Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie....

Last week, I received an e.mail from Stephen Crittenden, religion correspondent for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Astonishingly, it seems Whispers has more than a couple readers Down Under -- surviving the Dregs of Pell has to be a team effort, after all, even if it takes a Yank to lend a hand. Crittenden told me he was banking (hoping, actually) that the Theology of the Body would make like it didn't exist in Deus caritas est.

The encyclical dropped and, well, long may Wojtyla's personal constructs rest in peace.

We had a really good exchange via e.mail, and Crittenden was kind enough to invite me onto his weekly programme on National Radio in Australia, The Religion Report. Canberra called for the interview late last night, which made it onto the broadcast aired there at 8.30am Wednesday, 4.30 pm Tuesday here in Philadelphia.

So, at long last, many of you can hear me -- RealAudio and Windows Media links are available and I appear at about the 16th minute....

Try not to cringe.

Fellow panelists were Charles Curran (you know him -- some of you love him, some of you don't) and the head of Caritas Australia, Jack de Groot. The topic was, of course, the encyclical.

So listen up and enjoy..... And for all those coming as a result this morning's broadcast, G'day and a thousand welcomes.

Thoughts for the panelist? E.mail him.


Yet More SSPX

" I couldn't emphasize it enough, how important the December 22 speech of Benedict to the Curia was [to] the Lefebvrists becoming much more open to reconciliation. They saw this as an affirmation that they can accept the Council only in the light of Sacred Tradition.... This was major for them."
That from a source close to the SSPX, on the root of the recent warmth which has led to tomorrow's Lefebvrite summit meeting at Flavigny.

Also cited is a very recent interview, excerpted below, with Richard Williamson -- reported to be "obstinate" as regards a reconciliation -- as evidence of his clash with the positive view of Benedict's approach taken by Superior-General Bernard Fellay, and the widespread perception even at the Society's highest levels that he is not immediately disposed to a reunion....
CFN: So from the Curia address, which way does [Benedict XVI's vision for the church] seem to be [directed]?

BW: Altogether in line with the Second Vatican Council, relying in particular on the Council's teaching on religious liberty. But that teaching was a major novelty of the Council, and a grave error, so the Pope's Christmas address to the Curia suggests that the 40-year-old crisis of the Church is going to get yet worse rather than better.

CFN: In fairness to the Pope, could you sum up the rest of the address leading up to what he says about the Council and religious liberty.

BW: Briefly, he opens his remarks about Christmas and the teaching and example given by John Paul II. He comments positively on two of his predecessor's 2005 initiatives: World Youth Day in Cologne and the Synod of Bishops on the Holy Eucharist. Finally he comes to the last event of 2005 on which he wishes to reflect, the 40th anniversary of the closing in 1965 of the Second Vatican Council.

CFN: Does he immediately then begin talking about religious liberty?

BW: No, he says firstly that the 40 years following the Council have seen much conflict, because two interpretations of the Council clashed. A bad interpretation wanted to follow "the spirit of the Council", and not its letter, or texts. A good interpretation wanted the Church's truth to remain unchanged, only re-thought and re-expressed. The latter interpretation has borne and is bearing good fruit, says the Pope.

CFN: Do you agree with him here?

BW: Alas, prior to John XXIII all popes agreed that to guard Catholic doctrine, it is dangerous to change even the words with which it is expressed, especially when those words have been hammered out over the ages. Freshen people's understanding of old words, yes. Change those words, no! But from John XXIII onwards, each of the conciliar popes have wanted to change the words, which is why Catholic doctrine has been severely harmed. How many youths of World Youth Day held in Cologne last year know their catechism?

CFN: How did Benedict XVI come to the question of religious liberty?

BW: He went on to say that the problem before the Council was to reconcile the Church with modern man: how is one today to relate faith to science? Church to State, Catholicism to other religions? He said that the Council's solution to all three essentially connected problems was its teaching on religious liberty, which was an example of true reform, because instead of changing Catholic principles, it merely applied the same principles afresh to modern circumstances.

CFN: Again, do you agree that Vatican II changed only application of Catholic principles, and not the principles themselves?

BW: No, it changed the very principles, which is why the Church is in such an upheaval. For instance Benedict XVI went on to say that as the medieval Church reconciled St. Augustine's Catholic thinking with pagan Aristotelian thinking of that time, so Vatican II reconciled with modern (liberal) reason. To reconcile Augustine's supernatural truth with Aristotle's natural truth is one thing, but to reconcile Catholic truth with modern error is quite another. Because what Benedict XVI calls "modern reason" is the subjective philosophy of modern man, which cuts him off from all objective truth. How can such falsehood be made Catholic? Poor Benedict XVI has far too much respect for "modern man"!
Doesn't sound like the docility of someone who's making plans to return into the fold.


From the Fringes of Econe....

Word from allies of Richard Williamson, the SSPX bishop in schism known for his bombastic statements regarding Jews, Muslims and racial minorities, is that the tomorrow's convocation of the 22 Lefebvrist groups at Flavigny "could get ugly," implying that Williamson -- who has been seen in many corners as the biggest obstacle to a unity deal -- is prepared to dig in his heels and make the process much more complicated than it has to be.

Last night, it was first reported here that Williamson was seen as "obstinate" toward a unity pact.

This will make manifest and bring to the fore a long-festering divide within the Society.

As always, keep it here for more.... We are less than 12 hours away.


Thinking Anglicans, Thinking Catholics....

One of the Tablet pieces which has generated the most buzz in recent weeks is Clifford Longley's take on same-sex civil partnerships, published in the 7 January edition.

The piece was not published online, but Simon Sarmiento of the oh-so-valuable CofE digest Thinking Anglicans was so intrepid as to ask for the paper's permission to run the piece on his site.

Gratefully, it was granted, so do go read. Even if you find yourself disagreeing with Longley, it will make you think....

(And, by the by, Simon tells me that the General Synod of the Church of England meets week, with an "almighty battle" over the consecration of women bishops slated to be on tap.... Keep an eye on TA for all the latest.)


More on Flavigny

Tomorrow, as previously reported here, representatives of all the religious groups which form the aggregate Lefevbrist movement are meeting in Flavigny, France.

It is widely believed that the convocation is being held in an attempt to unite the groups and brief them on a proposed reconciliation between the Holy See and the Society of St. Pius X, the flagship splinter-sect which broke communion with Rome in 1988 at the ordination of four bishops without papal approval by the Tridentine renegade Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

In exchange for the return to full communion of the Lefebvrist bishops -- which by no means could come immediately, but toward which goal tomorrow's summit is oriented -- and other, unspecified conditions, it's said the Holy See could be prepared to grant:
  • an acknowledgment that the Pian, or Tridentine, rite was not abrogated in the liturgical reforms following the Second Vatican Council;
  • an acknowledgment of the Old Mass' place and value in the life of the Latin church;
  • an acknowledgment that the SSPX never sought on its own accord to enter into schism;
  • an Apostolic Administration, subject to the Congregation for the Clergy, for the Society to maintain administration of its chapels, seminaries and other apostolates
Before anything is sealed, however, several questions do remain.

The first is whether, if the plan as sketched out goes forward at all, the four SSPX bishops return in unison. Two of them are said to be publicly noncommittal: Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, and Richard Williamson, who last night was reported to be "obstinate." Alfonso de Galarreta is said to be more aligned with Fellay's pro-reconciliation stance.

The timetable for all this has been expedited by the exigencies of the SSPX leadership. Fellay's term as Superior General expires later this year, and as he is perceived as the most-amenable of the four to a reconciliation, an accord hammered out with him as a principal would likely provide the best possible outcome, both for Rome and Econe.

While promotions and sacramental titles would not be part of any deal, as Popes do not bargain their prerogatives and the freedom of the office, Schmidberger -- the last of Lefebvre's closest aides still in the Society's upper echelon of leadership -- is seen as the Society's likely future head, particularly given the moderation with which he has handled the issue of its potential return; he was in the room with Fellay on 29 August as the SSPX leadership met with a Pope for the first time since the 1988 excommunications.

Lastly, one would be led to wonder what Rome seeks in return for the concessions it seems prepared to grant the Society. In a word, as one source puts it, all Rome wants is "the four bishops back," and in communion. (Of course, in order to do so, they must profess to accept the validity of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council as part of the Magisterium, etc.)

Even if a splinter, or more than just a few, of the SSPX's priests and faithful remain outside the church, the Society's sources of sacramental life vis a vis the ordination of priests and the consecration of churches would be cut at the knees were the four bishops to return to Rome in one piece. Be reminded, however, that many variables remain fluid and are changing by the hour.

More as it comes....




“Jesus, at the sight of the crowds, was moved with pity” (Mt 9:36)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Lent is a privileged time of interior pilgrimage towards Him Who is the fount of mercy. It is a pilgrimage in which He Himself accompanies us through the desert of our poverty, sustaining us on our way towards the intense joy of Easter. Even in the “valley of darkness” of which the Psalmist speaks (Ps 23:4), while the tempter prompts us to despair or to place a vain hope in the work of our own hands, God is there to guard us and sustain us. Yes, even today the Lord hears the cry of the multitudes longing for joy, peace, and love. As in every age, they feel abandoned. Yet, even in the desolation of misery, loneliness, violence and hunger that indiscriminately afflict children, adults, and the elderly, God does not allow darkness to prevail. In fact, in the words of my beloved Predecessor, Pope John Paul II, there is a “divine limit imposed upon evil”, namely, mercy (Memory and Identity, pp. 19ff.). It is with these thoughts in mind that I have chosen as my theme for this Message the Gospel text: “Jesus, at the sight of the crowds, was moved with pity” (Mt 9:36).

In this light, I would like to pause and reflect upon an issue much debated today: the question of development. Even now, the compassionate “gaze” of Christ continues to fall upon individuals and peoples. He watches them, knowing that the divine “plan” includes their call to salvation. Jesus knows the perils that put this plan at risk, and He is moved with pity for the crowds. He chooses to defend them from the wolves even at the cost of His own life. The gaze of Jesus embraces individuals and multitudes, and he brings them all before the Father, offering Himself as a sacrifice of expiation....

In the face of the terrible challenge of poverty afflicting so much of the world’s population, indifference and self-centered isolation stand in stark contrast to the “gaze” of Christ. Fasting and almsgiving, which, together with prayer, the Church proposes in a special way during the Lenten Season, are suitable means for us to become conformed to this “gaze”. The examples of the saints and the long history of the Church’s missionary activity provide invaluable indications of the most effective ways to support development. Even in this era of global interdependence, it is clear that no economic, social, or political project can replace that gift of self to another through which charity is expressed. Those who act according to the logic of the Gospel live the faith as friendship with God Incarnate and, like Him, bear the burden of the material and spiritual needs of their neighbours. They see it as an inexhaustible mystery, worthy of infinite care and attention. They know that he who does not give God gives too little; as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta frequently observed, the worst poverty is not to know Christ. Therefore, we must help others to find God in the merciful face of Christ. Without this perspective, civilization lacks a solid foundation....

We cannot ignore the fact that many mistakes have been made in the course of history by those who claimed to be disciples of Jesus. Very often, when having to address grave problems, they have thought that they should first improve this world and only afterwards turn their minds to the next. The temptation was to believe that, in the face of urgent needs, the first imperative was to change external structures. The consequence, for some, was that Christianity became a kind of moralism, ‘believing’ was replaced with ‘doing’. Rightly, therefore, my Predecessor, Pope John Paul II, of blessed memory, observed: “The temptation today is to reduce Christianity to merely human wisdom, a pseudo-science of well-being. In our heavily secularized world, a ‘gradual secularization of salvation’ has taken place, so that people strive for the good of man, but man who is truncated…We know, however, that Jesus came to bring integral salvation” (Redemptoris Missio, 11).

Fulltext here.


George: "I'm Sorry"

Cardinal George of Chicago faced a very angry group of parishioners last night.
"I'm sorry to be with you because this occasion is one that shames me certainly," George said.

The crowd of more than 200 at St. Agatha Catholic Church hammered him with the same question again and again about the abuse allegations against Rev. Daniel McCormack that date back to 2000: Why didn't we know sooner?

The emotional meeting came on the same day that another allegation against McCormack surfaced, at least the fifth in less than two weeks.

The latest abuse occurred over the last 24 months and happened repeatedly, said Jeff Anderson, the lawyer for the latest alleged victim.

Neither Anderson nor law enforcement officials would rule out the possibility that some of the alleged abuse took place while McCormack was being monitored by the Chicago Catholic Archdiocese. The archdiocese appointed a priest to monitor McCormack's contact with children at the rectory after the first allegation was made against him in August....

On Monday night, George made himself a target for criticism at his meeting with parishioners at St. Agatha.

"I am truly sorry that you had as a pastor someone accused of molesting small children," he said.

Several at the meeting said they felt angry and betrayed by the way the archdiocese handled the allegations against McCormack.

"Right now, I have a trust issue with the archdiocese. And if you don't have a trust issue, you should. I need my answers, sir, I really do," said Tara Rice, 37, a parent of children at Our Lady of the Westside Catholic School, housed inside St Agatha

"Why was Dan McCormack still here?"

Mary McLauren, who oversees the after-school program, said that she repeatedly saw young boys knocking on the rectory's back door during the fall, when McCormack was meant to be monitored.

"He did not do what you told him to do," she screamed at the cardinal. "I am hurting. I pray that the Lord will forgive me for not speaking out earlier."

George once again said that the archdiocese had not received an allegation in August, only a notification from law enforcement that McCormack had been questioned.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Laying the Groundwork?

A call came in this morning from one of our trusted sources, known for his proficiency in predicting and reporting all things SSPX. (This guy has never broken communion, however.)

The line was this: that on Wednesday, all the Lefevbrist groups will be meeting somewhere in France. As the source said in predicting its likely outcome: "The excommunications will be annuled, mass sanations of everything [i.e. the illicit rites conducted through the years], and the indult will be granted in privatu -- that is, for private celebrations."

Minutes ago, an e.mail arrived from Rome reporting something in that ballpark... And Novus Ordo Watch is running an alert which states that "Source tells Novus Ordo Watch that there will be a meeting of all religious societies that have ties with the SSPX, in Flavigny, France, on February 1. Secondly, the SSPX Higher Council will meet on February 7-8; all four bishops will be present."

Could it be -- the Devil really won't need his refrigerator anymore?

SVILUPPO (8.35pm): Further information has arrived on the meeting....

Apparently, it has been called at the behest of Mons. Bernard Fellay, the SSPX Superior General, and the First Assistant General, Fr Franz Schmidberger. I'm told that a split exists among the Society's four bishops, with Richard Williamson said to be "obstinate," possibly prepared to lead those of the group who decide not to return. No word is given as to the stance of the other two bishops ordained by Lefevbre in defiance of the Holy See and John Paul II in 1988: Tissier de Mallerais and Alfonso de Galarreta.


SVILUPPO (12.30pm, 31 January):
For those entering the blog through this post, a further update on tomorrow's meeting can be found here.

"It's A Zoo"

More trouble in Chicago.... A correspondent sends the feed:
There are now more allegations of sexual abuse against Fr. Dan McCormack. The Cardinal is going to the parish tonight to speak with a very angry group of parishoners.

I might also add that when the Cardinal appeared on the news this past Saturday, he looked pretty subdued, the most subdued I've ever seen him. Going so far as to say that the Archdiocese did not respond accurately.

It's leading the news constantly...and it's a very very big mess.

One thing I'll note is that the Cardinal keeps saying that he wants to go to the bishops conference and modify the norms to better deal with allegations that go to civil but not church authorities.

Just when one would think this had died down....it's a zoo.
More as it breaks.


Sunday with Bishop Gumbleton

Here's a fun exercise you should try sometime. I never thought anything scientific would come of it -- then again, if you want to make God laugh, you tell him your plans....

It's a force of habit, but also an ecclesiological thing, that I usually throw titles out the window in conversation. Let's face it: if you're ordained and you're out there speaking in the commentariat, as with anyone else who's doing face and voice time, you're usually not there because of what you wear, but because you're chatty and have something to say. Like me. Like all of us who do it for a living.

So next time you try talking to someone whose biases you're trying to feel out, drop the name of, say, "Joe Fessio." If you get vicious mouth-foaming and screams of "You must respect the priesthood! I am a God Warrior!" you have your answer.

Conversely, with the same experiment subject (who is, most likely, unassuming that any kind of research is going on), proceed to drop the name of "Tom Gumbleton" (a successor of the apostles, mind you).

Don't be surprised if you don't get the same reaction, and actually end up seeing something more akin to the visceral sneer of a hopped-up homeowner who's thinking of the neighbors down the street they want evicted just because they don't like the look of 'em.

Whoever said the cafeteria was closed was making a Very. Presumptuous. Statement. Just look at the head table.

I'm not a ginormous Gumbleton enthusiast or anything, I'm just saying that this is what is. And with that in mind, it seems his parishioners at St. Leo's are eager to not let him go.

Loggia Poll
question: are they vicious heterodox or do they just know good pastoring when they see it?
The 11 a.m. Sunday mass draws a diverse crowd, who come from nearby and as far away as Farmington Hills and Ann Arbor. On Sunday, they applauded when Gumbleton pledged to keep his activist ministry alive, even though he announced last week his official retirement as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Detroit.
The resignation has still not been accepted by Rome of yet. Maybe tomorrow? Seems the overzealous have fallen into the Bishop Pilla Trap of Confusion yet again....

But I digress.

St. Leo parishioners, however, can't imagine the parish without Gumbleton, who turned 76 on Thursday.

"He's a solid part of this community. The area is poor, and we need this church. He means more than you can imagine to this community," said George Evans, 52, a cab driver from Detroit.

Suzanne Camino, 43, a musicologist, travels from Ann Arbor with her daughter, Elena Chambers, 7, for Sunday mass because she admires Gumbleton's ministry.

"He's been a real guide for me, mostly through his sermons and examples," Camino said. "It is the Catholic faith I was taught as a child that focuses on peace, justice and service to others."

Margie Rivera, 50, a nurse anesthetist from Farmington Hills, is inspired by St. Leo's outreach to the poor, through a soup kitchen and programs.

"We love him. We are parishioners here because he walks the talk," Rivera said.

Gumbleton said he expects to be able to remain at St. Leo's, as do many retirement-age yet active pastors at other Detroit-area parishes. Gumbleton spends many weekdays traveling in the United States and abroad, most recently to Haiti, to preach on peace issues.

Gumbleton said he and Maida haven't discussed whether he will remain as pastor.

It doesn't look like it'll happen.... Then again, I've known retired auxiliaries who've pastored their parishes until they turned 80.

Uh-oh. Seems they've got that new-fangled vibrant liturgy there, too

St. Leo's service stretches past 90 minutes, and the choir sings African-American spirituals. In other parishes, the Peace of Christ handshake with people in adjacent pews takes a minute. But at St. Leo's, it resembles a 10-minute celebration as parishioners migrate around the church grasping hands with friends as well as first-timers.

Good God. People are actually sharing love at the Eucharist.... Horrors, I tell you -- horrors.

In his homily Sunday, Gumbleton renewed his call for Catholic leaders to do more outreach to Catholics who were sexually abused by priests. Earlier this month, Gumbleton revealed that as a teenager he was molested by a priest, and he called for legislators to pass laws to give victims of past abuse more time to file civil lawsuits against the church.

That position puts Gumbleton at odds with Maida and other U.S. bishops.

"Gumbleton at odds".... What's news about that?


Auto da Fe OK?

The other day, as St. Blog's "faithful" (read: angry, love-challenged) venom has occasioned a renaissance of the term in popular conversation, I did a Google of auto da fe. And what I found was, unsurprisingly, a mirror of the worst excesses and hypocricies of our own time.

If the above portrait and accounts of the Great Madrid Auto da Fe of 1680 -- at which 72 clandestine Jews were put to trial to ensure that the marriage celebrations of the Spanish King Charles II would be sufficiently Catholic -- is to be believed, Mass was said as the tribunal proceeded. The crucifix was turned to face away from those judged to be unloved of God. The king himself lit the pyre for the burnings.

How wonderfully orthodox!

And here's a definition I can't get over:
Those not acquitted were burnt. The reason why inquisitors burnt their victims was because they are forbidden to “shed blood”; an axiom of the Roman Catholic Church being, “Eccle’sia non novit san’guinem” [sic] (the church is untainted with blood).
So even then, we can see, following the letter of the law was no problem for the Inquisition-types. It's just that whole damn spirit of the thing -- i.e. the letter's raison d'etre -- that's so oppressive and inhibitive to "truly orthodox" (read: angry, love-challenged) teaching.

Then again, who ever said "real Catholics" had to follow the spirit of anything?

The timing for all this comes thanks to a story from today's Telegraph. Apparently, one of Papa Ratzi's trusted hands will be shown taking a curious line on the guardianship as practiced in the days of old:

The Vatican is preparing for fresh controversy over the Inquisition after allowing an official to appear in a television documentary to offer a defence of the "Holy Terror".

The Rev Joseph Di Noia, the Under-secretary of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, admits in a television series starting tonight that the use of torture and public burnings were "mistakes".

But the American-born cleric argues that these methods of suppressing heresy were explicable in the context of the times, when people believed passionately in heaven and hell....

Interviewed in the documentary, The Secret Files of the Inquisition, Fr Di Noia says: "It was a mistake to torture people.

"However, torture was regarded as a perfectly justified, legitimate way of producing evidence and it was therefore legally justified."

I'm running a stopwatch to see how quickly "authentic" (read: angry, love-challenged) Catholics try and exploit this in an attempt to justify Bush.

Just watch -- it'll happen, even if Fr. Gus (as DiNoia is known) pointedly said "was" and not "is."

The New York-born Dominican undersecretary of the CDF -- widely tipped to rise even further on the Curial ladder in the April reshuffle -- is highly respected by operatives on both sides of the ecclesiastical spectrum. In fact, they gush over him. As we all know, figures who attract that kind of universal enthusiasm are few and far between these days -- not to mention that, as is the case with his boss (the new Prefect, you know him), he's got the Pope's trust and friendship.

Talk about having the wind at your back.

If any of our Brit readers get to watch this documentary -- it's running on the UKTV History channel beginning tonight -- please send your reviews.... I'd be keen to post them.


Sunday, January 29, 2006

24 Months of Murmuratio?

There's a great story in the modern lore of the Society of Jesus.

One day, the Society's head, Fr Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, was walking in the Vatican Gardens when he happened upon the then-prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, accompanied by his sister Maria. (Maria Ratzinger died in 1991 but served until her death as the manager of her brother's household.... We all know who succeeded her in that post.)

Seeing the Black Pope out of the corner of his eye, the Grand Inquisitor beckoned him -- "Father-General! Father-General! Come, come!"

Cardinal Ratzinger was indulging in his favored pastime: sharing a respite with his feline friends. (Meow.) Introducing the Dutchman to the bevy of streetcats which had gathered around their beloved curial patron, the prelate known as Panzerkardinal told the Jesuit, "You see, Father-General, this is the audience that listens to me."

It's no secret that much of Cardinal Ratzinger's human "audience" (that doesn't listen to him) has long been known for its cattiness. However, this was something completely different -- for all the intrigues of the world of men, these were his true friends.

But I digress.

The audience has since grown a bit for the man who became Benedict XVI. As for Kolvenbach, speculation has grown in recent weeks about whether the head of the church's largest order since 1983 will follow in the tradition of his predecessors extending back to Ignatius of Loyola and lead the Society until his death.

Until a 5 November audience the Pope granted to Fr Carlos Alfonso Azpiroz Costa, the Master of the Dominicans, Peter-Hans Kolvenbach was the only major superior to be received in audience by the new pontiff. (Benedict XVI has since received Fr José Rodríguez Carballo, the minister-general of the Observant Franciscans, on 26 January.) In fact, the Black Pope has met with his "White" counterpart on several occasions since Ratzinger's April election, the most recent of which took place last month.

Unlike practically every other religious community in the church, Ignatius designed his Society as a counterpoint to the capitular model; that is, it does not convene for plenary meetings on a fixed schedule.

The General Congregation, as the Jesuit convocation is known, is called either at the death of a Superior General to elect his successor, or at the discretion of a General who wishes to convoke the community to hear its mind on salient issues. For example, the 32nd General Congregation in 1975 was convoked to examine the Jesuit mission ten years following the Second Vatican Council -- its emphasis on social justice crystallized much of the initiative for which the Society was called to heel six years later. The last GC, also an extraordinary one, was held in 1995. Between the Provincials, who sit on it by virtue of their office, and elected delegates from the provinces, the total membership of a modern GC numbers around 200.

At a private audience granted to Kolvenbach on 11 June 2005, sources within the Society tell Whispers that the Father-General requested Benedict XVI's input on consulting with the Jesuit provincials worldwide on the "possible" calling of a General Congregation in 2008, the business of which which would "possibly" include the election of his successor as Superior General.

This doesn't happen everyday. As one Roman illustrates the ideal, "There are two jobs in the church you don't give up -- the Pope and the Black Pope." The lone exception was Pedro Arrupe, who suffered a debilitating stroke in 1981 and resigned two years later, between which time the "imposition" of the papal delegates Paolo Dezza (later a cardinal) and Giuseppe Pittau (now an archbishop and the former secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education) had taken place.

The delegati were so loved that one novitiate named its pitbulls after them.

Benedict gave Kolvenbach the go-ahead to canvass his provincials, which he did last November at the opening of the Tri-Jubilee Year (the 450th anniversary of Ignatius of Loyola's death, the 500th birthday of Francis Xavier and the 500th birthday of Bl. Peter Favre) in Loyola. The consultation was carried out individually.

Alongside the discussion of principals, however, Kolvenbach's plan attracted resistance in the Curia, particularly in the Secretariat of State, fearful that a retirement at the helm of the Jesuits could establish a dangerous precedent and, in future, be forced on political grounds.

The Father-General returned to the Pope on 15 December in private audience to report on the soundings he had taken the month prior.

Still unclear, however, is whether Kolvenbach's resignation will definitely be on the table.

By the time the 35th General Congregation would be slated to meet in early 2008, the Father-General will be months away from his 80th birthday, and the battles of the years would make even the strongest of men weary.

If his retirement plan goes forward, however, a handful of names are being prominently mentioned in Jesuit circles, each in the "ideal" age range of late fifties to early sixties: the Australian Provincial, Fr Mark Raper; Fr Orlando Torres, a Puerto Rican currently at the Jesuit Curia's formation desk in Rome and the former Jesuit superior on Puerto Rico; and Italian Fr Franco Imoda, the former rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University, who is seen as a "dark horse." Each are said to be "Arrupe people," in one way or another.

Raper, who served through the 1990s as head of Jesuit Relief Services in Rome, is extremely well-regarded among his confreres for his faith and justice credentials, having championed refugee resettlement and reconciliation efforts on several continents. Combining what one well-placed Jesuit calls an "Australian, shoot from the hip instinct" with the refinement of Roman experience, Raper is a past recipient of the "Servant of Peace" Award given by the Path to Peace foundation in New York, and a member of the Order of Australia, the highest honor his home country can bestow.

Torres is a talented linguist, respected as a "Jesuit's Jesuit." In some quarters, however, he is said to be viewed as an "ideologue" -- a negative connotation in the Society -- and his background in the "protected world" of Jesuit formation might be viewed across a critical mass of the Society as a liability, as would his US passport.

As rector of the Gregorian, Imoda -- a psychiatrist who earned his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago -- served in Rome's most prominent educational office, and is quite well-known and well-regarded around town.

Imoda also co-founded the Greg's Institute for Psychology, and in a 2002 interview with the National Catholic Reporter, as the issue of psychological screening and observation came to the forefront of the emerging abuse crisis in the United States, said that "“If we take secular psychology blindly, it’s inadequate. But if we believe [psychology] has nothing to say to us because we already have everything in our hands, we would be seriously mistaken.”

According to John Allen, Imoda's message was that "it’s a mistake to think you can bypass psychology in vocations work and skip directly to the spiritual level."

"'When you do spiritual direction, when you do training, you do some psychological work,' Imoda said. 'You cannot perform a spiritual intervention completely separated from the psychological or human aspect,'" NCR reported.

It's been said that, of the names mentioned here, Imoda's election as Father-General would receive the warmest reception at the Vatican.

A fourth name in circulation is that of Mexican Fr José Morales Orozco, Torres' predecessor as assistant to the General for formation and current rector of the Iberoamericana University in Mexico City, the crown jewel of the Jesuit establishment south of the border. As head of formation for the Mexican province before going to Rome, Morales' recruitment efforts were known for their success, which won him the posting to the Jesuit Curia. It is speculated that he could be Kolvenbach's favored candidate.

As a living General would wield significant clout in the election of his successor, and given the closness which has long marked Peter Hans Kolvenbach's relationship with Joseph Ratzinger, it could be said that allowing Kolvenbach to retire and preside over the process would give Benedict XVI his best possible hand in influencing the future of the Society.

Outlining the topics the next General Congregation will likely visit, a professed who knows the players tells me that, given Kolvenbach's "attenuated social justice leadership," the prime seems pumped for a reemphasis on the Jesuit model of "the service of the faith and the promotion of justice," the title of the keystone document of GC 32, which was passed on its final day of session.

As a reminder that 20 years is but a day to a community now in its 472nd year, I was also told that "the brutta figura way that Arrupe was treated by John Paul has not been forgotten."

Whatever happens, it will be interesting. Of course, this is an early riding, the exigencies of which are changing by the day and hour. But stay tuned and, as always, keep it here.


Week of Love, Caravan of Peace

As segements of his flock continue in their quest to tear each other to shreds, Benedict XVI marked the close of his pontificate's Love Week by delivering yet another cry for love and peace at this morning's Angelus, offering a tribute to consecrated men and women as the 2 February day of Consecrated Life approaches.

Present in the Square were the children of Italian Catholic Action, who concluded the month dedicated to peace with their annual "Caravan of Peace."

Two members of the group were brought to the window to release two doves.... "Dear children, I know you have proposed to be the 'team of peace,' guided by the great coach, who is Jesus," the Pope told the group, "For this, I entrust to Catholic Action the charge I proposed in the Message of 1 January: always learn to say and do truth, and so you will become builders of peace."

And yet again, it should be noted, no consistory for 21 February was announced.

Loggia translation of the Pope's Catechesis:
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

In the Encyclical published last Wednesday, recalling the primacy of love in the Christian life and that of the Church, I wanted to remember that the privileged testifiers of this primacy are the Saints, who in their beings, in thousands of different tones, a hymn to the God of Love. The liturgy celebrates this every day of the year. For example, I thik of those we commemorate in these days: the apostle Paul with the disciples Timothy and Titus, Saint Angela Merici, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint John Bosco. These are very different Saints among themselves: the first appeared at the beginnings of the Church, and were missionaries of the first evangelization; in the Middle Ages, Thomas Aquinas is the model of Catholic theology, which encounteres in Christ the supreme synthesis of truth and of love; in the Renaissance, Angela Merici brought forward a life of sanctity which lived in the lay world; in the modern era, Don Bosco, enflamed by love for Jesus the Good Shepherd, took upon himself the care of the poorest children and became, for them, their father and teacher. In truth, the whole story of the Church is a story of holiness, animated by the one Love which has its source in God. In fact, only that supernatural love, as that which always flows forth anew from the heart of Christ, can explain the prodigious flowering, in the course of the centuries, of Orders, Religious Institutes male and female and other forms of consecrated life. In the Encyclical, among the Saints most noted for their charity, their love, John of God, Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac, Joseph Cottolengo, Luigi Orione, Teresa of Calcutta.

This lineup of men and women, formed by the Spirit of Christ who made them models of evangelical dedication, brings us to consider the importance of consecrated life as expression and school of charity. The Second Vatican Council underscored as the imitation of Christ in chastity, in poverty and in obedience all those directed to the accomplishment of perfect love. It's right to place the importance and worth of consecrated life in light, as the Church celebrates next 2 February, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, the Day of Consecrated Life. In the afternoon, as did John Paul II, I will preside at Mass in the Vatican Basilica, at which are invited in a special way the consecrated men and women who life in Rome. Together we will thank God for the gift of consecrated life and we will pray it continues in the world as an eloquent sign of his merciful love.

We now turn to Mary, mirror of love. With her maternal help, may Christians, and in a special manner consecrated men and women, walk forward and joyously along the way of holiness.
Notably, this morning's talk was the fourth time in a month in which Benedict XVI has deliberately included Bl. Teresa of Calcutta by name among the "saints."

Immediately following the Angelus, the Pope also recalled the World Day of Leprosy, which takes place this week:
Today is the World Day for those stricken by Leprosy, started more than 25 years ago by Raoul Follereau and advanced by the associations inspired by his humanitarian work. I wish to extend a special greeting to those who suffer from this disease, and encourage missionaries, health-care workers the and volunteers who labor on this frontier of human service. Leprosy is a symptom of a grave and widespread evil: poverty. For this, in the footsteps of my Predecessors, I renew an appeal to the leaders of Nations, calling upon them to unite their efforts to conquer the grave imbalances which still punish large parts of humanity.

REUTERS/Tony Gentile


Bishop On Ice... And It Ain't Thin, For Once

Never in my wildest imagination did I ever think I'd see a senior cleric dressed for an ice sport that wasn't figure skating.

But, lo and behold, the masked man at left is none other than Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Chicago, getting ready to hit the ice at the Windy City's United Center for a practice scrimmage with the local National Hockey League squad, the Blackhawks.

After a feature piece on Paprocki -- who plays goal for an over-30 league in Chitown -- in December's USA Hockey magazine, the 'Hawks invited him to skate around and block some shots a couple weeks back. Catholic Online has the story.

I think the Daughters of Wojtyla might be a little confused (or scandalized) at the sight of a bishop with no pectoral cross in sight and could use a little primer on this one, so if you'll all indulge me for the benefit of your future priests.... The bishop is not wearing a vestment for the feast of Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha, but the jersey of the local hockey team. No, they are not martyrs. The mask isn't meant to protect him from the sins of the vicious heterodox, but flying black discs called "pucks." No, the devil has nothing to do with those.

Well, Jersey Devils do, but to go into that at this stage would be input overload for you. Pucks are transported using "sticks." Hockey-sticks look like upside-down croziers -- just without the jewels and made of plastic.

Our lesson concluded, Bishop Paprocki on life as a goalie:
“There weren’t any rinks on the South Side where I grew up,” he explains. “It wasn’t until about 1997 that I really started playing on ice. I had to go to free skates and just go around in circles until I got the hang of it.

“I guess I must be good enough to play now though,” he laughs. “We’ve won the championship three of the last five years.” ....

“I think sports in general are a good training ground for whatever you do in life,” he says. “And I do think there are similarities between being in goal and being a bishop. In both situations you are at the center of the action and people are counting on you. Both are really intense games mentally.

“Being a goalie requires concentration and confidence, which are attributes I need as a bishop, and in everyday life.”
And he's also a marathon enthusiast, to boot.



What Is Schism, Father?

Because St. Blog's -- where, if your favored brand of toothpaste isn't the fashionable one, you are a heretic schismatic pro-abort demon and are not to present yourself for Communion -- desperately needs a primer on this one (you know, lest the humble faithful be confused and dominated by megalomaniacs), here's a snip from this week's Dear Father column in the St. Louis Review.
The Church distinguishes three specific genres of what it calls the sin of "incredulity" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2089).

Heresy is the obstinate denial by someone baptized of a truth which is to be believed with divine and "catholic" faith, or it may be an obstinate doubt about such a truth.

Apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith.

Schism is the refusal to submit to the authority of the pope or to join in communion with the members of the Catholic Church subject to him.
By this definition, if obstinately ordaining four bishops against the mandate of the Apostolic See -- or building a church for your daddy -- isn't schism, I don't know what is.


The Dangerous Precedent?

ZENIT has a piece up on the newly-released memoirs of Cardinal Julian Herranz, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts (and a numerary of Opus Dei)....

Herranz reveals a 2004 conversation with Dziwisz, in which the secretary revealed that John Paul II did consider resignation, so much so that Herranz was asked to offer his opinion on the topic.

The canonical justification might be seen in some quarters as suspect, but here it is:
Commenting on the "famous Canon 332," which in the Code of Canon Law refers to the possibility of papal resignation, Cardinal Herranz quoted the phrases he himself wrote after his conversation with Archbishop Dziwisz.

"We spoke of the opinion I expressed to him -- at his request -- on the appropriateness of the Holy Father resigning on his 75th or 80th birthday. I answered that he 'should not' do so for reasons of age: Very different is the 'canonical mission' that Bishops receive from the Pope to govern a particular Church or diocese with respect to the mission that the Pope receives at the very moment of the election and acceptance." ....

Archbishop Dziwisz "limited himself to comment that 'the Pope -- who is personally very detached from the office -- lives abandoned to the Will of God. He places himself in the hands of Divine Providence.'"
"Who is personally very detached from the office...." Now that's saying a lot.
"'Moreover,'" he quoted Archbishop Dziwisz as saying, "'he is afraid of creating a dangerous precedent for his successors, as some one of them might be exposed to subtle maneuvers and pressures by those who wish to depose him.'"
Sooner rather than later, it's still going to happen. Not the deposition bit, but a papal resignation for reasons of health. Paul VI also considered it, but Paolo Dezza talked him out of it.

Ironically, it is the increasing visibility and concentration of authority in the papal office -- enhanced most of all in the pontificate of John Paul -- which have created the scenario that the Pope must always be on top of his game and able to fulfill the functions of his office, thus bringing the issue of papal resignation to the fore with particular importance.

For the last half-decade before John Paul's passing, we saw what happens when that central force is dimmed: the curial wheels fall off, and everything can easily be seen not as an initiative of the Pope, but a vindication for this or that staffer who was able to force his hand. Not to mention the lines of communication and coordination being thrown terribly out of whack.

That's no way to govern a highly-centralized church.


Saturday, January 28, 2006

More On '07

When a cardinal-elector from a far country approached Pope Benedict XVI to give his post-electoral homage, he invited the new pontiff to come to his homeland. Benedict is said to have replied, "I will neither travel east nor west."

Apparently, that statement has been rethought.

Yesterday's announcement by Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore that Pope Benedict XVI "is planning to come to the United States next year" has kicked off a flurry of discussion in church circles about the timing and possible dynamics of this pontificate's prospective maiden voyage to a country which boasts one of the world's largest, most enthusiastic and well-financed Catholic populations, but also one which, especially in recent years, has found itself painfully divided and notably restive in the wake of traumatic and seemingly endless revelations of sex abuse by clergy and cover-up by church officials.

First, a clarifier: it seems the Baltimore press is trying to downplay Keeler's report, working from the line that the Pope will not be coming to rededicate the Basilica of the Assumption, the first American cathedral whose $32 million restoration will be completed in November of this year. However, the simple fact that Keeler -- known for his diplomacy and discretion -- has announced publicly that a trip is in the planning stages is enough to suggest that it's in the bag. (Those briefed over the past few months were sworn to secrecy so as not to disrupt the considerations.)

Due to all its political and economic exigencies and the the nation's visibility on the world stage, in multiple ways, a papal trip to the US "kills two birds with one stone." This is especially true due to the presence of the United Nations in New York, which John Paul II addressed on three occasions (1979, 1987, 1995) and whose General Assembly in 1965 precipitated the first papal visit to the American continent, when Pope Paul VI spent 15 hours in New York.

Initial soundings taken over the last 24 hours indicate that the timing for this visit, if it indeed goes forward, will most likely be in the fall -- October to be precise -- so that the Pope could address the General Assembly of the UN. As his two predecessors are the only heads of state to have ever used all of the Organization's seven official languages in their addresses to the plenary meeting of the world body, one would expect that Ratzinger the Linguist will let his colors show in delivering what would be one of the keystone geopolitical messages of his pontificate.

Being in New York will, of course, allow a visit with the Catholic community there. When the particular churches of New York, Newark, Brooklyn and Rockville Centre are taken into account, four of the ten largest American dioceses -- comprising approximately 15% of US Catholicism's 60 million faithful -- are in the city's metropolitan area, all within an hour's drive. Further sweetening the deal is that New York is one of the four American dioceses which will mark the 200th anniversary of its founding six months later, in April 2008, a historical note which is seeming to play an important part of the backdrop for the thinking behind this prospective visit.

It is important to remember, however, that the Pope who will be visiting next time is a very different man from the one who bounded off the papal plane and routinely conducted 19 hours of public events on the five US trips which he made in the time of his good health. Benedict XVI will be halfway through his 80th year in the fall of 2007, and the shape of the schedule will undoubtedly reflect both this Pope's strengths and his personal preferences, which are quite different than those of his predecessor. Many prospectives have come up in that realm, but fewer Mega-Masses and fewer wide-scale events on the whole appear to be the most certain of those.

For more on that, look at the template set in Cologne -- the Pope had lunch with the youth delegates, had several semi-private meetings with political leaders, ecumenical representatives and members of the hierarchy, but celebrated Mass privately every morning and the only full public events of the four day calendar were the Welcome in the Cathedral Square, the meetings with seminarians and the Jewish community at Cologne Synagogue, the Saturday Vigil and Sunday Mass at Marienfeld.

Alongside Baltimore, New York and the likely inclusion of Washington, a certain watershed stop is also being considered.


Cardinal George Released

Chicago's archbishop -- and the de facto leader of the American hierarchy -- went home from the hospital yesterday after two days of tests....
Doctors said they think George may have an inner ear problem and may be suffering from stress of recent airplane travel, said Colleen Dolan, a spokeswoman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago.

Testing at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood did indicate that the 69-year-old spiritual leader of Chicago-area Roman Catholics did not suffer a stroke, Dolan said.

She said more may be known about his health next week, when results of tests done become available.

The cardinal made no statement as he walked out of the hospital at about 3:45 p.m. but waved and said, "Fine, thank you," in response to an inquiry about how he felt.

George recently completed a trip to New Zealand and Rome. Dolan said in a briefing outside the hospital that the cardinal had been experiencing light-headedness and dizziness for three weeks or so, but symptoms had become more pronounced since his return home Wednesday.

"It apparently was no single thing but a combination of air travel, his medication and possibly an inner ear problem," Dolan said.
A friend had something of this kind last year. It's very easy to get worried about, as you feel a lot of the symptoms which accompany something terribly serious, but the only thing out of whack is the alignment of some crystals in the inner ear. So they turn you over -- for some reason, it's done while you're upside-down -- some inner-ear chiropracting gets done and, voila!, you feel like new in three days.

Notably elsewhere, Francis George raised some eyebrows yesterday by saying to John Allen that "The church seems to have incorporated into herself all the divisions of the world, which makes her a less effective missionary, and, I think, betrays the intentions of the Second Vatican Council, which still have to be fulfilled." (Italics mine.)

Vatican II's intentions still have to be fulfilled.... Well, we know this.... But what things could he be referring to, specifically?

That's a nut I'd love to crack.


Friday, January 27, 2006

And They're Off....

Certain illustrious mailboxes have been filled over the last few days with invites to the installation of Archbishop-elect George Niederauer in San Francisco, coming up on 15 February.

Notably, even though incoming nuncio to Washington Archbishop Pietro Sambi will likely be present in the Maytag for the event of events, he will not preside over the rite of installation. By unique arrangement, and for obvious reasons, that role will be filled by the specially-designated papal representative, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

I'm told the presents also make note that the liturgy will be conducted "in the presence" of the cardinal-archbishop of Los Angeles. As is well known already, both the current cardinal and the Eminenza-to-be are Niederauer classmates and lifelong friends.

But could a certain son of the East also be in the house? Stay tuned....


B16 HITS US: 2007


In the words of the old soul singers, all I have to say is "People, get ready."

Several months ago, a source with excellent contacts told me that Cardinal Keeler of Baltimore was lobbying heavily for a papal visit to the Primatial See to mark its 200th anniversary and the rededication of the Basilica of the Assumption, the first American cathedral.

As this was given to me "absolutely off-the-record" and simply as something to look out for, I could say nothing about it.

But now Keeler is speaking, and I can break my own silence along with it.... In a statement to a Baltimore radio station today, he said:
"When I was in Rome two weeks ago, I inquired and I already had the suspicion that the pope's schedule was filling up so much that he would not be able to respond positively to my invitation to come this year. When I inquired, they said that this is exactly right -- he has a very full schedule of commitments hither and yon in Europe, responding to various invitations that were extended to him, but that he is planning to come to the United States next year, and that the visit to Baltimore was part of the program that he looked forward to participating in."
People, get ready....

SVILUPPO: More analysis and first soundings for the potential visit can be found here.


George Update: No Stroke

Following up on this morning's news, here's the latest on the hospitalization of the cardinal-archbishop of Chicago:
Doctors have determined Cardinal Francis George did not have a stroke but will keep him in the hospital at least until this afternoon to run further tests, Chicago archdiocese officials said today.

George, 69, spiritual leader for Chicago's 2.4 million Roman Catholics, was taken to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood for tests Thursday after suffering recent bouts of dizziness.

The tests determined George had not suffered a stroke, but the cause of George's symptoms had not been pinpointed as of this morning, said James Dwyer, a spokesman for the archdiocese.

Dwyer said the cardinal had returned to Chicago on Wednesday night from two international trips, first to New Zealand and then to Rome, and that fatigue was likely a factor.

Doctors decided that they should run a battery of tests as long as George was in the hospital, Dwyer said. Hopes are that he will be released sometime this afternoon, he said.

"He's in good spirits now and he wants to get out of the hospital as soon as possible," Dwyer said. "He's been all over the place and really could use some rest."
George was supposed to lecture in Milwaukee on Tuesday night on Deus caritas est.... Smart money says he'll stay back in Chitown.


B16: "A Service to Joy"

My Tablet colleague, the eminent Robert Mickens in Rome, has the lead piece in the current St. Anthony Messenger -- a look at the new pontificate, and the man who has already remade the papacy in his own image.

Some snips:

Several months after his election, we have all seen the emergence of a Benedict XVI who has defied the expectations—and fears—of even the most astute observers on both sides of the current Church division. The new pope has shown a much more attractive and gracious persona than his detractors ascribed to him when he was CDF head. In the past several months, the world has slowly begun to warm up to a Joseph Ratzinger who presents an authentic and joyful gentleness.

Despite even benign temptations, it is unfair to judge the new pope by his past. “He’s no longer specialized,” said Belgium’s Cardinal Godfried Danneels at the end of the conclave. “He now has to be pastor of everyone and everything.” As one veteran Vatican watcher commented sagely, “There’s a good reason why popes change their names.”....

In the first weeks of his pontificate, and after, Pope Benedict XVI smiled broadly and spoke often of the “joy of being a believer in Christ.” From the very start, he demonstrated a sort of shy confidence and serene joy that contrasted (or some might say complemented) the assertiveness of his predecessor. Benedict XVI’s style and manner have been strikingly similar to that of the delicate and erudite Paul VI, a lover of the fine arts and classical music, than to the style of the robust and charismatic John Paul II, who was sometimes called “God’s Athlete.”

“And now, at this moment, weak servant of God that I am, I must assume this enormous task, which truly exceeds all human capacity. How will I be able to do it?” he asked on April 24 at his installation Mass in St. Peter’s Square. Many people initially believed that, by electing the Vatican’s long-standing “enforcer of the faith,” the cardinals had chosen a man with fixed notions who would swiftly carry out a rigorous program of restoration.

But Pope Benedict corrected them: “My real program of governance is not to do my own will, not to pursue my own ideas, but to listen, together with the whole Church, to the word and the will of the Lord, to be guided by him, so that he himself will lead the Church at this hour of our history.”

Several days later when he took possession of his cathedral, St. John Lateran, he said, “The pope is not an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law. He must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God’s Word.”

For his papal coat of arms, Pope Benedict replaced the tiara with a simple bishop’s miter. Just as the shortlived Pope John Paul I chose not to have a papal coronation, now Benedict XVI further distanced the papacy from any monarchical claims by removing this vestige of imperial power.

Grazie Dio.... Check it out.


I Am Many Things, But No "Big Shot"

God love Todd over at Catholic Sensibility -- he's a better man than your humble narrator.

A commentor over there praises him, as I do, for allowing comments on his posts -- which I don't for a good reason:
I do admire your willingness to entertain comments on every post. It's maddening to read blogs that don't, especially those which are consistently insulting, mocking, and provocative, like the Rocco Horror Episcopal Show. I find that to be cowardly....
Good God -- somebody find this thing an orthodox seminary NOW....

Say what you will about me, say you want to cannibalize me, whatever: but please, please, Princess (with a cherry on top), don't profane Rocky Horror. With some minor tweaks, after all -- e.g. "They're Not-So-Sweet Transvestites from Transsexual Trentsylvania... huh huh" (sing along, it fits) -- it describes segments of this business quite accurately.

Didn't see that one coming, did you now?

Then again, as you've come to know, I've learned a thing or two about taking lemons in stride.... Not to mention there being no better m.o. in this life than "Don't dream it, be it."


Year of the Dog

Separated at birth....?

I always thought that St. George slew the dragon. Looks like it ate him in Dusseldorf.

Oh well, so much for legend....

A Happy, Prosperous, and Orthodox Chinese New Year to all.


Cardinal George Hospitalized... And Embattled

Just returned from ICEL Summer Camp (via Rome), the de facto head of the American hierarchy was admitted to Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago complaining of prolonged bouts of dizziness.
In a statement, archdiocesan Chancellor Jimmy Lago said: "The archbishop of Chicago went to Loyola University Medical Center this afternoon for tests relating to some continuing dizziness he experienced prior to his recent trip to New Zealand and Rome. As a precautionary measure, he is expected to stay overnight so that his doctor may complete these tests."

Hospital and church officials declined to provide further information Thursday.

Before leaving for New Zealand, George met with the Tribune editorial board to propose a plan to tap state funds for Catholic schools.

At that Jan. 11 meeting, George said he had not been feeling well recently.
Francis George, who turned 69 last week, is the youngest American cardinal, head of the country's second-largest See and vice-president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Before heading to the hospital, George defended his curia's handling of an abuse case against a priest who remained in active parish ministry despite having been accused last year:

"The archdiocese, despite many requests, has still not received either the police interview of last August or any allegation against Father McCormack that could be used to begin an investigation on our part," George said. " ... It seems to me morally wrong to insist that anyone should be punished on the basis of a story that could not be investigated. If this were the practice, no one would be safe."

Prosecutors informed the archdiocese of the allegation in September when they determined they lacked enough evidence to charge the priest. However, they did not share any details of their investigation with the archdiocese, said police and prosecutors.
The critique of George voiced in today's Sun-Times by Illinois Appellate Judge Anne Burke, the second head of the USCCB's National Lay Review Board on sex abuse, is strong enough to make anyone dizzy
"He's the ultimate person in charge here," Burke said. "He's never had the intent, I think, to abide by [the zero-tolerance policy] other than in words. I'm hoping this is at least a wake-up call."

The threshold for what constitutes a "credible allegation of abuse" for the church is much lower than in a criminal context, and several priests from the Chicago archdiocese have been removed from ministry for allegations of abuse -- some decades old -- that were never criminally prosecuted, she said.

"Is it more probable than not? Is there some reasonable inference that we can believe that something happened?" she said, describing the low bar for what constitutes "credible" in church circles.

"We don't know until there is an investigation. But let's face it: Can we trust the archdiocese to do an investigation anyway? I don't think so," Burke said.
Remember that no less than the same Anne Burke came away with a very positive impression of Cardinal Ratzinger when she met with him in 2004, calling herself "thrilled" at his election as Pope.

Remember, too, that it wasn't the most popular thing to call oneself "thrilled" on election day....
"We had an outstanding dialogue. He listened. The fact that he was even willing to speak with a group of lay people on this subject was outstanding in my mind at the time...."

According to Judge Burke, this was not a rubber stamp meeting filled with pleasantries, it was quite frank.

"So it was a definite interview, an interrogation so to speak, but it was on two sides. He had just as many questions of us. They had as many questions of us as we had of them," Burke said.

Based upon that interpersonal experience with Ratzinger, Burke believes the new pontiff will be a bridge builder, despite concern from some quarters that Benedict the Sixteenth will be unwavering and uncompromising in his positions.

"The Catholic Church is not about revolutions. We've never had revolutions, but we have had evolutions. I believe this is the beginning step to that. I would just ask people to reserve their opinions and be patient," said Burke.

Aside from actually meeting with them, Burke says she was especially impressed by Ratzinger because he followed up on the recommendations made by the board.
So Ratzi is following up, and Chicago isn't....

Roma, we have a problem.

PHOTO: AP File/Aynsley Floyd


"The True Face of Catholicism"

It is Friday, after all, so Happy Tablet Day to everyone.

As it should, the international Catholic weekly heaps glowing praise on Deus caritas est in its Leader:
Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical confirms him as a man of humour, warmth, humility and compassion, eager to share the love that God “lavishes” on humanity and display it as the answer to the world’s deepest needs. On his election last spring, the former Cardinal Ratzinger was widely assumed to have as his papal agenda the hammering of heretics and a war on secularist relativism, subjects with which he was associated as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Instead he has produced a profound, lucid, poignant and at times witty discussion of the relationship between sexual love and the love of God, the fruit no doubt of a lifetime’s meditation. This is a document that presents the most attractive face of the Catholic faith and could be put without hesitation into the hands of any inquirer.
The endorsement does send a salvo back to this side of the Pond -- well, to some of its more overzealous inhabitants.
The second part of the encyclical, which is said to owe something to an unfinished project of the previous Pope, ties up a loose end in Catholic social teaching by addressing the question how, in a world seeking social justice, there is still room for charity. The answer is a compelling one. But this is still Ratzinger rather than Wojtyla, with his warning that it is not for the Church to take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. “She cannot and must not replace the State,” he insists. Yet at the same time she must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. Thus is a careful line drawn with regard to efforts by Catholic prelates, most notably in the United States in the last presidential election, to tell politicians which laws they may or may not pass.
And they wonder why I love writing for The World's Best Catholic paper....


St. Hutton's Temple of Schism

Even after two years, cari fratelli e sorelle, your humble narrator never ceases to be amazed at the decibel level of those who love calling out dissent in all forms (even where it doesn't exist), and the (shouldn't be surprising) reality these were the exact same ones who walked on their knees to The Passion of the Christ, acclaiming it as the most Catholic thing since Jesus.

Or Trent. But you get the idea.

As further proof of how ridiculous all that was, Bishop Mel is building Msgr. Daddy a church. (Psst! Catholics don't do that):
Gibson put up the money at the request of his father, Hutton Gibson, 87, who has been driving three hours each week from his Summersville, W.Va., home because there was no church of his liking near his home, the Pittsburgh Tribune reported Wednesday.
"No church of his liking...." Well, that gets passed off as Catholic in many parts these days, doesn't it, now?
The Gibsons have chosen as their church leader a former priest who is no longer in good standing with the Catholic Diocese of Greensburg, Pa., the newspaper said.
Licit, schmicit....

Who ever said being licit was important, again? Oh, that's right -- just the Catholic Church.
The Rev. Lawrence Persico, vicar general of the Diocese of Greenburg, told the Tribune the Gibsons' church would not be recognized as Roman Catholic.

"A Catholic church, to be truly in communion with Rome, must be in communion with the diocesan bishop," Persico said. "I don't know where they get their legal authority. It's not a Roman Catholic church, no matter what they say.
Did someone say "Heresy Trial"? Well, hey, they are in style right now....


Episcopal Bishop: Hell No, I Won't Go

After his Standing Committee's unanimous vote seeking his resignation, Bishop Charles Bennison of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania prayed about it.

Bennison's quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer this morning, and it seems God told him to hold firm:

In a telephone interview last night, the 62-year-old Bennison said he was "done praying" on it and is staying.

The standing committee, which is the top administrative board of the 65,000-member diocese - which takes in Philadelphia and the four suburban counties - voted unanimously Tuesday night to ask Bennison to leave by March 31.

The Rev. Greg Brewer, rector of Good Samaritan parish in Paoli, said yesterday there had been a "mounting sense of frustration over his leadership, concerns about financial mismanagement, that he oftentimes listens only to himself, and that he does not lead in a collegial fashion." ...

Bennison, a former parish priest and seminary professor of theology, was vigorously criticized at the diocese's General Convention in November for proposing to use $1.2 million in endowment monies to balance the diocesan budget.

He also was castigated for using $3 million in endowment money to buy 618 acres along Maryland's Elk River and the northern Chesapeake Bay to build a children's camp and retreat center.

The convention rejected his proposed $4.3 million diocesan budget for 2006. Several speakers there also called for his resignation, at which time he promised to step down if, after prayerful reflection, he concluded it was the right thing.

Bennison has been harshly criticized by church conservatives who say he is too liberal, and several wealthy, conservative parishes here have protested his support of gay marriage and gay ordination by withholding their diocesan contributions.

The leader of the unofficial opposition, who was ordained a bishop in a splinter Anglican group last year, gets ink -- sounding, as usual, conspicuously Catholic.

The Rev. David Moyer, rector of Good Shepherd, yesterday said he was "pleased that the standing committee has taken this action," but he urged the panel "to recognize that his failure as a bishop began with dishonesty and the abandonment of his vows to guard the faith."

Moyer, just swim the Tiber already.... God knows, with rhetoric like that, you'll be right at home.

And odds are you'll be a consultor to ICEL in no time.


As Daily As Your Morning Coffee

No appointments from Rome today, Loggiaheads.... Gumbleton gets another day's reprieve....

The Pope did, however, have one of his "kitchen cabinet" in this morning for an audience: Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the archbishop of Quebec. It's been reported that, outside the confines of the curia, Benedict XVI relies on an inner circle of three cardinals: Ouellet, Angelo Scola of Venice and Christoph Schonborn of Vienna. So anything and everything could've been on the agenda.

Note well that Ouellet, who was secretary of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity until his appointment to Canada's primatial see in 2002, is a member of the Communione school, as is Scola. His archdiocese is preparing to host the International Eucharistic Congress in 2008.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

From the Episcopalopian Desk

When the 24-hour Catholic news cycle stops kicking my ass, I've been meaning to focus a bit on things ECUSA.

The Episcopalians are holding their triennial General Convention this summer in Columbus, Ohio. We all know what happened at the last one, but the coming one is always a biggie in the novennial cycle as it will have the election of the Presiding Bishop, the primate of the American church who serves a ten-year term.

Over at Beliefnet, Friend of Whispers Charlotte Hays reports that the shortlist for the PB election has just been released:
The slate of candidates from which the next Presiding Bishop (head of the Episcopal Church in the U.S.) will be elected has been announced. There is one woman. It's also quite heavy on southerners. Is this an attempt to appear conservative without actually conserving?
Hmmmm... All I know about the demos of the ECUSA is that they have one Earle Fox, and we have, um, about 500,000 of them.

And believe me when I tell you that one is more than enough.

Closer to home, in this, David Moyer's home diocese, word's been sent my way that the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania has unanimously sought the ouster of Bishop Charles Bennison.
Standing committee member the Rev. Glen M. Matis, rector of the Church of the Resurrection in Philadelphia, told The Living Church "the actions of the Standing Committee involved judgments concerning trusts and the bishop's ability to lead the diocese now." The standing committee is expected to issue a formal statement shortly.

In a letter to diocesan clergy dated Jan. 25, Bishop Bennison said he was “seriously praying about the standing committee’s request,” and called for prayer “for me, for our colleagues throughout the diocese, and above all for the unity and health of our diocese.”

In recent years, the diocese has spent $9.6 million in unrestricted net assets in order to meet program expenses as parochial contributions have declined. Bishop Bennison opened the diocese’s 222nd convention on Nov. 5 with a call to affirm his leadership. “If you feel I’m not leading you effectively, tell me, and if I feel it is God’s will, I’ll resign,” he said as reported in the diocesan newspaper, The Pennsylvania Episcopalian.
I'm taking bets as to whether or not this'll be covered in the Philadelphia press. But that's why I'm here.

Interestingly enough, Bennison -- a member of the church's liberal wing whose tenure has been marked by fierce divisons and litigation -- hosted Justin Rigali at the last General Convention. I'm told that the Episcopal bishop caused a hubbub by kissing the cardinal's ring.


No Alarm, No Surprise

Taking a look at the front page of today's edition of L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, who gets to write the lead analysis of Deus caritas est but Andrea Riccardi, cardinale laico and head of the tres progressive Sant'Egidio movement.

The piece is called "The Waking Dawn of a Day of Love." Beautiful.

Given this prominent placement, we can take this as a sign (with flashing scarlet lights) that the American conservative fatwas against Riccardi and the movement he founded do not hold any water in the judgment of the Holy See.

Then again, tell me something I should be surprised about....


Dio è amore

An excerpt from last night's homily for the Ecumenical Vespers at St. Paul's (Loggia translation):

Deus caritas est (1 Jn 4:8-16), God is love. On this solid rock leans the whole entire faith of the Church. Based particularly on this is the patient search for full communion between all the disciples of Christ: fixing our gaze on this truth, climaxing in divine revelation, the divisions, while maintaining their sorrowful gravity, appear surmountable and shouldn't discourage us. The Lord Jesus, who with the blood of his Passion has broken down "the wall of separation" of "enmity" (Ep 2:14), will not fail to grant to all who call upon him with faith the strength to heal each tear. But it always must start from this: Deus caritas est. I have dedicated my first Encyclical to the theme of love; it was published today and this happy coincidence with the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity invites us to consider our encounter, and, even more so, the whole path of ecumenism in the light of the love of God, from the Love who is God. If, under the human profile, love has already manifested itself as an invincible source, shouldn't we say, then, that "we have come to believe in God's love for us" (1 Jn 4:16)? True love doesn't annul legitimate differences, but harmonizes them in a superior unity, which is not imposed from the outside, but takes its form from the inside, that is to say, together. As is the mystery of communion, that which unites man and woman in the community of love and of life which is marriage, so the Church is formed as a community of love, comprising in unity a multiform richness of gifts, of traditions. At the service of this unity of love is placed the Church of Rome which, according to the expression of St. Ignatius of Antioch, "presides in charity" (Ad Rom 1:1). In your presence, dear brothers and sisters, I desire today to renew the entrustment to God of my Petrine ministry, asking upon it the light and strength of the Holy Spirit, that it may benefit ever more the fraternal communion of all Christians.

The theme of love links in its depth the two brief readings of tonight's liturgical vespers. In the first, God's love is the force which transforms the life of Saul of Tarsus and makes him the Apostle of the Gentiles. Writing to the Christians of Corinth, St. Paul confesses that God's grace brought about in him the extraordinary event of his conversion: "Through God's grace, I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been in vain" (1 Cor 15:10). On one part is felt the weight of having been an obstacle to the diffusion of Christ's message, but at the same time there is the living joy of having encountered the risen Lord and of being illumined and transformed in his light. He maintains a constant remembrance of the event which changed his being, an event so important for the whole Church which, in the Acts of the Apostoles is referred to three times. On the road to Damascus, Saul felt the upsetting question: "Why do you persecute me?" He fell to the ground and, emotionally wrought, asked: "Who are you, Lord?," obtaining the answer which was the base of his conversion: "I am Jesus, the one you persecute." Paul understands instantly that which he would express in his writings, that the Church forms a single body of which Christ is the Head. And so, the persecutor of the Christians became the Apostle of the Gentiles.

PHOTO: REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito



Uber-Friend of Whispers Andrew Sullivan loves Deus caritas est:
First, it's a beautifully written document: humane, outward, subtle and exactly, in my view, what the Church needs right now. It's a reminder of our basis as Church - in the love that Jesus brought into the world and commanded us to live. Benedict's Augustinian realism that heaven on earth is impossible, that ideologies that pretend to solve all human suffering are lies, that we should not attempt "what God's governance of the world apparently cannot: fully resolve every problem" - all these are profound truths at the center of our faith....

And yes, this does surprise me somewhat. It is not as extreme or as repressive as Benedict's well-earned reputation. It is a sign, one hopes, of a papcy that can change and grow and concentrate on the central truths, not peripheral obsessions. For that, a great sigh of relief. And, even, yes, hope...
And he plugs a certain piece, too....


Further Turmoil in Chitown

The story which broke the other day deepens....

As a Windy City op said in sending this along, "This would be why the encyclial isnt getting any play here..."
A nun who worked at Chicago's Holy Family Catholic School -- where the Rev. Daniel McCormack used to say mass for students once a week -- has told the Chicago Sun-Times she alerted officials of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago of her concerns about the priest's behavior with children as early as winter 2000.

The nun, who asked that her name not be used, said a fourth-grade boy at Holy Family claimed McCormack asked him to pull down his pants in the sacristy of the church when the two were alone after a Friday mass in 2000. She said she told several archdiocesan officials about the child's allegations -- both verbally and in writing -- on several occasions, but her warnings went unheeded.

The nun's revelations emerged Wednesday as Chicago authorities widened their investigation of the 37-year-old priest, who was charged last weekend with sexually abusing two boys at St. Agatha's church in Chicago's North Lawndale neighborhood.
And some wonder why the US church isn't out of the woods yet.


Assisi Diplomacy

No appointments may have been announced today, but an op points out that something interesting did happen in the Audience department....

Benedict XVI received this morning in rapid succession Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino, the new bishop of Assisi, and Fr. José Rodríguez Carballo, the minister-general of the Order of Friars Minor (Observants).

You'll remember that back in November, on the same day that the Pope appointed Sorrentino -- then-secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship -- as head of the Italian diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, a motu proprio was released giving the bishop of Assisi authority over the pastoral activities of the Assisi basilicas of St. Francis and St. Mary of the Angels. Until that time, their administration was exclusively under the aegis of the the respective Franciscan branches (Conventuals and Observants, respectively) to which they were entrusted.

Sorrentino has not, of yet, taken office -- he'll be installed at Assisi on 11 February. But today's meetings seem to indicate that, among the players, the changes still need some smoothing out.


Birth of the Baby Bishop

Speaking of the province of Detroit....

While the rest of the Catholic world -- and its hangers-on -- came down with (real or feigned) Caritas Fever yesterday, the diocese of Marquette was busy ordaining its new bishop.

Bishop Alex Sample, 45, is the first member of the American hierarchy to be born in the 1960s, and his elevation on Michigan's Upper Peninsula yesterday marked the first time in over a century that the expansive northern diocese hosted an episcopal ordination in its Cathedral, St. Peter's.

It didn't hurt that the new bishop is a native son of the diocese -- Sample, ordained for Marquette in 1990, served as the diocesan chancellor and pastor of a parish until his appointment to lead the 70,000 Catholics of the UP.

The ordination was, in all likelihood, the last time Cardinal Adam Maida will ordain a bishop. Sample was his twelfth. The builder of the legendary "Maida Stable" of US bishops, who turns 76 in March, is widely thought to be in his final months as archbishop of Detroit, and his retirement is expected to come shortly after celebrations for his Golden Jubilee of priesthood in early June.

Adding to the wide inside talk that something's quickly afoot on the Detroit succession, also present at yesterday's ordination was Cardinal Edmund Szoka, president of the Governatorato, the civil government of the Vatican City State. Szoka, archbishop of Detroit until 1990, is a member of the Congregation for Bishops, and has long worked in tandem with Maida on episcopal appointments in the Detroit province and beyond.

A notably good show of the hierarchy came north yesterday. Spotted were Archbishops Dolan, Burke, Pilarczyk, Favalora, the bishops of Michigan and a bevy of others. The two bishops-emeritus of Marquette, Jim Garland and Mark Schmitt, served as co-consecrators -- or, as they're called in Sioux City, concelebrants.

By that turnout, the writing's on the wall: this one's going places.

Also sighted by local press was Jerry Pokorsky, the erstwhile priest-head of Credo, one of the right's main agit-groups in the liturgy wars. Surprise, surprise: he's from Lincoln.

Now Sample can get to work, even though he's just moving down the hall to his new office.... The Baby Bishop has chosen as his motto "Contemplare Vultus Christi" -- "To Look Upon Christ's Face."

PHOTOS: The Upper Peninsula Catholic/Aaron Peterson