Friday, December 31, 2004

#1: The New Breed

A Happy New Year to one and all!

Forgive the delay of this post -- Christmas and burying one's Newman Chaplain made for a very hectic week. More on that down the road....

In days past, it seems, Richard John Neuhaus and Tom Reese tried to jump on my bandwagon. But they're too late. Unlike Neuhaus -- misled by his own ego -- and Reese, to get it right, you must credit me.

The #1 story everyone missed this year brought the nexus of the American Catholic ambit to places like Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Kansas City, and Salina, Kansas.

It wasn't all that long ago that the road to the episcopacy almost invariably ran through the vicar general's office. The administrative center of dioceses was seen as the best possible proving ground for the men I like to call episcopabili (a bad rip of the Italian papabile, but nonetheless salient). One of Rome's consistent problems with America has been the premium on overadministration that many bishops place under the guise of "pastoral ministry." The people across the Pond feel that this robs the bishop of the true core of his ministry, being out in the parishes, and the abuse scandal -- cataclysmic mess of maladministration that it was -- gave them the opening to pursue a new mould of bishop.

When the 46 year-old Peter Jugis was appointed bishop of Charlotte in August, 2003, it was almost universally thought to be a flash in the pan. The youngest bishop in the United States as a diocesan bishop? It hadn't happened in a long time, and though Charlotte was Jugis' home diocese -- where he had served as Judicial Vicar and pastor of a parish prior to his appointment -- many still believed his experience was insufficient.

If anything, Jugis was the sentinel for the new trend: 40-something, vigorous priests with loads of pastoral experience and superior educations both in the theoretical and practical elements of church, who have been far removed from the vicar general's office. While the cries of inexperience, and the stubborness of older priests grousing about reporting to a much younger ordinary, are a harsh reality of the drawbacks, Montalvo's resurrection of the Jadot strategy of the 70's has many upsides, at least as the policymakers see things.

Three examples of the movement from this year are Kevin Rhoades, 47, Bishop of Harrisburg; Paul Coakley, 49, Bishop of Salina; and Robert Finn, 51, Coadjutor-Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

First, not having served as vicars general, these new bishops are administratively "clean" -- there are no personnel transfers on their watch which will return to haunt them. But it also means that they are less rigid in adhering to a particular mode of governance. It's not as if each are complete neophytes to running the show: Finn was editor of the archdiocesan paper in St. Louis and held several curial odd jobs, Coakley spent the better part of a year helping run the (still vacant after 15 months) diocese of Wichita -- but the better part of the latter's ministry has been in parishes, Newman centers and as director of formation at Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg. (The seminary posting gets Rome weak in the knees with excitement; you know seminary formation's one of their "biggies.")

Second, the movement of the JPII pontificate has been reversed -- bishops are being named to their home dioceses, or close by. Rhoades' name surfaced for Harrisburg in the spring (he had been rector of Emmitsburg seminary prior to his appointment), and he had stunning cred: S.T.L., J.C.L -- one magna, one summa; significant experience as head of a major national seminary at the Mount; administrative experience in Harrisburg combined with running the diocese's Spanish apostolate. (The devoted support of a cardinal-patron doesn't hurt, either.)

Third, the long-term legacy instincts of of the Revolution are served here. Take a look at the history of the USCCB, and you'll find that all the presidents -- with the upcoming exception of George (53 then) -- were named bishops in their mid-40's or younger (Skylstad, 43; Gregory, 35; Keeler, 47; Bernardin, 35... all the way back to Dearden, 40 and John Krol, 43). Why does this happen? The only way one can integrate the challenges of the presidency with those of an already-arduous episcopal ministry is by being a bishop long enough to figure it all out and compartmentalize his life in a healthy fashion. (By this standard, Chaput, named a bishop at 44, should be electable... No further comment.) So look for leadership in the conference from these guys, regardless of regime change.

On a fourth note, thanks to the news of recent days, we can now see the what becomes of the young bishop with Jose Gomez to San Antonio. Will these "boy bishops" form the farm team for the next crop of archdioceses, as Gomez was clearly groomed to do in Denver (on his way to L.A., as the whispers have already begun), or will they be left to season for bigger things? Time will tell....

We're led to think of what's to come. Sioux City and Wichita have been open for longer than a year, Grand Rapids will soon be that long, and the pile of resignation letters waiting to be taken is getting bigger and bigger. Rome might soon approve cloning, just to keep a sizable enough pool of potential bishops. But seriously, the scandal has narrowed the pool and while the first "clean" crop was able to be spread around somewhat easily, as things wear on the background checks will be causing many headaches at the Nunciature, as everything desired in certain promotions and transfers will not be able to come to pass.

This new year will be a watershed in this renewed tension between quality and quantity. But the fruits of the experiment are there for all to see -- and keep your eyes on 'em, they're good.


Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Lighting Up the Scoreboard

The Revolution continues. Legionaries, get your pom-poms...

What a surprise to wake up this morning and find Jose Gomez named the new archbishop of San Antonio. It's not an unpleasant surprise -- I met Gomez soon after he arrived in Denver and found him to be gracious, pleasant, very humble, relaxed and smiling all over the place. He's a superlative ambassador for Opus Dei and has the moxie to do great, great things.

Obviously, the overtones of the appointment are legion.

First, this will be remembered as the day Opus Dei arrived in America, with the placement of the first American bishop from the Work at the helm of a very prominent See. It'll help counter the Da Vinci Code stereotype of Opus which has come to an unusually prominent cultural cognizance in the States.

Second, with this nod, look for a commercial featuring Chaput saying, "I'm going to Disney World!" After a year in which he's been embattled from the Left, and Rightward fringe elements have publicly anticipated his martyrdom, Mel Gibson's favorite bishop has scored himself another major coup. Wagging tongues have talked up a potential Chaput move to Los Angeles for quite some time. There's just one problem with that theory: Chaput doesn't speak Spanish. That's a big problem, given Mahony's seemingly native place in the heart of the Latino community.

Smart money -- given the status quo sticks -- might just shift that spec a bit, that the road to L.A. starts in S.A. Naysayers would be wise to remember a place called Ayacucho....

And third, just when we were settling down and starting to observe, someone let Richard John Neuhaus out of his cage. "This is a new pattern," Neuhaus told Jean Torkelson of the Rocky Mountain News, citing a number of auxiliary bishops being moved to archdioceses. (What number is that? Tim Dolan, Levada, Ed O'Brien, Gene Marino, Lyke and Tom Kelly over 20 years? So that makes it six for... 40, and only two in the last decade-plus?). "Now the Holy See seems more inclined to spot likely candidates and move them up by jumping a couple of squares," the attempted sleight-of-history continued.

Not only is Neuhaus wrong, but he's also wrong, and wrong. He's on the trail of our #1 Story You Missed (which will be posted tomorrow evening, the 30th) -- but per usual, he got diverted by his own ego. I could be crude and chalk it up to Neuhaus', um, limited institutional memory, but a gentleman doesn't descend to the cattiness too often observed of clergy who should know better.

Bob Carlson to Saginaw? This has the potential for being the American Chur. And you say, "But there's no parachute in Lichtenstein!" Exactly.

I hope the good folks at the Congregation came up with an exit strategy in case this risky experiment doesn't work out.... The words odium popolo hang over this appointment like a dangerous omen. A tip for the bishop-makers among us: next time a progressive diocese opens up, you don't have to appoint a Berrigan, but just don't send one of the EWTN darlings, either. You're almost asking for it with moves like this... and don't say I didn't warn you.

I'm happy to see Listecki off to LaCrosse. It means Ray Burke actually has to be the archbishop of St. Louis now.


Thursday, December 23, 2004

Thou Good and Faithful Servant

For the vanguard of the church in Philadelphia and elsewhere, a pall will cover this Christmas. On Tuesday, Fr. Chuck Pfeffer, Penn's beloved Newman Chaplain, friend, fan and counselor to innumerable organizations and young Catholics everywhere, was found dead in bed of a heart attack at 53. God the Great Scheduler, it seems, needed some A-list talent in the 10PM Sunday slot, and there could be no better choice, even at our great loss.

Too soon, Lord, too soon. But how he suffered!

I first met Chuck as a young freshman just back from Rome who believed -- as good Philadelphia pueri ecclesiae do -- that the Eternal City is the center of the universe and source of all light in the world. In his own inimitable way, Fr. Chuck -- who had just returned from an exhilarating trip to the Holy Land -- reminded me that it was Jerusalem where Jesus walked. And, with his then-new crutches, the Chaplain's walk with Him down the Via Dolorosa was just beginning.

And the walk continued, through operations where much was hoped for but not realized, through the loss of his mother, through health problems and limitations (like the barstool at the altar and the "Chuckmobile" cart to get him through campus) which, though pressing and dangerous, never took the smile off his face, praise of his Lord off his lips or led him to turn down a commitment where he could engage and inspire the young people he loved so much. Even though he never complained once, there were whispers that Chuck would be relieved of the Newman job and put on a health leave. I don't know how the man got out of bed and out the rectory door every morning, but I do know that he did so with one firm determination -- that whatever happened, it would be God alone, not the bosses on 17th Street, who would bring his ministry to its end. Anything less would've killed his spirit.

The beauty of Fr. Chuck above all lay in a most rare and desirable charism -- to see each person as unique, and their own talents as a special gift of God, not holding one to the standard of the others. In his decade as Director of the archdiocese's Office for Youth and Young Adults (a job which, youth ministers say, "will drive even the most serene to insanity") and then at Penn Newman, Fr. Chuck used this talent to perfection, building up strong communities of faith which used that faith as an impetus for great good in the world around them. His successor has impossible shoes to fill -- ones of intellectual curiosity, immense depth of spirituality, and heroic witness to that spirituality even to the last.

Tim Senior: do this one right, or else.

In recent weeks, I'm told, his homilies had focused unusually on death and the last things, and would say in private "I can't wait to meet Jesus!" A couple weeks ago, he posted a quote from Merton on a Newman Bible study blog. It makes you wonder if he knew what was immediately ahead. With thanks and much love, knowing that we'll miss him much but that he's no longer alone and his cross has vindicated him, this is the quote. Thank you, and well done, exemplary shepherd of souls, ever good, loving and faithful servant!

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and that fact that I think that I am following
your will does not mean that I am
actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire
in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything
apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this,
you will lead me by the right road
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear,
for you are ever with me
and you will never leave me
to face my perils alone.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Pit Bull Strikes Again

First off, this is not the #1 story of the year. My synthesis of that is coming, so be patient -- this is just breaking news for the interim....

Those who know me well know of my great love for Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver -- and even those words are an understatement as I absolutely adore him, regardless of our various divergences on policy. He's one of the finest, most spiritual and savvy folks I've met along the way, with a damn good sense of humor, genuine integrity and a true love for the church and its people. He's one of the few people who could poke fun at me and get away with it, a license he takes ample advantage of, and vice versa.

And then he does something along these lines, and I'm just left speechless....

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Year in Review: Ten Stories Off the Beaten Path

It seems time for everyone's year-end wrapups, and they'll be pretty generic: Wilton Gregory to Atlanta, the Orange settlement, bishops stretching to reclaim moral rectitude, etc. will be projected as the year's big events in the Catholic world -- at least, the American Catholic world. But that's just the stuff that everybody gets to see....

What, then, are the stories inside the walls? In my mind, 2004 was the year that Rome finally got the scandal and, as much as it could, started moving the American church forward from the top. A showdown's coming early in the New Year over the renewal of the Dallas Norms, and several events in the rungs this year helped set the stage for what will be another year of newsworthy squabbling and rebuilding. Here are ten moments, trends and moves that made this year priceless. Admittedly, some are Philly-centric, but somebody's gotta do the job.

And, again, any press seeking to use these stories are to credit this blog and its author.

10. Our winner for "Best Manifestation of Pre-Scandal Mentality" -- the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, of course: 'PVI (the local ABC affiliate) broke late last month the archdiocese's plan to move Delstar, a probationary service for convicted sex offenders, into the Holy Family Center, a Catholic Social Services facility which presently also houses the Victim Assistance Office. Professionals who deal with abuse victims queued up for blocks to cry foul. But further reporting from the dailies on the prospective move has been nil -- the traditional print-broadcast pettiness getting in the way of the public interest, again.

9. From the curial perspective, the "blood pressure" of the church in the U.S. will be checked again next year. The apostolic visitation of American seminaries agreed to during the cardinals' summit in April 2002 begins in the fall. CNS reported last week that "approximately 75 bishops and 100 priests... will conduct the visitations." If it's not currently seminary policy, students will be required to sleep in cassock and Roman collar (Sorgenti surplice optional), at least for the duration of the visitation. Seminarians will also be tested to gauge their proficiency at bossing around laypeople, women religious and kissing up to donors.

8. In the 50s and 60s, it would be unusual for a vacant diocese to go more than three months without a bishop, six weeks being the norm. How ironic it is that as technology's been sped up, record-keeping made easier, and with the ability to prepare these things in advance thanks to a retirement age not legislated until after the Council, diocesan openings are taking longer and longer to fill. Today, in a stunning double-take of the spotlight, Bishop Larry McNamara is being buried in Grand Island, Nebraska. Only eight days ago, with McNamara having been chained to an oxygen tank for the last year, his successor was installed. Bosco in Greensburg and Rodimer in Paterson had to wait 18 months or more past their 75th birthdays, and now Flores in San Antonio -- five months past-due -- is making noises about hoping his day comes sooner rather than later. The consensus on this, from Rome and the diaspora in the States, leans heavily toward what can be called the "Palm Beach Theory" -- the eagerness of Montalvo and the Congregation to not name someone with unknown baggage which would come out down the road. This extends into official misconduct and any whiff of any peripheral connection with any covered-up abuse case, thus knocking most vicars-general and vicars for clergy off the fast track. In the process, this accomplishes a long-cherished goal of Rome's for the American church... more on that uplist.

7. "Return of the Tonys" -- Two of the East's better-known fixers (read: Philly Italians) were brought closer to home in '04 -- Joe Galante assumed into heaven from the war front in Dallas, Frank DiLorenzo moved from sunny Honolulu to Richmond, where the mountains don't blow up (and where, the faithful tell me, they have more money than God.) Galante is, in reality, the first bishop of Camden who actually is the bishop of Camden -- as opposed to world traveler, Diarmuid Martin attache (we love Diarmuid here), Cesar Chavez wannabe, etc. (see "Papal Tiger" and "Nicky Thug") -- since Guilfoyle, who was crazy, threatening mothers that they would go to hell if they revealed the abuse of their kids and such. And DiLorenzo has the uneviable task of succeeding the Walter Sullivan who, when asked if women's ordination would ever come, replied "Not in my lifetime." They're in distinctly different situations: Galante right across the river from home, in a diocese where he's owned a Shore house for 20 years and enough of his priests went through Overbrook for it to be a natural fit. DiLorenzo, meanwhile, as evidenced by the unusual transcontinental shuttling, his own record in Hawaii and Keeler's six-month gig as apostolic administrator in Richmond, has been sent to "clean up" what were seen as Sullivan's excesses and misinterpretations -- in 1986, this perception (probably advanced by self-proclaimed gurus in the backrooms of pizza parlors) led to the appointment of David Foley as an auxiliary bishop with special powers to Richmond. (Yet Foley and the visitators found everything to be clean and hokey and David went down to Birmingham, where he's in charge of the American wing of the papal rockettes.) In 2005, DiLorenzo's proclivity for making waves -- already splashed on the front pages less than six months after his arrival -- may come back and haunt him further if he doesn't watch himself.

6. King Ted -- As mid-decade approaches, it's safe to say what the boys across the pond saw as a reward turned out to be their greatest stroke of genius in the 2000s: sending McCarrick to Washington and making him a cardinal. For starters, were he kept in Newark without the heft of the reds, message control during the scandal would've been ten times more of a disaster than it was. But now, among a group of seemingly complacent, quiet, Romanita'-heavy resident cardinal-archbishops, Ted McCarrick has become the centrist leader (er, the John McCain?) of American Catholicism -- shockingly, bishops included. No one else among the present cast of characters would pull dusty folding chairs off a stack and have an on-record sit down with Melinda Henneberger, no one else has the serenity to know he has 95% of the Conference with him, yet not get sucked in while the outlying 5% (and the circus they bring with them) spew their vitriol, calling McCarrick a baby-killer and distorting everything else in between, too.

What Molly Ivins said of a former president who was raised fatherless rings so true for this cardinal also brought up without a dad: "his manners are so much better than those of everyone who has ever trashed him, it’s a monument to his momma." I hope he'll give himself some rest in the new year -- but the way the man runs, I highly doubt it.

5. Contrary to the view expressed by the great David Gibson in the NYTimes Week In Review last weekend, the Jesuits aren't back. Far from it -- they're being outsourced. The believers in a Jesuit renaissance keep pushing the SJ's educational tradition. Well, the secretary's job at Catholic Education in Rome was always Jesuit territory -- that is, until this year, when a Canadian-born naturalized American, Basilian Father Michael Miller, was ordained an archbishop and took up the post, succeeding the Jesuit Giuseppe Pittau.

Now let us all ask ourselves this question: Who the fuck are the Basilians? As you try and figure that one out, the realization of how far the Jezzies have fallen becomes easier and easier. Sorry, Gib.

4. "Ladies and Gentlemen, NOT Madonna!" -- While the Material Girl spent the summer charging upwards of $300 for her Reinvention Tour, it seems she found an unlikely imitator in Archbishop James Keleher of Kansas City in Kansas. Eleven years after he was kicked west and upstairs to Kansas after presiding over a mess of abuse in Belleville (a scandal which led to the rise of Wilton Gregory), the people of the latter are still paying for the actions of the 10% of its presbyterate dismissed after credible accusations. But if the good archbishop who kept a blind eye to what a Bellevillean termed a "sex ring" of priests is to be believed, the blame lies elsewhere.

While on the Kansas/Missouri/Nebraska ad limina in Rome Thanksgiving week, Keleher went scapegoatin' in a homily at the tomb of St. Peter, where he highlighted to the gathered bishops the danger of "lawyers trying to rip off the church to prevent her from carrying out her mission." This was preceded by a screed that "Nobody but other bishops understands the spiritual, emotional and mental energy required to do the job right..." Just remember the last three years and reflect on that statement.

He wasn't done, either. In a piece for The Leaven -- the KCK archdiocesan newspaper -- commemorating his 20th anniversary as a bishop, we find this gem:

"The well-being of the youth is a subject that is literally close to [Keleher's] heart. His pectoral cross - given to the archbishop by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin - bears an image of the Good Shepherd carrying a lamb, and the other 99 sheep surrounding him.

"'I always tell young people that it symbolizes for me my responsibility to them - to protect them and to be a teacher and a father and a pastor to them,' he said. 'That's an insight I don't think I realized when I became a bishop.'"

My dear Archbishop, you didn't realize it long after you became a bishop, either.

The above insight comes from none other than Wilton Gregory. It seemed that all this innocence talk had worn Wilton's infinite patience thin when, being asked a question about the national abuse scandal during his intro presser in Atlanta, the new archbishop felt the need to speak of his arrival in Belleville during "a critical scandalous episode" and the people's "great disappointment in the behavior of clergy and the ineffective monitoring of clergy."

As was said on the ground there, "Priests playing guitar in gay bars is not effective monitoring." So let's make like Keleher and blame those ripoff lawyers!

3. Well, the Rockettes are off the stage in one diocese and about to get the boot in another. Fresh from fighting Arinze over Rainbow Sash -- in the process sending the Doyennes of CWNews into downright Evangelical tizzies -- Harry Flynn banned the Legionaries of Christ/Regnum Christi in St. Paul-Minneapolis, and it seems their days in Baton Rouge are numbered thanks to violations of the Essential Norms and lack of communication with the diocesan curia. With Marciel Maciel at the peak of his clout -- after a private audience for his 6,000 eunuchs, Franc Rode' ordaining his new crop and the approval of the constitutions, he can't go much higher, extant being named a cardinal -- I'd put money down that before the pontifiate is out, we might well see a Personal Prelature created for the LC/RC, thus liberating them (as Opus Dei is) from the "interference" of the local authorities. Watch out: this is the sleeper story of '05.

2. The hierarchic wars continue: Any priest who doesn't know what's going on in Gallup, New Mexico, better brush up quick, because your ass might be next. A priest who was removed administratively on allegations of fiscal mismanagement recoursed his case to Rome, where both Clergy and the Signatura ruled in his favor, ordering Bishop Donald Pelotte to restore the priest to active ministry and compensate him for the five years over which Pelotte had him docked. Pelotte is, so far, refusing to do either. The first Native American bishop is in for a rude awakening which might well bring him down. Anything less would be a defeat for priests and a defeat for due process....

1. And the Number One story from off the trail is.... Coming Soon.

Monday, December 20, 2004

EXCLUSIVE -- MUST CREDIT: The Bushies' Roman Offering

While you weren't looking, the White House is preparing its big thank-you to Catholic conservatives for their part in swinging the President's re-election.

Conversations with apparatchicks in Washington and beyond indicate that Karl Rove, Bush's senior political adviser, is consulting with friendly clerical and lay voices in the American church on the impending appointment of Jim Nicholson's successor as ambassador to the Holy See. While the resignation of mission heads is expected at the turn of every new presidential cycle, the opening was assured by the president's nomination of Nicholson as secretary of Veterans Affairs on December 9.

In his November 26 Word from Rome, John Allen speculated that "Word about a successor is expected sometime soon." And it seems Rome's waiting -- The Times of London, in a piece about Vatican anxiety over the future of the British mission to the Holy See, last week quoted Joaquin Navarro-Valls' observation that Washington traditionally sends a businessman, as was Nicholson, who made his living in real estate before rising up the ranks at the RNC.

For all the squabbling and gnashing of teeth over Iraq, the outgoing ambassador won the genuine respect of the Curia for his intense focus on one of the Holy See's causes celebre -- human trafficking. Nicholson succeeded in ramping it up on the U.S. agenda, even to the point of holding a high-profile Justice Department conference being held in Philadelphia last year, with the eager cooperation of the local ordinary. (As if you're surprised?)

This time, it's safe to say that we'll be seeing a more prominent doctrinaire take up residence at Villa Richardson. (Michael Novak, anyone? Weigel?) It seems the post would've been Deal Hudson's in a walk, were it not for his highly un-Catholic escapades revealed by NCR earlier this year. (And he dared take on the Jesuits for heterodoxy....) But it's clear that whoever is sent will be a more forceful, theologically-versed voice for the administration's policy, so that in case of another diplomatic impasse, the mission head will be directly able to press Washington's case at the Secretariat of State, as Novak was flown in to do in the run-up to war.

Developing.... Stay tuned.

The Kid Stays In The Picture...

I've been wanting to do this for awhile....

Welcome to one and all. I have a feeling that, at least at the outset, the readership of these pages will be that very esoteric group of religion writers and ecclesiastical groupies who track obscure appointments and read Vatican policy statements in their original Italian. But anyone with a curiosity about the workings of the Catholic church -- and whatever else may be on my mind as things progress -- is warmly welcome.

You've probably come here because you know me. But, for those who don't, a brief intro to shed some light on who I am and why (as the Philadelphia mindset would have it) I have the temerity to speak knowledgably and objectively about the church.

From a very young age, while my peers were at the sandbox and the arcades, I was absorbed in the esoterica of what Andrew Greeley has referred to as "The Catholic Imagination." Two millenia of ecclesial culture have woven this tapestry of ritual, history, politic and mystique which can't be found elsewhere, nor built overnight. As a kid in the apparatus, coming from a diocese which boasts a strong tradition of priesthood, it was seen as a given from the top on downward that I would follow in that path. Obviously I haven't (a blog of this nature would be grounds for a seminarian's beheading), but the education I received along the way -- both from inside the walls and in the greater world -- has formed in me a decidedly ecclesial conscience which is convinced of the particular salience of the Catholic perspective in the secular arena.

Others have used similar words with an eye to hijacking something: in the case of the Right, public discourse (see "penalties for politicians"); on the Left, the dominant (read: rightward) movment of the church's current center (see "foundational issues"). Both extremes -- conservatives just as guilty of "Cafeteria Catholicism" as progressives -- fly in the face of an immeasurably rich tradition and cause grave harm in advancing the assimilation of secular political worldviews into the life of the church and exploiting that life for electoral purposes -- a tragedy, indeed.

Having studied the Holy See and American politics at Penn, the last election put me right in the center of the storm. The campaign's over and graduation behind, but that doesn't mean the discussion -- and the relevance of what happens when prelates and politicos tango -- should drift. If anything, it's my hope that it will flourish, and that these humble contributions at the nexus of church and state will help that along.

I must close by stating my agenda: short of seeking and highlighting truth, justice and fruitful discourse (or the lack thereof), I come with no biases. I just watch what goes on and, like an arbiter hopefully worth his salt, call foul where necessary. And I ask my readers to hold me to that.

In return, I request that any disclosures revealed here which are used for pieces cite me as the source. I'm always available -- some would say too available -- to press as a resource; feel free to reach me by e.mail at

Simply put, it took me a long time to find the center. If I can be fair, and thus distribute the pain evenly, this will be a blog well done.

First scoop in 20....