What Will Pope Francis Say in His Apostolic Exhortation on the Family?

Francis, my experts
by Pat Marrin

Sources say Pope Francis signed the 200 plus page post-synodal apostolic exhortation on March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph but it is being translated into other languages (from Italian) before its release.  Reports say it will be published on April 8, 2016 at 11:30am (Rome time) and that Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna who was part of the German language group that offered a form of the “Internal Forum” as a way to bring divorced and remarried Catholics back into the fold, will present it.   Other expected participants at the press conference are: Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops;  Professor Francesco Miano, lecturer in moral philosophy at the University of Rome at Tor Vergata, and his wife, Professor Giuseppina De Simone in Miano, lecturer in philosophy at the Theological Faculty of Southern Italy in Naples.

The event will be live-streamed on Vatican Radio.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, the architect of a pathway to Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics recently said that Pope Francis will “definitively express himself on family issues addressed during the last synod, and in particular on the participation of the divorced and remarried faithful in the active life of the Catholic community”.

The National Catholic Register reported Kasper as saying the exhortation will represent “the first step in a reform” that will mark the “turning of a page” in the Church’s history “after 1,700 years.”

“We must not repeat past formulas and barricade ourselves behind the wall of exclusivism and clericalism,” Kasper told the audience.  The Church must live in the current times and “know how to interpret them,” also saying that women must be offered more opportunities to serve in Church administration.

If changing protocol is a marker for what lays ahead, Francis may be sending another signal.  On Febraury 27, when Argentina’s new president, Mauricio Macri, visited Pope Francis in the Vatican, accompanied by his third wife, Juliana Awada, Francis, overcame resistance from the protocol chiefs and secretariat of state and received Macri with his wife in his private library.  Prior to that, Vatican protocol required that if a Catholic head of state visited the pope accompanied by a spouse not married to him (or her) in the church then that person was not admitted to the official audience with the pope. Instead, the pope would greet that person separately in another room after the main audience.  Unhappy with that protocol, Francis changed it.

Journalist Gerald O’Connell makes some predictions about what will be in Francis’ post-synodal apostolic exhortation.

  1.  There will be no change in church doctrine. Pope Francis will reaffirm that marriage is between a man and a woman in a lifelong union open to having children. He will restate church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.
  2. Pope Francis is expected to open doors in terms of the church’s pastoral approach to issues such as cohabitation, how divorced and remarried Catholics may be reinstated in the church and allowed to receive Communion, and homosexuality in the family.
  3. Mercy will be emphasized as the heart of the Gospel message.  He will also highlight the vital importance of “accompaniment” and “reconciliation.”The document is scheduled to be released during the first part of April, apparently, thank goodness, in multiple languages.

New Hope for Francis-style Bishops with the Appointment of a New Apostolic Nuncio

Archbishop Vigano washes the feet of a religious sister on Holy Thursday.

Media outlets have reported that Pope Francis has chosen Archbishop Christophe Pierre, now the Vatican’s representative to Mexico, to be his next envoy to the  United States replacing the retiring Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano.

Michael Sean Winters shows how this role functions and predicts the new Francis appointment could produce changes for the U.S. Church including a new wave of Francis bishops.

  1.  The nuncio, like all ambassadors, is charged with maintaining relations with the U.S. government. The Vatican and the U.S. government collaborate on a host of issues around the world, even when tensions exist between the local Church and the government.
  2. The Vatican is concerned about the candidacy of Donald Trump.  Because opposition to immigrants is such a central part of Trump’s political rise, and concern for immigrants has been such a central focus of Pope Francis’ articulation of the Church’s social doctrine, it surely occurred to the Vatican leadership that an archbishop who has spent the last nine years in Mexico could be uniquely valuable at this point in time. As well, immigration is one issue on which the U.S. bishops are not only united, but on which they are totally in sync with the Vatican.
  3. A lot of routine and non-routine business is either handled by the nuncio. He  forwards petitions and other information, and is free to comment thereon, and shape the Vatican’s response with those comments.
  4. Nowhere is a nuncio’s influence more obvious, and more enduring, than in the selection of new bishops. When a diocese becomes vacant, the nuncio is charged with investigating the needs of the diocese and then proposing the names of three candidates who could meet those needs. That list of candidates, a terna, is sent to the Congregation for Bishops, which can pass it along to the pope as is, change the rankings of the three names on the list, or even reject the list and ask for a new one. Different nuncios handle this task differently, with varying levels of attention to the actual needs of a given diocese.  And although the Pope has his own method for finding bishops as is the case with Archbishop Blaise Cupich, in most cases, the nuncio draws up the first list of potential nominees.Right now are about a third of the U.S. bishops are very supportive of Pope Francis, a third harbor grave reservations about his leadership, and a third are not sure what to think.The new appointment will be instrumental in making Francis appointments. According to Winters, if the pope wants a bishops’ conference that will support him, he needs his new nuncio to name about twenty to thirty bishops who are with the program. Winters notes that in the past couple of years, when reading the lists of appointments at the Vatican website each morning, the new bishops in Mexico have all been pastors. Archbishop Pierre got the memo and, if he is indeed coming to Washington, we can hope he will appoint pastors to lead U.S. dioceses too.To learn more, read Winters’ article in full.

Why Voices of Faith In the Vatican Matters

IMG_2692The international initiative Voices of Faith seeks to both shine a light on the contributions women are making in the Church and in the world and advocate for expanded opportunities for women at all levels of Church governance.

On March 8, 2016, from inside the Vatican, women from around the world shared stories of fighting human trafficking, poverty, child marriage and more during the 3rd annual Voices of Faith Event.   A two-part event, the first half highlighted women leaders and experts from around the world who shared how their work helps curb the violence, exploitation and poverty women and children face daily. Their incredible journeys of faith, tenacity and courage are a witness to the Gospel message that overturns those cultural and societal norms that denigrate, de-value and de-humanize women and children.

During the second half of the event, a multi-generational panel of five women including Gayatri Lobo Gajiwala, Nicole Perone, Petra Dankova, Geralyn Sheehan and Carolyn Woo along with moderator, Tom Smolich, S.J., talked about the ways the Church has grown in terms of including women’s gifts, but also shared their ideas for expanding women’s roles within the Catholic Church.  The panel discussion can be viewed at the Voices of Faith website (1:40 – 2:44). The transcript can be read on the FutureChurch website.  The 2015 panel discussion transcript is also available.

Very often, people wonder if the expansion of women’s roles within the Church is connected to the plight of women in the world and the challenge of confronting violence against them with Gospel values.

The connection is strong and clear.

  1.  The Catholic Church misses out on the wealth of resources women bring when it excludes them from decision making within the Church. Catholic women have been pioneers on the Catholic frontier since the beginning.  Because they work closely with those who have suffered and those at the margins, they are effective in making the Gospel a reality.  Their dedicated service is woven into the fabric of Catholic life, especially in areas such as health care, parish life, education, social services, poverty reduction, care for orphans and children and care for the planet.  They are CEOs, presidents, CFOs, chancellors and provosts, yet they have no place at the table when it comes to the development of Church teaching, canon law, the choosing of bishops and many other areas that affect Church life. Those who live at the margins would benefit from the insights, wisdom, intellect and faith of Catholic women in the ongoing development of Catholic teaching, policy, doctrine, law and other disciplines that affect Catholic life.
  2. Effective governance pivots on the ability to have an inclusive and diverse governing body filled with people who have a stake in the outcomes associated with the mission.  Francis has begun that work in earnest appointing bishops and cardinals from outside of Europe and the West to new posts. But that drive for diversity should not end with prelates.  It should also include a healthy influx of women and laity from diverse regions of the world.  When a governing body includes those whose wise counsel comes from experience in the field, the governing body builds its capacity to respond more effectively to those most in need.
  3. Models matter.  And what the Catholic Church models matters.  The Catholic Church has enormous influence in the world.  It is a global player and its decisions affect the lives of women (Catholic and those who are not Catholic) everywhere.   For instance, the Vatican has significant influence at the United Nations both helping and sometimes crippling the efforts to bring women into full equality worldwide.When Pope Francis decreed that women should be included in the foot washing rite on Holy Thursday, women in Kerala, India and in Washington D.C. were included for the first time. When the Church models equality; when it models justice for women and men; when it creates new realities for women based on the deeply egalitarian practices of Jesus — it serves as a counter-cultural model — a beacon of new life for women everywhere, but especially in regions that unapologetically view women as second class citizens.
  4. We need to move beyond the few to the many.  Much of what the Church accomplishes is enormously life-giving, but it has not fully embraced or integrated women’s gifts, talents or faith into its governance structures. Panelist Nicole Perone stressed that most Catholics cannot name Catholic women leaders in the same way they can name Catholic male leaders.  Carolyn Woo, President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, pointed out, that while a few women have risen to the top of their field, these women are the exceptions and not the rule.

    According to Woo, we need:

    1. The engagement of women as leaders in the Church to move from the exceptional to the habitual; from ad hoc to systematic.
    2. The engagement of women as family; not as guests or guest workers.
    3. To cast the feminine genius as more than simply being sensitive, intuitive and nourishing to include qualities such as entrepreneurial and persistent acting as a social critic and speaking truth to power.
    4. To make the Church not only a provider of services to women, but also an advocate for their rights.

The Church will be more credible as a teaching body and more effective in spreading the Gospel when it fully incorporates women into all levels of Church governance, ministry, leadership and life.

The Voices of Faith effort seeks to put a spotlight on the ways in which women are leading today while advocating for a new tomorrow where women will step up alongside their brothers fostering a richer brand of Catholicism and a more effective Gospel outreach for all people.