Given Pope Francis’ seemingly never-ending agenda, the run for the White House, the Orlando shooting, Brexit, Colombia’s ceasefire and general daily news, it’s virtually impossible to keep up with lower-intensity Catholic developments.
Here’s a sampling of stories that slipped through the cracks during the past week.
The Church and the LGTB community
German Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, a member of the pope’s “C-9” council of cardinal advisors and a major force in his recent Synods of Bishops on the family, said the Church owes an apology to the LGBT community during a talk at Dublin’s Trinity College.
In his remarks, Marx said “the history of homosexuals in our societies is very bad, because we’ve done a lot to marginalize [them].”
According to a Friday report from the Irish Times, the prelate said, “As Church and society, we have to say ‘Sorry, Sorry.’”
Marx said that both Church and society had been “very negative” about gay people, and described that attitude as “scandalous and terrible.”
Speaking to the newspaper after his remarks, Marx then acknowledged that he had shocked the Synod of Bishops on the Family in October 2014 when he argued that it’s not possible to dismiss a long-standing, faithful same-sex relationship as worthless.
“We have to respect the decisions of people,” he’s quoted as saying.
“You cannot say that a relationship between a man and a man and they are faithful [that] that is nothing, that has no worth,” Marx said.
On Brexit, opinions are mixed
Divorce talks between the United Kingdom and the European union in the wake of the Brexit vote have already begun, and it won’t be easy: markets have plummeted, Londoners are circulating a petition to become independent, and many predict Northern Ireland and Scotland could try to leave the U.K. to remain inside the EU.
The Church’s reaction has been somewhat diverse, though few clerics have openly shared how they voted – or how they would have voted, had they actually been British.
Pope Francis, for instance, basically ducked the question on Friday as he was greeting reporters on his way to Armenia, simply saying the vote “expressed the will of the people” that demands “a great responsibility.”
It was a somewhat tepid answer for a man who only last month changed his mind about not accepting awards to receive the prestigious Charlemagne prize, given to personalities or institutions for their efforts towards European unity.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, of Westminster, England, released a statement calling for the country to work hard to be “good neighbors” as it takes a new course that will be “demanding on all.”
“Our prayer is that all will work in this task with respect and civility, despite deep differences of opinion,” he said, referring to the fact that the “Leave” camp won by a minimum margin, 51 against 49.
“We pray that in this process the most vulnerable will be supported and protected, especially those who are easy targets for unscrupulous employees and human traffickers,” he said, at least in part in reference to Europe’s massive refugee crisis – one of the reasons many supporters of Brexit cited for the result.
But the head of England’s Bishops Conference wasn’t the only member of the college of cardinals who spoke out: Paris’ Andre Ving-Trois used Twitter to say he believes the reason why the Leave camp won was “fear.”
Italian Cardinal Angelo Banagsco, also president of his country’s Bishops Conference, went farther, saying that the result was a “very serious warning” that could lead to an “undesired domino effect.”
According to Banagsco, Europe can learn from this message of “great discomfort” and learn to respect the cultural identities of each country, denouncing that in a “blatant or blackmailing” way this hasn’t been the case in recent years.
Banagsco argued that bishops of Eastern European countries have denounced that certain aid packages are only given in exchange of the approval of “profoundly immoral” laws.
“This is not good, this method is not respectful,” he said Thursday.
One Brit who’s not leaving – a papal commission
Last February, abuse survivor Peter Saunders, member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, was asked to take a leave of absence by the rest of the members of the body.
At the time Saunders gave a press conference, saying that he’d been appointed by Pope Francis and that only the pontiff could ask him to step down.
Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, who heads the commission, said he had asked Saunders “to advise the commission on the possible establishment of a victim survivor panel to work with the commission.”
In a recent letter published by the Catholic Herald, Saunders says he’s still a member of the commission, even if on leave.
“I told Cardinal O’Malley that I would discuss this with other interested parties and that we would speak again in a couple of months,” Saunders wrote in the Herald. “That is the current situation.”
“I continue my leave of absence from the commission but remain committed to do anything I can to help our Church make the world a safer place for children,” he continued.
Montreal sex abuse policy
On the note of making the Catholic Church a safer place, the diocese of Montreal, Canada, decided that priests “and anyone in the orbit of the Church,” meaning all employees of parishes and churches and volunteers are not allowed to be alone with minors.
Archbishop Christian Lépine of Montreal released a statement saying that he will create a bureau in the diocese called the “Service of Responsible Pastoral Ministry,” which will be tasked with rolling out the new policy.
In Argentina, the pope’s charitable pet project is in deep waters
Two weeks ago, Scholas Occurrentes, a pontifical foundation created by Francis to try to promote a culture of encounter through education, culture, sports and technology, made headlines after the pontiff asked its two leaders to return the million-dollar donation they had requested to the Argentine government.
In a letter to José María del Corral and Enrique Palmeyro, heads of Scholas, the pope told them he was afraid they’d fall down the path of corruption, and asked them to be “apostles of a message, not businessmen of international organizations.”
Talking about one of Scholas’ flag ships, a soccer “Match for Peace,” the pope wrote that he prefers a game “in a neighborhood field, with a normal ball but with joy, to a great championship in a famous stadium.”
The foundation agreed on returning the money to the Argentine government- though technically, they never got it as the request was still being processed- but had decided to go through with the soccer event, scheduled for July.
Several local reports, however, indicate that the match will also be suspended. Scholas had said they were waiting for the pope to greenlight their next moves, but Argentina’s public news agency confirmed it had been cancelled.
The event, which included some of soccer’s biggest names, was being financed through corporate donations, secured by exploiting Pope Francis’ image: the invitation to cooperate was done through a PDF file, which promised several benefits, including a private audience with the pontiff for those donating between 50,000 and 150,000 dollars.