Viva Il Papi?
On the occasion of the announcement of my appointment as the new Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith I want to express first of all my profound gratitude to our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, for the trust he has placed in me to ask me to take the position that he himself filled so effectively for the past 24 years. I can only say that I will do my best to live up to that expression of trust, with the help of God.
I have known Pope Benedict since 1981, when he came to the Vatican as the then-new Prefect of the same Congregation, where I was working at the time, on loan from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. My return to California in 1982 had already been scheduled by his predecessor, Cardinal Franjo Seper, before the latter’s retirement and Cardinal Ratzinger’s appointment had been announced.
In 1987 I was appointed by Cardinal Ratzinger, whom Pope John Paul II asked to develop the project for a new catechism for the universal Church, to serve on its Editorial Committee, a group of 7 bishops whose task it was to prepare a draft of the catechism, conduct a consultation among the bishops of the world and many scholars, and develop a final text under the direction of the Commission of 12 Cardinals of which Cardinal Ratzinger was President. I remember many occasions when he would unexpectedly join our discussions, role up his sleeves, review the proposed changes and amendments, ask our opinions and discuss them with us – we felt blessed by his insights and his encouragement, and by his real spirit of collegial work.
Since 2000 I have been a Member of the same Congregation, participating in many meetings under his guidance as Prefect. No doubt his choice of me is in part due to my familiarity with the work of the Congregation over the years. This choice is also a tribute to the Church in the United States, and a recognition of our important contribution to the work of the universal Church. I hope my 22 years of experience as a bishop in the United States will help to represent the Church here well at the Holy See, and to make the bonds between the See of Peter and the American Bishops ever stronger.
The work of the Congregation seeks principally to promote a sound understanding of the content of the Christian faith, as that has been handed on through the Church since the time of Christ, and to assist the Pope and the bishops of the Church throughout the world in the delicate task of clarifying erroneous doctrinal positions when that is judged necessary.
I look forward to undertaking this work as a service to the Petrine ministry of Pope Benedict, who has been called by Christ to serve the People of God – and especially their bishops – throughout the world. At the same time I will be sorry to have to leave San Francisco, where I have served almost ten years, and developed close ties with many priests and people. But it is comforting to know that my ties with San Francisco will not be broken, since in my new position I will retain my link with this local church by having the official title Archbishop of San Francisco emeritus, a title also enjoyed by my immediate predecessor, Archbishop John Quinn.
I plan to visit the Congregation to meet the staff and get an overview of the tasks ahead during the first week of June. I expect to relocate permanently to Rome during August, with my official date of resignation as Archbishop of San Francisco to be set for August 17, the 10th anniversary of the announcement of my appointment as Archbishop here. I ask for God’s grace and blessing on this new ministry to which He has called me, and I earnestly ask for the prayers of all who hear or read this statement. May Our Lady of Fatima, whose feast the Church celebrates today, intercede for me and guide me.
And one last thing…. There is this anonymous poster out there who calls himself Vaticanisti. As the Italian word for a journalist who covers the Holy See is Vaticanista (with an a), this improper use of the plural irks me greatly.
I am a Vaticanista, with an a – it’s the rule of the language and I'm comfortable enough in my heterosexuality to not go about changing it. Whenever a man shows skittishness about a feminine default in a Romance language, I’ve been around long enough that alarm bells go off. (His clear enjoyment of B16’s lace albs and approving of the Swiss Guards' "flamboyant fashion" doesn’t help.) By his construct, the Pope would be Il Papi.
While such linguistic distortion may be acceptable in contemporary rap music, the language of my forebears deserves a bit more respect.