Australian Cardinal: Confessional Seal is Inviolable, Even in Abuse Cases

Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia, has said that while the Church will cooperate with a federal commission investigating child abuse, priests will not break the seal of confession.

Someone who confesses sins involving abuse will not be reported to police by his confessor, the cardinal said. He explained that while an admission made outside the confessional would be reported, “the seal of confession is inviolable.”

Cardinal Pell said that if a priest is aware that someone has been guilty of abuse, “the priest should refuse to hear the confession.”

The cardinal said that he welcomed the federal investigation because it will “clear the air” and “separate fact from fiction” regarding the Church’s response to sex-abuse complaints. He has said that media reports have portrayed the Church’s role unfairly.



Bible Archaeology

Conflict-Scarred Temple Uncovered Near Jerusalem

Another exciting archaeological discovery near Jerusalem:

At a biblical border city outside of Jerusalem, archaeologists have uncovered a temple from the 11th century B.C. that they say bears evidence of conflict among the ancient Israelites, Canaanites and Philistines.

Spread across what would have been the floor at the complex at Tel Beth-Shemesh, an ancient village about 12 miles (20 kilometers) west of Jerusalem, excavators found shards of painted chalices and goblets — not the type of containers that would have been used for daily household activities. They also found animal bones surrounding a flat stone inside the building and discovered two more flat stones seemingly designed to direct liquids. Lacking the typical traces of domestic use, the excavators believe the building served as a place of worship that was possibly connected to an Israelite cult.

But the complex didn’t stay holy for long. The archaeologists found evidence that the temple was destroyed. What’s more, an analysis of dirt at the site turned up microscopic remains of plants commonly eaten by livestock as well as the remnants of poop from grass-eating animals, suggesting the site was appropriated as a livestock pen.

The excavators believe the animal takeover of the temple might represent a deliberate desecration by the Philistines, who lived alongside, though hardly peacefully, with the Israelites and Canaanites. The ancient villa of Beth-Shemesh, located at the crossroads of the three groups, frequently changed hands between the Philistines and the Canaanite and Israelite populations that resisted them. The researchers say the Philistines likely gained temporary control of Beth-Shemesh and then brought in livestock to reside on what they knew had been a holy place for their enemies.

But further evidence suggests the ancestors of the worshippers may have eventually returned. The archaeologists found several round clay ovens known as “tabuns” in the layer of soil excavated above the temple’s ruins. These food-prepping features are usually found near ancient living quarters, not sacred sites, but the researchers may have an explanation for the ovens.

“We believe that ancestors of those who had built the original complex came back to rebuild the site,” archaeologist Zvi Lederman, of Tel Aviv University, said in a statement, adding that the ovens may have been used to cook feasts to honor the memory of the old temple after the Philistines pulled out of the area.

The researchers are planning further excavations at the site and their findings will be presented this month at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research in Chicago.



Answering the Critics

Do take a moment to read what Fr Ed Tomlinson has to say:

Yesterday I explained why the Ordinariate, the freshest expression of unity within the Catholic Church, has endured criticism as well as friendship. I examined the predominant reasons why this vision, which the Pope labelled ‘prophetic’, can be challenging and/or uncomfortable.

To demonstrate the progress being made by the Ordinariate what now follows is an examination of the criticisms stemming from those wanting to pour cold water over the initiative. I will then show how, in every instance, the accusations are proving hollow. For the vision is strong and, I believe, the Holy Spirit is present in it.

1) The Ordinariate will never take off This was the first accusation and came days after the Vatican announced the initiative. It was followed by assurances that even if it did happen then it would take years to form. Instead everything came together within an incredibly short timescale. What became obvious was that this was seen as a pressing need in the eyes of Pope Benedict.

2) The Vatican is losing interest Once it became clear that the ordinariate would take off detractors began to claim the Vatican had lost interest having imagined that take up would be larger than it was. The aim was to sow doubt in the minds of those drawn to it. But far from losing interest the Holy Father repeatedly called for generosity in supporting the venture from the wider Catholic church. He also ensured that he visited England to beatify our co-patron John Henry Newman and ensured we were the last thing he spoke of before returning to Rome. He has gifted us financial assistance from his own resources and several key members of the CDF have visited to encourage and support us. Why at a recent meeting of Catholic clergy in Reading Archbishop Di Noia positively embraced me on discovering I was Ordinariate and assured me of how excited many people in the Vatican are!

3) The Ordinariate as second class option Perhaps the favourite put down of the detractors and first voiced by the Archbishop of York. I refer to the suggestion that those wanting to become Catholic would be better “doing it properly”. The idea being that the Ordinariate is a poor alternative to ‘real’ membership of RCC. But of course the truth is that we who joined saw clergy ordained into the Latin Rite by Catholic bishops of England and Wales. We then took up posts serving not only the Ordinariate but diocesan parishes and chaplaincies. The obvious point being that the ordinariate door places you in the same place as the Diocesan route. That is what unity is about. One is either Catholic or not and we Ordinariate members are.

4) The Ordinariate will never attract members I was one of the first to publicly endorse the Ordinariate option. I was then barraged with accusations that I would not join. I received hate mail and even had a blog erected against me by someone called Poppytupper which ridiculed my physique and character. Then letters were sent to Catholic bishops which made complaints against me and suggested I was not suitable for ordination. These all failed. The next accusation then was to suggest that growth would never happen. But I am delighted to report that this too is being shown to be untrue. The ordinariate now numbers 81 priests, 1 deacon, 3 seminarians, 3 nuns and 1350 lay members. It has recorded growth of over 15% in the last 12 months and I am currently in dialogue with some who are hoping to join us in the third wave. Slow, steady and manageable growth – exactly what is needed.

5) The Ordinariate has no Anglican patrimony Only yesterday the ever negative Canon Godsall tried to rubbish the Ordinariate by claiming that our Anglican patrimony is non existent. But again this is going to be proved wrong as the new Ordinariate Customary and Rite make clear. Those joining are at liberty to use all the liturgical practice of the Roman Catholic Church but will also be enriched by a new Mass stemming from the English Missal, we have our hymnody, Evensong and so much more besides. This will ensure that we find the balance between remaining part of the church we have joined whilst keeping our own history and traditions alive. It means we can cater not only to those versed in the Roman Rite from within the C of E but also those from a Prayerbook background and tradition.

These are just five of the ways people have tried to undermine us since our inception. Isn’t it wonderful that we have been so blessed as to overcome these and answer the critics on each occasion? The truth is that there has been a struggle at times and a spiritual battle has raged. My own sense is that the devil really doesn’t want this to happen!

However slowly but surely we are finding our feet and, through God’s grace, the tiny seed planted by Pope Benedict is starting to grow. Please continue to pray for us as we seek to overcome the remaining hurdles and ensure the vision is enabled to perform whatever purpose God has in store for it. These are exciting times and it is a privilege to be part of something that could play a part in the faith of this land in the future. Being Anglo-Catholic was, so often, about looking backwards to the 19th  Century movement of Newman and the like. Whereas the ordinariate is about looking forwards very much to something which God is now doing in our day. We walk where Newman once led….

Oh and a final answer to the person who sent me a rude message yesterday wondering when I find the time to blog and hinting it must mean I do no work in the parish….the answer stems from another part of my Anglican patrimony. A baby in the family means I rise at 5am and have plenty of time to type before the day starts!



Bishopess Katharine Jefferts Schori Targets Conservative Remnant in the House of Bishops

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori targets conservative remnant in the House of Bishops:

Fresh from charging the conservative South Carolina diocesan bishop Mark Lawrence with abandonment and attempting to take over his diocese, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schor turns her attention to the remnant of conservative bishops still in the Episcopal Church, charging them with fraud, financial misconduct and failing to inform on their fellow bishops  who held opinions on church order contrary to her own.

Note the names :

  • The Rt Rev’d Peter H. Beckwith, Bishop of Springfield retired
  • TheRt Rev’d Maurice M. Benitez. Bishop of Texas retired
  • The Rt Rev’d John W. Howe, Bishop of Central Florida retired
  • The Rt Rev’d Paul E. Lambert, Bishop Suffragan, Diocese of Dallas
  • The Rt Rev’d William H. Love, Bishop of Albany
  • The Rt Rev’d D. Bruce MacPherson, Bishop of Western Louisiana retired
  • The Rt Rev’d Daniel H. Martins, Bishop of Springfield
  • The Rt Rev’d Edward L. Salmon, Jr, Bishop of South Carolina retired
  • The Rt Rev’d James M. Stanton, Bishop of Dallas.

The list reads like a Who’s Who of the primary leadership of conservative bishops over the last twenty years, in fact the remnant who courageously remained in the Episcopal Church.  They are being charged with violating:

Canon IV.3.1 (a) knowingly violating or attempting to violate, directly or through the acts of another person, the Constitution or Canons of the Church or of any Diocese; (b) failing without good cause to cooperate with any investigation or proceeding conducted under authority of this Title; or (c) intentionally and maliciously bringing a false accusation or knowingly providing false testimony or false evidence in any investigation or proceeding under this Title.

Canon 4: Of Standards of Conduct Sec. 1. In exercising his or her ministry, a Member of the Clergy shall: (c) abide by the promises and vows made when ordained; (e) safeguard the property and funds of the Church and Community; (f) report to the Intake Officer all matters which may constitute an Offense as defined in Canon IV.2 meeting the standards of Canon IV.3.3, except for matters disclosed to the Member of Clergy as confessor within the Rite of Reconciliation of a Penitent; (g) exercise his or her ministry in accordance with applicable provisions of the Constitution and Canons of the Church and of the Diocese, ecclesiastical licensure or commission and Community rule or bylaws; (h) refrain from: (6) conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation; or (8) any Conduct Unbecoming a Member of the Clergy. And possibly: IV.4.Sec.1(h)(2): holding and teaching publicly or privately, and advisedly, any Doctrine contrary to that held by the Church.

This action of charging these bishops with such severe violations comes after Bishop Schori herself faced a vote by the House of Deputies this summer to sell her headquarters and her home at 815 Second Avenue in New York City.  Later modified by the House of Bishops at General Convention, she is still facing directives from General Convention to restructure the Episcopal Church as it faces massive financial shortfalls and attendance drops from dioceses all over the country.

In addition, Bishop Schori has faced opposition to her budget proposals, causing the former House of Deputies President, Bonnie Anderson, to come armed with her own budget at a  meeting of the Executive Council of the Episcopal prior to General Convention.  The Executive Council was unable to agree on a budget and Bishop Schori showed up at General Convention and presented her own budget to the the triennial gathering in Indianapolis this past summer.

The crisis of restructuring the budget has split progressive coalitions that have long held a public face of unity while shepherding through innovations on marriage and ordination that has caused a severe “tearing of the fabric” in the worldwide Anglican Communion.  With that coalition alarmed by the possible implementation of a hierarchical structure in the reorganization, it is no wonder that she and her staff would take aim at those conservatives who also take the position that the Episcopal Church is not hierarchical in structure in a more Roman Catholic tradition, but rather consists of dioceses in a democratic General Convention.  She cannot attack her own constituency and it is doubtful at this juncture that her critics in the House of Deputies will be inclined to defend this list.

Her actions and attitudes in regards to her hierarchical view of the structure of the Episcopal Church has caused some longtime political allies to be openly critical of her leadership, with rifts becoming so deep that would cause the Presiding Bishop and the House of Deputies President to show up at an official meeting of the Episcopal Church with separate budgets.  The House of Deputies President later threw in the towel. Read more about her charges against those who have stood for a historic view of the Episcopal Church and who also exercised their freedom as Americans to sign an amicus curiae brief – an action that has caused this present Presiding Bishop to to take such actions that must cause the founders of the Episcopal Church, born in revolution, to turn over in their graves.

Read it all here.