, critics said, from Mother Teresa’s archaic religious attitude to suffering, which she saw as “beautiful” because it enabled poor people to “share in the passion of Christ” – though that did not prevent her from being treated in expensive medical facilities when she herself was ill.
… since Pope John Paul II, the fashion has been to accelerate the canonisation process. The Catholic church has made a serious mistake on this. Mother Teresa may merit sainthood, but that is a judgment it would be better to make a century from now.
8 April
On Divorce And Remarriage, Pope Calls For More Grace, Less Dogma
(NPR) In a major document released Friday, Pope Francis addressed divisive elements of Catholic doctrine — including how to treat couples who remarry after a divorce that wasn’t annulled by the church, and the church’s stance on contraception.
Without issuing any new top-down doctrine, Francis said that priests should focus on providing pastoral care for Catholic couples, rather than sitting in judgment of them, and that individual conscience should be emphasized, rather than dogmatic rules.
The document — a post-synodal apostolic exhortation called Amoris Laetitia, or “The Joy of Love” — is more than 250 pages long.
In it, the pope emphasizes that life is more complicated than religious law. In the opening pages, he invokes the values of “generosity, commitment, fidelity and patience,” but also says he wishes to “encourage everyone to be a sign of mercy and closeness wherever family life remains imperfect or lacks peace and joy.” …
The pope also addressed a wide range of challenges that affect families, including: poverty; migration; children with special needs; elderly relatives who need care; drug use and alcoholism; domestic violence; and a lack of affordable housing; as well as social pressures and the difficulty of addressing marital problems.
“The Synod’s reflections show us that there is no stereotype of the ideal family,” he writes, “but rather a challenging mosaic made up of many different realities, with all their joys, hopes and problems. ”
POPE FRANCIS RELAXES CHURCH STANCE ON DIVORCE “Pope Francis on Friday called for a Church that was less strict and more compassionate towards ‘imperfect’ Catholics, such as those who divorced and remarried, saying ‘no one can be condemned forever.'” The Pope also reaffirmed that the church would not support gay marriage. Read the entire “Amoris Laetitia” here. [Reuters]
18 February
Pope Francis Suggests Donald Trump Is ‘Not Christian’
Inserting himself into the Republican presidential race, Pope Francis on Wednesday suggested that Donald J. Trump “is not Christian” because of the harshness of his campaign promises to deport more immigrants and force Mexico to pay for a wall along the border.
“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,” Francis said when a reporter asked him about Mr. Trump on the papal airliner as he returned to Rome after his six-day visit to Mexico.
The pope’s remarks came during a wide-ranging, midair news conference in which he also waded into the question of whether the Roman Catholic Church should grant an exception to its prohibitions on abortion and birth control in regions where the Zika virus is causing a public health emergency, including in much of Catholic-dominated Latin America.
17 February
Pope Francis Visits U.S. – Mexico Border
(NYT) Pope Francis stepped directly into the angry American political debate about immigration on Wednesday when he visited Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, at the border with the United States. He celebrated Mass at a fairground barely 300 feet from the Rio Grande, calling forced migration “a human tragedy.”
6 key moments from Pope Francis’s trip to Mexico
(Vox) He has designed his trip to hit many of the major stops migrants make on their way north to the Mexico-US border. From the state of Chiapas, where Central Americans first arrive in Mexico; through Michoacán, a source of Mexican immigrants to the US fleeing from intense gang violence; and finally to Ciudad Juárez, a gateway city that hugs the border.
During one of the early stops of his trip, Pope Francis visited the southern state of Chiapas, a state with a heavily indigenous population. The region’s churches blend Catholicism with elements of Mayan spirituality, such as the use of pine boughs and eggs, into a Mass that the Catholic Church has long bristled at.
But not so with Francis, who presented one of these churches with a decree authorizing the use of indigenous languages during Mass.
13 February
Unity call as Pope Francis holds historic talks with Russian Orthodox Patriarch
(BBC) Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill have called for restored Christian unity between the two churches at historic talks in Cuba.
The meeting was the first between a Pope and a Russian Church head since the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity split in the 11th Century.
In a joint declaration, they also urged the world to protect Christians from persecution in the Middle East.
2 February
Pope Francis urges world not to fear China’s rise
(Asia Times) Pope Francis gave his first-ever interview on China and the Chinese people on Jan. 28 to Asia Times columnist and China Renmin University senior researcher Francesco Sisci. The Pope urged the world not to fear China’s fast rise in a historic one-hour interview at the Vatican. He said the Chinese people are in a positive moment and delivered a message of hope, peace and reconciliation as an alternative to war, hot or cold. The pontiff also sent Chinese New Year’s greetings to the Chinese people and President Xi Jinping, the first extended by a Pope to a Chinese leader for the Lunar New Year in 2,000 years.


How Pope Francis Became the People’s Pontiff
(Vanity Fair) As Pope Francis arrives in the U.S.—to speak before Congress, visit Ground Zero, and address the U.N.—his inner circle talks to Paul Elie about why he is so different, so compelling, and so beloved.
The logistics of the Pope’s U.S. trip—three cities in six days—will put his spontaneity and affability to the test, and it’s no sure thing it will all go smoothly. Francis will be bringing the message of mercy straight to America’s many wealthy, well-organized, and bellicose Catholic traditionalists. Officially, everybody loves Francis, and the traditionalists love the way “the Francis effect” has restored some of the bona fides the Church lost as a result of the scandal and cover-up of the priestly sexual abuse of children. But most of the nearly 300 active U.S. bishops—empowered under John Paul and Benedict—dismiss even the suggestion that Francis could bring about a change in the Church’s approach toward what commentators call the “pelvic issues.” It’s a strange situation: many bishops will try to use the papal visit to keep the Pope in line, rather than the other way around. September 2015

31 December
Ready for jail, the woman at the heart of the latest Vatican scandal
Francesca Chaouqui, who is charged with leaking papers about alleged financial mismanagement, rejects her media portrayal as a temptress with a grudge against the church
At the centre of the case are allegations that Chaouqui and two others stole documents they had gathered in the course of work on the Vatican commission and leaked them to journalists who used them to write explosive books about alleged financial mismanagement of church funds. The pope himself has suggested Chaouqui was lashing out at the church because she had not been offered a permanent position after the commission she served on was disbanded. Previous story: Vatican arrests two over alleged leaks
Spanish priest Lucio Ángel Vallejo Balda and PR expert Francesca Chaouqui accused of ‘serious betrayal of trust’
26 November
Pope calls for end to global warming at United Nations Environment Programme forum
Pope Francis in a soft but firm message yesterday urged global leaders to seal a strong agreement at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) climate summit in Paris, France next week to address “the grave environmental crisis facing our world”.
The Pontiff said that transforming current development models was a “political and economic obligation”, that required nations to consult. The Pope delivered his speech at the UN Environment Programme headquarters in Nairobi, where he was accompanied by United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) Executive Director Achim Steiner, UN Office at Nairobi (UNON) Director General Sahle-Work Zewde, members of the diplomatic community and legislators. He reiterated the importance of minimising effects of global warming. He in particular put more emphasis on the need to adopt low-carbon energy systems and end the “throw-away culture” that contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
Pope: Trafficking in natural resources fuels ‘instability’, ‘terrorism’
“Illegal trade in diamonds and precious stones, rare metals or those of great strategic value, wood, biological material and animal products, such as ivory trafficking and the related killing of elephants, fuels political instability, organised crime and terrorism,” he said in a speech in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. “We cannot be silent about forms of illegal trafficking which arise in situations of poverty,” he said, just two weeks before Nairobi hosts a key ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization. The pontiff spoke on the first full day of a three-nation trip which will also take him to Uganda and war-torn Central African Republic, where rights groups have warned that illegal smuggling of “blood diamonds” may be financing militia groups behind ongoing sectarian violence.
3 November
Is Pope Francis Really Plotting to Break Up the Catholic Church?
By James Heffernan
(Huff Post) Even though he is truly charismatic, even though he is genuinely humble, even though he has dramatically revived Christ’s original commitment to serve the poor and the marginalized, even though he has vowed to reform a church mired in sex scandals, financial corruption, and self-indulgent ostentation, conservative Catholics are afraid that his reforms will go too far.
One such conservative is Ross Douthat, op-ed columnist of the New York Times, who has just accused the pope of plotting a change that could lead to a schism — a breakup of the Roman Catholic church. …
… the whole controversy over the church’s doctrine on divorce ignores the biggest of all elephants in the room of Catholicism. Whatever the church may decide on divorce or contraception, the real threat to its vitality in the U.S. lies in its refusal to ordain women even as its priestly population steadily declines. Since 1981, the total number of Catholic priests in America has dropped from 52, 227 to 38, 275 (as of 2012), leaving just one priest for every 2000 Catholics and no priest at all for over 3000 parishes. Whether or not the church ever decides to let divorced and remarried Catholics take communion, the far more pressing question is whether or not it will ever let women become priests. Without such a move, which Catholic authorities have never convincingly shown to be contrary to anything but long habit, the Catholic church in America may well be heading for a precipice: the precipice of slow extinction.
8 October
Pope Francis warns bishops against conspiracy theories before synod
Pontiff’s warning comes as liberals and conservatives jostle for power over Catholic church’s approach to gay people
The interjection comes amid concerns within the conservative camp that the new methodology being used in the three-week synod – approved by Francis – favours the liberal wing who want the church to be more welcoming to homosexual people and those who have divorced and remarried.
There were rumours in the run-up to the summit that a preliminary synod on the family last year was rigged, with progressives publishing without warning an early report seen as revolutionary in calling for more openness towards lesbian and gay believers.
The draft text was spiked by enraged conservatives, but reports that the agenda this year has been stitched up to make sure the most contentious issues will not be discussed until the last moment – when no-one has the time or energy left to argue – have fuelled fresh fears.
Kristina Keneally: Vatican conspiracies can’t match the real church under Pope Francis
Leaking, back-stabbing, corruption, and backroom deals done by faceless men – never mind Australian politics, this is the Catholic church.Forget the bloodless assassination of Tony Abbott’s political career, the Vatican actually killed Pope John Paul I. At least that’s what lots of people believe. The “smiling pope” served for only 33 days, and the circumstances of his death have given rise to multiple books and many murder theories.
Depending on which conspiracy theory you want to believe, John Paul I was killed by the conservatives in the church either because he wanted to take the Catholic church in a radically new direction or because he was about to embark on a clean-up of the shadowy and suspect practices at the Vatican Bank.
Remind you of anyone?
Now we have another populist pope and a fresh round of conspiracy theories. Pope Francis is delighting many, wowing the world’s media and renewing interest in the Catholic church with his simplicity, his openness, and his apparent determination to shift the church’s focus away from legalistic obsessions, especially with sex and morality.
If the conspiracy theories are to be believed, the conservatives struck a blow last week by strategically leaking that the pope had a “secret meeting” during his visit to the US with Kim Davis.
What is true is that Francis was in the US to attend the world meeting of families, and yet did not at any point during his trip make any significant remarks about conservative touchstone issues like divorce, marriage equality or abortion. What the pope fails to address is often just as significant as what he actually says.
What is also true here is that the pope has just kicked off a month long synod on the family, a gathering of bishops, cardinals and others to consider the church’s teachings on family life. From last year’s pre-synod meetings it is clear there are a group of church leaders, seemly emboldened by Pope Francis, prepared to embrace same sex families as a reality in the modern world, as well as accept divorced Catholics back into full communion with the church. Their position created a backlash from the conservatives and set the stage for a showdown at this month’s synod.
5 October
The Shady Group That Played Pope Francis
(The Daily Beast) The pontiff found his reformer image tarnished when it was announced he met with Kim Davis. The group behind the political coup? The Liberty Counsel.
Pope Francis Expected to Fire Archbishop Who Set Up the Meeting With Kim Davis
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who arranged the Pope’s meetings in Washington (including the one with Kim Davis), is expected to be held responsible for blowback resulting from the meeting with Davis. According to the New York Times, Viganò is “likely to be removed at the first respectable opportunity” if blowback from the meeting with Davis continues to build.
“The pope has to be able to rely on his own system, and in this case the system failed him,” theology professor Dr. Massimo Faggioli told the Times. “The question is, was it a mistake, or was it done with full knowledge of how toxic she was?”
According to Faggioli, Pope Francis was very careful to structure his trip and his speeches in such a way to not be politicized by any particular faction. Archbishop Viganò’s misstep may have been the final nail in the coffin for his tenure within the church.
30 September – 2 October
The real story behind the pope’s meeting with Kim Davis
On Friday, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi released an extraordinary statement, personally approved by Pope Francis, debunking nearly everything that has been reported this week about a meeting between the pope and Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who has refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The private meeting between Davis, her husband, Joe, and the pope, which Davis’ attorney says took place at the Apostolic Nunciature (Vatican Embassy) in Washington, D.C. last Thursday? It didn’t happen. Instead, Davis was one of “several dozen persons who had been invited by the Nunciature to greet [Pope Francis] as he prepared to leave Washington for New York City,” Lombardi said in the statement. …
Father Tom Rosica, who assists the Vatican press office with English-language media, told the National Catholic Reporter that the encounter was not organized by staff at the Vatican, and might have been at the initiative of the Vatican’s ambassador to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Viganò.
Pope blindsided by meeting with Kim Davis
Many news organizations are now reporting that the Papal meeting with embattled Rowan, Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis was set up by U.S. Vatican officials. The Pope met with Kim Davis and others, but had no prior knowledge of her situation when meeting with her.
Vatican Says Kim Davis ‘Exploited’ the Pope
(Advocate) Papal spokesman Federico Lombardi is disputing Liberty Counsel’s version of the meeting between renegade antigay county clerk Kim Davis and the pope, saying people shouldn’t read too much into it.
After Davis recounted the experience to ABC News and her attorney, Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver, claimed the pope told the defiant antigay clerk to “stay strong,” the Vatican now says Pope Francis did not talk about Davis’s defiance of federal law in denying same-sex couples marriage licenses. In fact, the Vatican claims that Davis’s audience with the pope wasn’t even a private meeting, as she and Staver have repeatedly claimed
Charles Pierce nailed it: The Vatican confirms Pope Francis was “ratf*cked” into meeting Kim Davis
Esquire’s Charles Pierce speculated that Pope Francis had been railroaded by Evangelicals. Turns out he was right
(Salon) … according to the Vatican’s latest statement, is exactly what happened. “The pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis, and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects,” Rev. Lombardi said.
“Pope Francis met with several dozen persons who had been invited by the Nunciature to greet him as he prepared to leave Washington for New York City,” he continued. “Such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the Pope’s characteristic kindness and availability.”
Was Pope Francis Actually Swindled into Meeting Kim Davis?
(Esquire) First of all, let us stipulate that there are more than a few members of the Church’s permanent bureaucracy, both within the Clan Of The Red Beanie and without, who are not happy that this gentleman got elected Pope, and who are not happy with what he’s done and said since he was. Second, let us stipulate that many members of this group are loyal to both former pope Josef Ratzinger and, through him, to the memory (and to what they perceive as the legacy) of John Paul II who, for good and ill, had a much different idea of how to wield a papacy than Papa Francesco does. Third, let us stipulate that this opposition to the current pope has been active and vocal, to say nothing of paranoid. Finally, let us stipulate that, for over 2000 years, the Vatican has been a hotbed of intrigue, betrayal, and sanctified ratfcking on a very high scale.
Ratzinger’s fingerprints are all over this story. Vigano is a Benedict loyalist. Robert Moynihan, whose newsletter, Inside The Vatican, got the story first, is an actual lifelong Ratzinger protégé. And the Vatican press office acted just the way I’d want it to act, if I were the guy setting this up. First, it issues a silly non-denial denial, and then it merely confirms that the meeting occurred. At which point, the office clams up, leaving the story festering out there in the news cycle, and leaving the pope out there in the American culture war to twist in the wind. And, if this scenario is in any way accurate, it had its desired effect. The impact of what the pope actually said and did in America has been fairly well ratfcked.
This is the only rational explanation for what is otherwise an inexplicable event.
Pope’s meeting with Kentucky clerk divides public after U.S. visit
(Reuters) A Kentucky county clerk who had been jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples secretly met Pope Francis in a move that disappointed many liberal Catholics and encouraged officials who support her stance.
The meeting with Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, and comments by the pope on Monday, may spur action by local officials across the United States who have refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples since the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states.
22-27 September
Pope Francis surprised by warmth of Americans and devoutness of the faithful
(CNN) Pope Francis has returned to Rome, leaving the United States with “a heart full of gratitude and hope” after a hectic trip.
The Pope packed a lot of hugs, handshakes, blessings and political admonitions into a period of less than a week that took him to the halls of Washington power, the U.N. General Assembly and drew throngs of admirers to hear him celebrate Mass.
Hundreds of thousands flood Philly for Pope Francis’ final Mass
Pope Francis celebrated Mass with hundreds of thousands in the streets of the City of Brotherly Love on Sunday, closing his historic six-day visit to the U.S. where he drew big and enthusiastic crowds wherever he went.
His visit to Philadelphia, the third leg of his U.S. trip that also took him to New York and Washington, coincided with the World Meeting of Families, and Francis used his final scheduled public appearance of the trip to connect faith with family.
Later on Sunday, in a farewell speech attended by Vice President Biden and his family, Francis recalled details of the USA trip, including his visit to New York’s Ground Zero, “the place that speaks so powerfully of the mystery of evil.”
Pope Francis vows clergy in sex abuse cases will face justice
The pontiff meets with five survivors and is ‘profoundly sorry’ but advocates say pledge is not enough after years of ‘crimes and sins’
The pontiff met five victims, now adults, in a private meeting on Sunday morning before starting public engagements in Philadelphia, which was gearing up for a huge, farewell mass.
“I hold the stories and the suffering and the sorry of children who were sexually abused by priests deep in my heart,” Francis said, speaking to a gathering of priests and bishops at St Charles Borromeo seminary.
“I remain overwhelmed with shame that men entrusted with the tender care of children violated these little ones and caused grievous harm. I am profoundly sorry. God weeps.”
Speaking Spanish in unscripted remarks made before a formal address, he continued: “The crimes and sins of the sexual abuse of children must no longer be held in secret. I pledge the zealous vigilance of the church to protect children and the promise of accountability for all.”
Pope Francis’s words on clergy sex abuse ring hollow for some survivors
Critics believe that there would be fewer victims to weep over if church officials had not covered up scandals and better protected children
Full Text: Pope Francis’ speech at the United Nations
Leader of the Catholic Church calls for concrete actions on climate change, social justice and armed conflicts.
The praiseworthy international juridical framework of the United Nations Organization and of all its activities, like any other human endeavour, can be improved, yet it remains necessary; at the same time it can be the pledge of a secure and happy future for future generations. And so it will, if the representatives of the States can set aside partisan and ideological interests, and sincerely strive to serve the common good. I pray to Almighty God that this will be the case, and I assure you of my support and my prayers, and the support and prayers of all the faithful of the Catholic Church, that this Institution, all its member States, and each of its officials, will always render an effective service to mankind, a service respectful of diversity and capable of bringing out, for sake of the common good, the best in each people and in every individual
Pope’s UN visit highlights resurgence of Vatican diplomacy
(Al Jazeera) When Pope Francis speaks to the United Nations on Friday, the event will be a diplomatic high point for the pontiff, who has helped restore the Vatican’s role as an important player in global diplomacy.
He will speak at the opening of a United Nations summit at which leaders are set to adopt a series of development goals. At least 154 heads of state or government and 30 ministers are expected to be in attendance — among the largest gatherings of national leaders in history.
Vatican representatives say his speech will focus on poverty, climate change, social justice and the perils of a “globalized indifference,” according to Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Vatican’s representative to the United Nations. “These are also the priorities of the Catholic Church, and these are also the core values of the summit,” he said.
Pope Tells Congress: Stop Being Warmongers, Start Helping the Needy, Stop Hateful Rhetoric
Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation. You are the face of its people, their representatives. You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics.
. . .
A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to dream of full rights for all their brothers and sisters as Martin Luther King sought to do, when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.
Why Pope Francis Cited Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton
(TIME) Though their lives took very different paths, Day’s and Merton’s callings overlapped significantly, with a concentration on anti-poverty and pro-peace activism. In light of that parallel, one they share with another famous Catholic, it’s no wonder Pope Francis would have mentioned their names—even if they’re less famous than Lincoln and King
Pope-onomics: Francis’ keys to a better economy – and world
(Reuters blog) the “joy of the gospel” that Francis proclaimed as the theme of his papacy seems to have everything to do with the “dismal science.” But the kind of economics he reserves his highest praise for has less to do with ledgers and figures than with the challenges of people sharing and governing their enterprises together. It’s not an economics of the right or left, of Democrats or Republicans, but an economics of cooperation
How Pope Francis Clashes With Both Democrats And Republicans, In 1 Graphic
(NPR) The pope is undeniably popular, among both Catholics and non-Catholics — even among people who aren’t religious at all. The very fact that people pay attention to him is important, Gray pointed out. “Among the public, the pope likely has an ‘agenda setting’ effect,” he said. “He can put new issues on the table or elevate issues in the discourse.”
That means if Pope Francis brings up any topic — be it inequality or abortion — he would give it more oxygen, making it a bigger issue in Congress or on the presidential campaign trail. So even if he doesn’t directly change minds, he could meaningfully change the U.S. political conversation.
Pope Rejects Lunch with Boehner, Pelosi, McConnell, Reid: He will be Dining with the Homeless
Pope Francis says he didn’t have the time because he already had a date eating with the homeless. In fact, he is not only going to be eating with them, but serving them. The meal will take place at St. Patrick’s Church in Washington, D.C.
Pope urges ‘tolerant and inclusive’ US society
Pontiff, speaking at White House, calls on US to reject discrimination and praises Obama for focus on the environment.
president-obama-shakes-hands-popePope Francis Begins First U.S. Visit, Greeted by President Obama
Pope Francis touched down at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington on Tuesday afternoon, with President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and their wives greeting him on the tarmac.
Presidents rarely welcome foreign leaders at the airport, although President George W. Bush set a precedent when he met Pope Benedict XVI at Andrews in 2008.
Francis, 78, was whisked away in a small black Fiat 500L, headed for the Apostolic Nunciature, the Vatican’s diplomatic mission in northwest Washington, where scores of people waved Argentine flags from behind a barricade.
Pope’s U.S. Itinerary Includes 9/11 Memorial and Philadelphia Prison
Pope Frank 7 September
Conservative dissent is brewing inside the Vatican
This month, Francis makes his first trip to the United States at a time when his progressive allies are hailing him as a revolutionary, a man who only last week broadened the power of priests to forgive women who commit what Catholic teachings call the “mortal sin” of abortion during his newly declared “year of mercy” starting in December. On Sunday, he called for “every” Catholic parish in Europe to offer shelter to one refugee family from the thousands of asylum seekers risking all to escape war-torn Syria and other pockets of conflict and poverty.
[VIDEO: Pope emphasizes forgiveness for abortions during ‘year of mercy’]
Yet as he upends church convention, Francis also is grappling with a conservative backlash to the liberal momentum building inside the church. In more than a dozen interviews, including with seven senior church officials, insiders say the change has left the hierarchy more polarized over the direction of the church than at any point since the great papal reformers of the 1960s.
6 September
Pope calls for parishes, Vatican to host migrants in act of solidarity
(PBS Newshour) In his weekly address on Sunday, Pope Francis announced the Vatican would host migrant families fleeing war and hunger, and asked that every religious institution in Europe do the same.
“I appeal to the parishes, the religious communities, the monasteries and sanctuaries of all Europe to show the true meaning of the Gospel and take in one family of refugees,” he said to a crowd of thousands in St. Peter’s Square.

Pope Francis in America
By Chris Patten, the last British Governor of Hong Kong and a former EU commissioner for external affairs, is Chancellor of the University of Oxford.
Though, at age 71, I may be a little old to indulge in hero worship, I cannot remember a public figure to whom I have warmed more. He embodies the message, delivered in the Gospel of St. Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6).
The moral authority that Francis exudes makes his interventions in controversial contemporary issues – such as his condemnation of the Armenian genocide, Islamic jihadi violence, Mafia criminality and corruption in Italy, and the deaths of African and Middle Eastern migrants in the Mediterranean – extremely powerful. Before and during his visit to the US, his views on three issues – none of which is without controversy in the US – will have a particularly strong impact.
First, Francis is helping to end the decades-long standoff between the US and Cuba.
The second key issue that Francis will address relates to the Israel-Palestine conflict – a fraught subject for the US, Israel’s most important ally. The Vatican has announced its intention to sign a treaty that includes recognition of a Palestinian state
The third issue – the most challenging for some American politicians, especially the most conservative among them – is Francis’s recent encyclical on environmental stewardship, climate change, and sustainable and fair economic development. … Francis will undoubtedly discuss the subject in his address to Congress, 30% of whose members – including House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican – are Catholic. Given that several of the leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination – including Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Bobby Jindal – also are Catholic, Francis’s strong stance on climate change may create a serious political dilemma for some. (27 August)

10 July
Naomi Klein: A Radical Vatican?
(The New Yorker) Challenging anthropocentrism is ho-hum stuff for ecologists, but it’s something else for the pinnacle of the Catholic Church. You don’t get much more human-centered than the persistent Judeo-Christian interpretation that God created the entire world specifically to serve Adam’s every need. As for the idea that we are part of a family with all other living beings, with the earth as our life-giving mother, that too is familiar to eco-ears. But from the Church? Replacing a maternal Earth with a Father God, and draining the natural world of its sacred power, were what stamping out paganism and animism were all about.
By asserting that nature has a value in and of itself, Francis is overturning centuries of theological interpretation that regarded the natural world with outright hostility—as a misery to be transcended and an “allurement” to be resisted. Of course, there have been parts of Christianity that stressed that nature was something valuable to steward and protect—some even celebrated it—but mostly as a set of resources to sustain humans.

Pope Francis devotes an entire chapter of the encyclical to the need for an “ecological conversion” among Christians, “whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them. Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.”
An evangelism of ecology, I realize, is what I have been witnessing take shape during the past three days in Rome—in the talk of “spreading the good news of the encyclical,” of “taking the Church on the road,” of a “people’s pilgrimage” for the planet, in Miranda laying out plans to spread the encyclical in Brazil through radio ads, online videos, and pamphlets for use in parish study groups.
A millennia-old engine designed to proselytize and convert non-Christians is now preparing to direct its missionary zeal inward, challenging and changing foundational beliefs about humanity’s place in the world among the already faithful.
20 June
Encyclical-coverRoss Douthat: Pope Francis’ Call to Action Goes Beyond the Environment
(NYT) IN Pope Francis’ sprawling new encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” there are many mansions: A meditation on biblical ecology, a discussion of environmental policy, a critique of consumerism, even a reflection on the perils of social media.
What everyone wants to know, of course, is whether the pope takes sides in our most polarizing debate. And he clearly does. After this document, there’s no doubting where Francis stands in the great argument of our time.
But I don’t mean the argument between liberalism and conservatism. I mean the argument between dynamists and catastrophists.
Dynamists are people who see 21st-century modernity as a basically successful civilization advancing toward a future that’s better than the past. They do not deny that problems exist, but they believe we can innovate our way through them while staying on an ever-richer, ever-more-liberated course.
Catastrophists, on the other hand, see a global civilization that for all its achievements is becoming more atomized and balkanized, more morally bankrupt, more environmentally despoiled. What’s more, they believe that things cannot go on as they are: That the trajectory we’re on will end in crisis, disaster, dégringolade.
… reading “Laudato Si’ ” simply as a case for taking climate change seriously misses the depth of its critique — which extends to the whole “technological paradigm” of our civilization, all the ways (economic and cultural) that we live now.
This is a document aligned with the scientific consensus on climate that excoriates the modern scientific mind-set as, in effect, a 500-year mistake. It’s a document calling for global action, even a “new world political authority,” that’s drenched in frank contempt for the existing global leadership class. It’s a document that urges a rapid move away from fossil fuels while explicitly criticizing the leading avenue for doing so — a cap and trade regime — as too “quick and easy,” too compromised by greed and self-interest, to “allow for the radical change which present circumstances require.”
19 June
Shields & Brooks on church shooting, Pope’s environmentalism
DAVID BROOKS: It’s a part of — a beautiful expression of Catholic theology and a beautiful expression for all of us of our interconnectedness. It also reminded me the Catholic Church is actually amazingly consistent on abortion, on the death penalty, on the environment. The valuing the life is — the church is so consistent on this emphasis, but our parties are sort of inconsistent on these different issues.
So, I thought it made me feel environmental, because he connected our role in the cosmos and our role in nature in, I thought, a very beautiful way. Of course, I would have some different emphasis than he did on some of the policy stuff. The church, to my mind, demeans capitalism too much, a force which has reasonably lifted 300 million or 400 million people out of poverty.
How many solar panels does the Pope have?
By Mark Cameron, Senior Vice-President and Energy Practice Leader with Hill+Knowlton Strategies, and a former Director of Policy and Research to Prime Minister Stephen Harper
(IRPP Policy Options) There is much in Laudato Si which I find admirable and inspirational. Pope Francis offers profound thoughts on the nature of humanity’s relationship with the Creator and creation. He clarifies the misconception – found both inside and outside Christian circles – that the mandate given to humans in Genesis to have “dominion” over nature does not imply a relationship of domination or exploitation, but rather “responsible stewardship” in a mutual relationship with other living creatures. And as expected, he puts the poor and developing world, who suffer the most due to environmental degradation, at the heart of his reflections, calling on the rich developed countries of the North to acknowledge their “ecological debt” to the poor global South, while rejecting the idea that population control is the best way to deal with ecological challenges in developing countries. All of this is deeply consistent with the Catholic tradition and the teachings of other recent Popes on environmental and economic issues.
More controversially for some, Pope Francis clearly accepts the threat of human-caused climate change as a scientific reality and calls for strong international action to deal with it. This has caused consternation among some Catholic conservatives, who either believe that the scientific debate is unsettled, or that the Church has no business weighing in on political matters such as the need for stronger climate policies. However, I am not among them – it is only prudent for the Church (and policy makers) to follow the consensus of scientific opinion to guide their action on climate change or other environmental issues.
Pope’s climate change encyclical tells rich nations: pay your debt to the poor
Pontiff’s 180-page intervention in climate change debate casts blame for ‘ecological crisis’ on the indifference of the powerful
(The Guardian) The pope’s 180-page encyclical on the environment, released on Thursday, is at its core a moral call for action on phasing out the use of fossil fuels.
But it is also a document infused with an activist anger and concern for the poor, casting blame on the indifference of the powerful in the face of certain evidence that humanity is at risk following 200 years of misuse of resources.
Up to now, he says, the world has accepted a “cheerful recklessness” in its approach to the issue, lacking the will to change habits for the good of the Earth.
Patriarch Bartholomew on Pope Francis’ Climate Encyclical

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 30: Pope Francis (L) and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople speak to the faithful after the Divine Liturgy at the Ecumenical Patriarchate on November 30, 2014 in in Istanbul. Pope Francis arrived in Turkey on Friday at a sensitive moment for the Muslim nation as it cares for 1.6 million refugees and weighs up how to deal with the Islamic State group as its fighters grab chunks of Syria and Iraq across Turkey's southern border. (Photo by Gokhan Tan/Getty Images)

ISTANBUL, TURKEY – NOVEMBER 30: Pope Francis (L) and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople speak to the faithful after the Divine Liturgy at the Ecumenical Patriarchate on November 30, 2014 in in Istanbul. Pope Francis arrived in Turkey on Friday at a sensitive moment for the Muslim nation as it cares for 1.6 million refugees and weighs up how to deal with the Islamic State group as its fighters grab chunks of Syria and Iraq across Turkey’s southern border. (Photo by Gokhan Tan/Getty Images)

(TIME) It … came as no surprise to us that our beloved brother Francis of Rome opens his encyclical, which is being released today in the New Synod Hall of the Vatican, with a reference to God’s creation as “our common home.”
Nor again did it come as a surprise to us that Pope Francis underlined the ecumenical dimension of creation care – the term “ecumenism” also shares the same etymological origin as the words “ecology” and “economy.” The truth is that, above any doctrinal differences that may characterize the various Christian confessions and beyond any religious disagreements that may separate the various faith communities, the earth unites us in a unique and extraordinary manner.
Eight things we learned from the pope’s climate change encyclical
From calling on rich countries to pay their social debt to his thoughts on GM food and UN climate talks, here are the top highlights
(Foreign Policy) Top News: In his landmark encyclical, Pope Francis called for decisive steps to protect the environment from climate change, incurring the wrath of business and political interests around the world that oppose such actions.
In the 184-page document, titled “Laudato Si (Praise Be), On the Care of Our Common Home” — the first ever devoted to the environment — Pope Francis said that rich countries must steer away from consumerist culture and “obstructionist attitudes” that place profit before the common good. He also sided with scientific claims showing that climate change is largely a man-made phenomenon, and emphasized the role that fossil fuels and energy and economic policy play in the destruction of the environment. Pope Francis also blamed the “myopia of power politics” for slowing action on climate change.
The Pope also took strong positions on the use of labor-saving technology, markets, and financial regulation. “Production is not always rational, and is usually tied to economic variables which assign to products a value that does not necessarily correspond to their real worth,” he wrote. “The problem of the real economy is not confronted with vigor, yet it is the real economy which makes diversification and improvement in production possible, helps companies to function well, and enables small and medium businesses to develop and create employment.”
First leaked by an Italian magazine on Monday, the encyclical, generally considered an authoritative teaching document among clergy members and laity, was officially released by the Vatican at noon on Thursday. The new document all but guarantees that the Vatican will play a key role at the U.N. climate summit in Paris in December. It also includes language criticizing abortion and the notion of population control as a means of better harnessing resources and fighting poverty. The encyclical has already become the most politically contentious one since Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical in support of the Catholic Church’s ban on contraception
15 June
Pope Francis blasts global warming deniers in leaked draft of encyclical
(WaPost) A draft of a major environmental document by Pope Francis says “the bulk of global warming” is caused by human activity and calls on people — especially the world’s rich — to take steps to mitigate the damage by reducing consumption and reliance on fossil fuels.
In words likely to anger some of his conservative critics, the pope backs the science of climate change, saying “plenty of scientific studies point out that the last decades of global warming have been mostly caused by the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxide and others) especially generated by human action.”
Pope Gets a Little Apocalyptic in Leaked Draft of Climate Change Document
(Slate) The encyclical promises to form a cornerstone of Francis’ papacy. Upon his election, he chose his name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi—the patron saint of animals and ecology. But Francis isn’t the first pope to focus on the environment. Both of his predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, wrote extensively about the special burden environmental destruction places on the poor. However, neither so firmly inserted himself into the political debate on climate change. In September, Francis will address a joint session of Congress—the first time a pope has done so—as well as an assembly of world leaders at the United Nations in New York. Vatican officials have said the release of the encyclical is specifically meant to influence negotiations on a global climate agreement in Paris this December.
13 June
Explosive intervention by Pope Francis set to transform climate change debate
(The Guardian) The most anticipated papal letter for decades will be published in five languages on Thursday. It will call for an end to the ‘tyrannical’ exploitation of nature by mankind. Could it lead to a step-change in the battle against global warming?
In an unprecedented encyclical on the subject of the environment, the pontiff is expected to argue that humanity’s exploitation of the planet’s resources has crossed the Earth’s natural boundaries, and that the world faces ruin without a revolution in hearts and minds. The much-anticipated message, which will be sent to the world’s 5,000 Catholic bishops, will be published online in five languages on Thursday and is expected to be the most radical statement yet from the outspoken pontiff.
However, it is certain to anger sections of Republican opinion in America by endorsing the warnings of climate scientists and admonishing rich elites, say cardinals and scientists who have advised the Vatican.
12 April
Pope Angers Turkey by Calling Armenian Genocide a Genocide
(Slate) He said the G word. And Turkey is none too happy. Pope Francis sparked a diplomatic row on Sunday when, as had been widely expected, he called the mass killing of Armenians in World War I, “the first genocide of the 20th century.” The pontiff went even further though, and called on the international community to stop beating around the bush when talking about the slaughter of Armenians a century ago and call it a genocide once and for all. Turkey’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Vatican ambassador in Ankara in protest, reports BBC News. Although Turkey recognizes many Christian Armenians died during battles with Ottoman soldiers that began in 1915, it has long denied the deaths amounted to hundreds of thousands nor that it was a genocide. (Global News) Turkey recalls Vatican envoy after Pope calls Armenian slaughter ‘genocide’
3 February
Vatican observatory where (Jesuit) priests are also astrophysicists
4 January
Pope Francis is at it again:
Pope names 15 new cardinals from 14 different nations to reflect church diversity
Speaking from a Vatican window to a crowd in St. Peter’s Square, Francis made another surprise announcement. He said that on Feb. 12-13, he will lead of meeting of all cardinals to “reflect on the orientations and proposals for the reform of the Roman Curia,” the Vatican’s administrative bureaucracy. Yay Pope!

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