Ann Arbor, Mich., Jul 18, 2013 (CNA) -
Radio host Al Kresta’s new book is meant to help Catholics respond to the arguments of their opponents, stressing the need to love one’s enemies so as to transform a culture hostile to Jesus Christ.
“It’s clear that Catholicism, especially in America, is under increased attack. And it isn’t as though somebody’s discovered some truth about the faith that is now rejected,” Kresta told CNA July 16. “It’s just that Catholicism has fallen out of favor.”
“American Catholics, I think for the first time since the 19th century, need to take stock and recognize that we do have enemies.”
Kresta’s new book, “Dangers to the Faith: Recognizing Catholicism’s 21st-Century Opponents,” is published by Our Sunday Visitor Press and aims to respond to the contemporary world's prominent rivals of Catholicism.
“There are right now in our society academic elites, business elites, people of great profundity, who are committed to undermining the social and cultural influence of the Catholic Church,” Kresta said. “For some of them, that’s what they live for.”
“Sometimes they attack by abusing journalism, sometimes they abuse history, they abuse the natural sciences, and they abuse spiritual and revelational claims.”
Kresta is a former Protestant minister who converted to the Church. For more than a decade he has hosted the nationally syndicated Catholic talk show “Kresta in the Afternoon.”
His latest book examines and critiques the claims of New Age beliefs such the “law of attraction”; reincarnation, and other Western adaptations of Eastern beliefs; and Islam. Kresta’s book examines disputes about the origins of Christianity, especially those that put forward heretical views or reject the text of the New Testament.
In talking to CNA, Kresta emphasized the Christian duty to love one’s enemies and to give them a fair hearing.
“Love means listening. It means being able to represent your opponent’s position in a way your opponent will recognize as fair and accurate.”
He took as an example the talk show host Oprah Winfrey, whom he said has become an icon of an “American spirituality” that puts forward a “false Jesus” found neither in the New Testament nor Catholic history.
He said his book first tries to represent her views, before critically engaging her positions from a Catholic perspective.
Kresta said he needs to portray her justly: “I need to be able to say she’s a generous, tolerant, energetic, entrepreneurial person – a person you’d like to be living next door to you.”
Kresta added that the abuse of scientific arguments has become stronger than it had been in recent decades.
“People were very clear that science couldn’t answer all questions,” he said. “By the time I got to college, the idea that science could explain everything was no longer fashionable.”
Yet the pendulum has swung the other way in recent years.
He credits the rebound in this view’s popularity to the rise of a new, combative form of atheism after the September 11th terrorist attacks. He said the coupling of this attitude with the benefits of technology has also made it more believable for some.
“It’s not uncommon to find people, including late adolescent Catholics, thinking that science is the definer of reality. They reject religion, they reject philosophy, it’s all about science. I think that’s growing.”
There has also been a decline in the respect the Catholic tradition’s art and social achievements once enjoyed.
“This new bunch doesn’t even respect the Church for its music, its art, or its Mother Teresas,” Kresta lamented.
To respond to these trends, Kresta advised Catholic evangelization
“We have to be able to joyfully say ‘hey, you guys are missing out’,” Kresta continued, saying Catholics must show critics that the faith offers “a richer life,” based in Truth.
“The Catholic Church’s teaching is good news; it’s not bad news. That’s what we have to stress.”
Kresta saw the decline of Protestant nativism – the belief that America is a country primarily for white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants – and suspicion of Catholicism as an area where a formerly strong opponent of Catholicism has weakened and changed.
“Overall, our relation with evangelical Protestants has really improved in the last generation. On the life issues, we’ve learned to pray together, we’ve learned to talk about our differences in civil, rational ways.”
He said that criticism of the sexual revolution has also become easier because its negative consequences are now more obvious.
However, he saw ominous signs both in the Obama administration’s refusal to respect Catholic conscience concerns about the HHS mandate and in states’ increasing refusals to work with Catholic agencies on adoption placements.
“It’s shocking to see the Obama administration regard the Catholic Church as a ‘bad neighbor.’ That’s very different. I don’t know that we’ve ever seen that in America,” Kresta said.“I think what we see is the government erecting itself as the highest source of social morality.”
Barring major changes, Kresta expects that the American government will tend to become a “new Caesar” that presents itself as “the central organizing point of our lives.” This move would displace the morality of the church, the synagogue, and the family.
“I think American Catholicism is in a desperate situation. I think it’s a great time to be Catholic in America, but I think it’s a great time to be Catholic in America because the battle rages so clearly, and we know we have a moral clarity in what we are to do.”
He saw hope in a “growing group of Catholics” committed to the Catholic faith and to being a “faithful witness” in the culture.
Kresta encouraged Catholics to stress the truth of the Catholic faith when in dialogue with others, in an effort to transform the culture for Christ.
“Once we begin backing away from the Church’s teaching as true, once we begin to say that it can be tweaked and modified to suit the culture, I think we’re digging our own grave.”
“And I think that’s what the last generation of Catholics did.”
Rather than engaging and evangelizing the world, he said, Catholics began accommodating it.
“We’re not separatists, we’re not accommodationists – we’re transformationists.”
London, England, Jul 18, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Queen Elizabeth II has approved the British parliament’s “gay marriage” bill, in what the Catholic bishops of England and Wales called a “profound social change” that neglects the centrality of children and puts religious freedom at risk.
“Marriage has, over the centuries, been publicly recognized as a stable institution which establishes a legal framework for the committed relationship between a man and a woman and for the upbringing and care of their children,” the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales said July 17. “It has, for this reason, rightly been recognized as unique and worthy of legal protection.”
The law would allow the contracting of same-sex “marriages” in England and Wales, but not Scotland or Northern Ireland, beginning next year.
The bishops said that the new law removes from marriage both the centrality of children and the responsibility for mothers and fathers to remain together to care for children.
“That is why we were opposed to this legislation on principle,” they said.
Queen Elizabeth, who heads the Church of England, approved the bill on July 17. It had passed the House of Commons by a vote of 366 to 161 before passing the House of Lords, the BBC reports.
Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, who had not campaigned on “gay marriage,” pushed the legislation through over the objections of many in his party. The move could swing some traditional Tory supporters to the United Kingdom Independence Party, which supports existing law recognizing same-sex civil unions but does not back redefining marriage.
The Evangelical Alliance, which represents 79 Protestant denominations and 3,500 churches, said the bill turned civil marriage into “a fluid, gender-neutral institution defined by consumer demands and political expediency.” They warned that the change will have “profound implications,” including the normalization of same-sex unions and the enforcement of “a new social orthodoxy.”
The group called on Christians to “model marriage to a society that has forgotten what it is” in response to the “new legal fiction” created by the bill.
Some religious groups backed the law.
Rabbi Danny Rich, the chief executive of Liberal Judaism, a group representing about 40 synagogues, praised legislators for “putting equality before prejudice and recognizing that the whole of society benefits when we value stable, loving relationships,” the British newspaper The Telegraph reports.
The Catholic bishops voiced gratitude to legislators who improved protections for churches that do not conduct same-sex “marriages.” The government amended legislation to ensure that discussion or criticism of same-sex unions in itself does not violate laws against fomenting hatred.
However, the bishops lamented legislators’ failure to ensure that religious schools can teach in accordance with their religious tenets. They are concerned that future rulings on education policy could require actions that conflict with Catholic teaching.
They also lamented that amendments protecting freedom of speech and conscientious objection rights for civil registrars did not pass. The bishops noted high-level “assurances” that employees would not face adverse treatment if they believe in marriage only between a man and a woman.
The Catholic bishops pled for tolerance for those who do not accept same-sex unions as marriages.
“The legal and political traditions of this country are founded on a firm conviction concerning the rights of people to hold and express their beliefs and views, at the same time as respecting those who differ from them,” they said. “It is important, at this moment in which deeply held and irreconcilable views of marriage have been contested, to affirm and strengthen this tradition.”
Washington D.C., Jul 18, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - In spite of international attention on North Korea’s restrictive political regime, a top member of the Congressional human rights commission critiqued the Obama administration, saying it has not done enough to protect human rights in the country.
“A new North Korea framework is long overdue. Ignoring or downplaying the human rights situation for one more day is unconscionable,” said Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Va.)
The congressman is the so-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. Wolf’s comments were given and submitted to the Congressional Record on July 17 in Washington, D.C.
The release of the comments coincided with the first Korean-American Meetup on Capitol Hill, in which members of the Korean-American community were able to discuss policy initiatives with Congressional representatives.
Wolf said that he hoped that “the abysmal human rights situation in North Korea will feature prominently among these policy priorities” discussed at the event.
The Department of State’s 2012 Human Rights Report found that The Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea exhibited a lack of “respect for civil liberties” and a denial of “respect for the dignity of the person.”
These human rights abuses were demonstrated in a variety of abuses such as religious persecution, wrongful imprisonment and killing, disappearances, lack of fair trials, severe restrictions on freedom of speech and freedom of the press, and no ability for the country’s citizens to change their government.
Similar findings were described by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s 2013 report and the U.S. International Religious Freedom Report for 2012, which both listed the country as a “Country of Particular Concern,” as well as other non-profit human rights groups.
These classifications have been met with heavy sanctions on North Korea.
In spite of these restrictions, Wolf criticized recent American administrations, saying that the United States has not given the human rights abuses occurring within North Korea enough attention.
Despite the “time and focus” granted to the abuses in the country, he said “you would never know that up to 200,000 people languish in a sophisticated and horrific prison camp system in North Korea reminiscent of the most brutal regimes throughout history.”
He described a “cruel and inhuman system of labor camps maintained by the regime” throughout the country, adding that the camps’ existence was confirmed via satellite “more than a decade ago.”
“And yet somehow, almost inexplicably, these horrific camps have failed to inspire collective outrage on the part of the West, and have been sidelined to the point of irrelevance in successive U.S. administrations’ dealings with North Korea, including the Obama Administration.”
The congressman granted that the United States has been involved in negotiations with North Korea over their civil rights abuses and burgeoning nuclear program, but criticized the efficacy, saying that “nothing has been achieved by these negotiations over the years” except for provocations by the North Korean government.
Wolf argued that stricter restrictions and more outspoken discussion on the international stage about North Korea’s human rights abuses would help to bring both more effective policy negotiations from around the world and the much needed-attention to the human rights struggle within the country.
“We must champion the rights of the people who wither under its oppression,” he urged.
Vatican City, Jul 18, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A Vatican spokesman said the change of Popes which occurred from the announcement of World Youth Day to its fruition has caused some adaptations to the event for the new Roman Pontiff.
“The trip had already been decided, but the program has also been adapted, we might indeed say intensified and enriched with further events, with the change of pontificate,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said at a July 17 press conference.
“You will recall that practically the same thing happened at the last change of pontificate,” he added.
Benedict XVI’s first trip was to Cologne in his native Germany for the World Youth Day decided by his predecessor, Blessed John Paul II.
Fr. Lombardi revealed that the plan that had been drawn up for Benedict XVI was less demanding, whereas some elements have been added to Pope Francis’ trip.
These include a pilgrimage to Aparecida, a visit to the favelas and a hospital, as well as a meeting with the Latin American bishops' conference.
Fr. Lombardi said that while Pope Francis kept the same scheduled dates of July 22 to 29, his pilgrimage to Aparecida will occupy a day that had been previously intended as a day of rest.
“Of course, the Holy Father was invited by the bishops who organized and promoted World Youth Day,” Fr. Lombardi affirmed.
These include the Archbishop Orani Tempesti of Rio de Janeiro and Cardinal Damasceno Assis, archbishop of Aparecida.
Fr. Lombardi stated Pope Francis was also invited by the president, Dilma Rousseff.
He emphasized that Rousseff came to the Vatican “for the inauguration of the pontificate and met Francis the following day, explicitly inviting him to Brazil.”
“The Pope confirmed immediately, just a few days after his election, that he intended to travel to Brazil for World Youth Day, and this helped to speed up preparations,” said Fr. Lombardi.
Next week’s event in Rio de Janeiro will be the twenty-eighth World Youth Day, since Blessed John Paul II launched it in 1984.
Fr. Lombardi told journalists this will be “particularly significant in his (the Pope’s) continent, and this naturally lends it a particular sense of anticipation and participation.”
“As we know, it was not his decision to make his first trip to Latin America, but rather it was his predecessor Benedict XVI who had confirmed that World Youth Day would be held in Brazil.”
He underscored that Benedict XVI “had confirmed that 'the Pope' would be present, like in all the World Youth Days, even though the Pope in this case would not have been him.”
“Therefore, Pope Francis is assuming the legacy of Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate in making this trip.”
Rome, Italy, Jul 18, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The United States has stopped funding AIDS relief programs in South Africa organized by the Catholic Church, handing the money instead over to the country's government.
“We have a problem because the American funding, the President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief, known as PEPFAR is coming to an end,” Benedictine Monk Gerhard Lagleder told Vatican Radio.
“I am in Europe today to beg,” added the monk, who has been a missionary in South Africa for 26 years.
“I always say jokingly that the Benedictines are not a mendicant (relying on donations) order but I have become a beggar because it is about saving lives,” he said during the July 16 interview.
President George W. Bush launched PEPFAR in 2003, which enabled money to go directly to the hands of field operators – many of whom belonged to the Catholic Church.
The program, which has been supporting AIDS relief by the South African Bishops’ Conference for 10 years, will end in June 2014 and money will be given instead to the country’s National Health Care System.
U.S. President Obama traveled to South Africa on June 29 for the first time since his election in a week’s visit to Africa, during which he also visited Senegal and Tanzania.
At the Desmond Tutu Peace Center, he said on June 30 that the goal of U.S. policy is to increase South Africa and other nations’ capacity to manage their own programs to fight HIV/AIDS, rather than rely largely on U.S. funding.
“Thank God the Bishops’ Conference spoke to the South African government that in turn spoke to the National Department of Health and to the Kwa Zulu Department of Health,” Fr. Gerhard noted.
This resulted in the government AIDS treatment programs taking over the patients of Catholic institutions in many parts of the country.
Around 40,000 people had started anti-retro-viral treatment by Nov. 2012 through the Aids treatment program of the Catholic Bishops' Conference.
“Most of them have been transferred to the government’s program, but in our area the government clinic is so over-swamped with patients, they could not take over our patients so we have no choice but to carry on,” Fr. Gerhard said.
The priest, of German origin, established the Brotherhood of Blessed Gerhard, which runs a large treatment program as well as a clinic, an AIDS education service, funds for helping young people to study, a hospice, a nursery and an ambulance among other things.
“The Bishops Conference covers 24 per cent of our costs, but as from next year we will have to pay for about 50 per cent of our costs ourselves,” he said.
“To say it in plain English we will have to finance about 150,000 Euros per year until June 2014, and from then it will be about 300,000 Euros which we will have to finance from our side to supplement what is necessary to run the program.”
The Benedictine said he had traveled to Europe to find new ways of financial support for the treatment program, which is the Brotherhood’s main activity.
Vatican City, Jul 18, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis shared his condolences after hearing of a deadly traffic accident in French Guiana involving a bus that was taking young people to World Youth Day.
“His Holiness Pope Francis shares wholeheartedly in the pain of the families afflicted by the death of one of their own, and in that of the leaders and organizers of the group,” read the July 18 message.
“The Pope assures them of his prayers and he expresses his deepest sympathy to those injured, to the rescuers and to all those around them.”
Pope Francis sent the message of condolence to the Bishop of Cayenne, the country’s capital, through the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
A bus carrying young people to World Youth Day in the northeast South American country was hit head-on by a truck. The collision – the cause of which is still unknown – resulted in the death of a young Parisian girl and three other people were severely injured.
The accident occurred about 60 kilometers, or 37 miles, from Saint-Laurent du Maroni, on the main road connecting the commune to Cayenne.
“Pledging to comfort, the Holy Father imparts a particular apostolic blessing to all those affected by this drama,” the message said.
Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, the Archbishop of Paris, will lead a prayer vigil organized by the victims’ parish in France on the evening of July 18.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, the Bishop of Cayenne, Bishop Emmanuel Lafont, will offer Mass at the Cathedral.
Vatican City, Jul 18, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
During next week's World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis will be staying in a modest residency, visiting a slum and traveling without his popemobile.
“It was thought that the Pope does not feel he is treated differently from others,” said Sister Irma Terezinha, who is in charge of the Center for Sumaré where he will be staying.
“He does not like individualism, everything is done the same way for everyone and nothing will be different for him,” she added in an interview with Correio do Brasil.
Second auxiliary Bishop of Rio de Janeiro, Roque Costa Souza, told the Brazilian daily that the room of Pope Francis will have the same things as the other seven rooms of the residence.
The items include a small wooden table, a wardrobe and a cooler similar to those in hotel rooms. The Center for Sumaré, a residency built in the 1950s, underwent restoration just a few months ago and the pontiff will be staying there alongside 37 other priests and cardinals.
Blessed John Paul II also slept in the same residency during his visits to the city.
On the Pope’s agenda will also be a visit to one of Rio's “favelas,” the slum of Varginha, and a visit to Saint Francis Hospital in Providence where Franciscans look after alcohol and drug addicts.
Before his visit to Varginha, which is home to around 2,000 people, Pope Francis will bless the Olympic flags and be given the keys to the city.
Vatican press office director, Father Federico Lombardi, said Pope Francis decided to not travel with the popemobile during the event, but will use instead the jeep that is used during general audiences at the Vatican. However, he will travel in a closed car during long journeys.
Fr. Lombardi revealed that the pontiff’s agenda is also a visit to Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, and Rio de Janeiro’s mayor and state governor.
The event’s opening Mass on Wedneday, July 24, will not include the Pope, although it was originally planned to celebrated by former pontiff Benedict XVI.
The Mass will instead be lead by the Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, Orani Tempesta, and the president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Laity, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko.
World Youth Day will host a large party for the youth taking part in the event during the night of July 25.
The Stations of the Cross will be led by Pope Francis on Friday, July 26, and he will share a meal with 12 young people – two from each continent – according to Fr. Lombardi.
On Saturday July 27 the pontiff will lead an evening vigil followed by Mass the next day, where he will announce the country host for the next World Youth Day.
Miami, Fla., Jul 18, 2013 (CNA) - Preparing for its fourth event in recent years, a Florida-based international film festival named for Pope John Paul II is looking for submissions that witness to society through compelling beauty and inspiring art.
“John Paul II’s emphasis on The New Evangelization recognized the power in the medium of cinema and this festival speaks to his legacy,” said Frank William Brennan, the festival’s director of film submissions.
He said organizers are looking for “films that inspire us, that is, films that reveal such splendid beauty that we are compelled to breathe in their message, allowing it to transform our thoughts, our feelings and give us something new to exhale into the world.”
The next John Paul II International Film Festival will run from April 3-12, 2014.The festival’s various submission deadlines run from August 15 through December 6 of this year.
The festival has run in 2009, 2011 and 2012. It has received hundreds of submissions from around the world, including England, France, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain and Poland.
Peter Cardwell, a British filmmaker whose movie “The Fighter’s Ballad” previously won the festival’s Best Film prize, has said the festival and its organizers helped him secure digital distribution for his film.
“Their support didn’t just help the journey of the film,” Cardwell said at the 2012 festival. “Their support helped me personally.”
Festival executive director Laura Paulina Brennan said organizers expect a “major increase” in submissions with the late Pope’s upcoming canonization.
The festival is organized by the Miami-based nonprofit 7eventhDay Media, Inc. The organization said it aims to help “faith-inspired” filmmakers create high quality films that “serve as witness to their faith.”
The event takes its inspiration from Pope John Paul II’s 1999 “Letter to Artists.” The Pope, a former actor and playwright, praised the role of artists in society.
More information is available at the festival’s website, www.jp2filmfestival.org.
Lincoln, Neb., Jul 18, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In contrast with media reports of “time off of purgatory” for Pope Francis' Twitter followers, a canon lawyer says indulgences are a way that the Church encourages Christians to prayer.
“Because the Church has the spiritual authority that Christ has given it, the Church can invite us to particularly sanctifying moments and particularly sanctifying opportunities,” JD Flynn, special assistant to Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Neb., told CNA July 18.
An indulgence is defined as the remission of the temporal punishment – the unhealthy attachment to created things – due to sins which have already been forgiven.
The Vatican announced July 9 that Pope Francis had allowed that the faithful can receive indulgences through participation in World Youth Day.
A plenary indulgence is offered once a day to those who “devoutly participate in the sacred rites and exercise of devotion” taking place as part of World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro from July 22 to 29. The announcement was made June 24 by decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican office dealing with indulgences and confession.
Plenary indulgences are also offered to those who cannot attend the event yet who “participate in spirit in the sacred functions,” provided they follow the rites and exercises by television, radio, or “always with the proper devotion, through the new means of social communication.”
Some mainstream media outlets proclaimed Twitter followers were getting out of purgatory, with a recent headline from the U.K.'s Guardian reading, “Vatican offers 'time off purgatory' to followers of Pope Francis tweets.”
Flynn, who holds a licentiate in canon law from Catholic University of America, explained that “a better way to say it would be that the Vatican recognizes that the more time we spend in prayer, the less time we spend in purgatory.”
Allowing indulgences to those who follow World Youth Day through “the new means of social communication,” is “really an invitation to spend time in prayer with the pilgrims of World Youth Day,” he said.
“And because of the Church's authority, that prayer comes with the special graces of an indulgence.”
Indulgences are based on the Church's “special recognition … that certain activities, and activities especially at certain times, can be particularly sanctifying,” Flynn said.
He noted the historical link between pilgrimages and indulgences, saying that “a person is invited oftentimes to make a pilgrimage, and in the context of that pilgrimage is invited to sacramental confession, and also invited to pray for the Church, to pray for the Holy Father, to pray for the souls in purgatory – and those are the sanctifying things.”
“People who make spiritual pilgrimages receive in a particular way the grace to overcome the temporal penalties of their sins,” he reflected.
“The great thing about the age we live in is that people can make pilgrimages … even when they can't be physically present, so the extension of the World Youth Day indulgences to so-called 'digital pilgrims' is really a recognition that we, as members of the body of Christ, can participate in prayer and spiritual communion with one another, even when we're not in physical proximity with one another.”
Flynn explained that an indulgence “isn't a magical formula,” but is a way of participating in the graces won by Christ. The decree specifies that to obtain a plenary indulgence, a person must be “truly repentant and contrite” for their sins.
Merely following the the tweets of Pope Francis won't gain a plenary indulgence – the Apostolic Penitentiary also specified that “the usual conditions” apply.
Those usual conditions are that the individual be in the state of grace by the completion of the acts, have complete detachment from sin, and pray for the Pope's intentions. The person must also sacramentally confess their sins and receive Communion, up to about twenty days before or after the indulgenced act.
These additional requirements show that, “like everything else in Catholicism,” indulgences “are something we participate in, but it's not something that we merit.” Christ's graces obtained through indulgences come through “a particular commitment to prayer, pilgrimage, sacrifice,” Flynn explained.
He added that the authority for granting indulgences comes from the “teaching, sanctifying and governing authority of the Church” which “comes definitely from Christ,” who appointed St. Peter “to be his vicar on earth, to act in his place in order to lead people to him.”
In granting indulgences, he said, the Church “acts in accord with her vocation to lead souls to Christ.”
“We know that our Lord gave the keys of the kingdom to Saint Peter, and here the successor of St. Peter is inviting us to prayer and communion with Christ in a special way.”
“Thank God for Twitter,” Flynn emphasized.
“Thank God for Facebook, thank God for the digital continent, because here's an opportunity where they allow us to be in communion with the Church around the world, even when we can't be physically present.”
Vatican City, Jul 18, 2013 (CNA) -
The priest appointed last month as an interim prelate of the so-called Vatican Bank is associated with the “gay lobby” at the Holy See, according to an article by analyst Sandro Magister released today.
Magister's column for L'Espresso recounts that Monsignor Battista Mario Salvatore Ricca, who was appointed temporary prelate of the Institute for Works of Religion June 15, had a relationship with another man – the “intimacy” of which was “so open as to scandalize numerous bishops, priests, and laity” of Uruguay, where he served in the nunciature from 1999 to 2004.
Msgr. Ricca was appointed to his position, serving as secretary at meetings of the cardinals' commission on the Vatican Bank and assisting in meetings of the bank's board of superintendents, by the commission with the express approval of Pope Francis.
He was intended to be a part of the reform of the scandal-ridden institution.
Yet “just one week” after the appointment, Pope Francis was informed by sources within the Vatican diplomatic corps of “some episodes from Ricca's past previously unknown to him,” Magister wrote.
When Msgr. Ricca went to the nunciature in Montevideo, he had a residence assigned to his friend Patrick Haari.
In 2000, the new nuncio to Uruguay, Archbishop Janusz Bolonek, found the arrangement “intolerable,” according to Magister. He was able to have Haari dismissed, and Msgr. Ricca transferred, after the priest was found in two compromising situations.
In one of the situations, the monsignor was beaten up, having gone to “a meeting place for homosexuals” in Montevideo, as he had “on other occasions.”
By 2004 Msgr. Ricca had been transferred to the Vatican, working for the secretariat of state. Since 2006 he has been charged with the direction of several residences for clerics visiting Rome, including the Saint Martha House, where Pope Francis has taken up residence.
“This allowed him to weave an intricate network of relationships with the highest levels of the Catholic hierarchy all over the world,” according to Magister.
Though Archbishop Bolonek has always been severe in his reports on Msgr. Ricca, Magister said, “at the Vatican there are some who actively promoted” a cover-up of his misdeeds.
But his appointment as prelate of the Vatican bank brought bitterness to the “many” persons who “knew about his scandalous past,” and Pope Francis was finally made aware of it.
Magister wrote that Pope Francis responded to the information with “sadness over having been kept in the dark with regard to such grave matters, and the intention to remedy the appointment he had made.”
CNA was told by Magister July 18 that his article was “verified word for word,” and “constituted on primary sources, including documentation.”
The term "gay lobby" in reference to the Vatican made headlines recently when a group of Latin American religious recorded that Pope Francis acknowledged its existence to them in a June 6 audience.