Thursday, August 31, 2006

Sioux Falls, At Last

It only took slightly over 20 months, but this morning Pope Benedict named Msgr Paul Joseph Swain, heretofore vicar-general of Madison, as bishop of Sioux Falls, succeeding Bob Carlson, who had been dispatched to Saginaw in December 2004.

A convert from Methodism, the bishop-elect marks his 63rd birthday in two weeks. Having attended law school at the University of Wisconsin, he served in Vietnam in air intelligence and, after his return home, was legal counsel to then-Wisconsin Gov. Sherman Dryfus. Received into the church in 1982, he attended Pope John XXIII National Seminary at Weston and was ordained in 1988. Following Bishop Robert Lynch of St Petersburg, Bishop-elect Swain is the second alumnus of the seminary founded specifically for older vocations to be raised to the episcopacy.

In 2002, he was named Madison's vicar-general and rector of its Cathedral of St Raphael, which was heavily damaged by a March 2005 fire.

Swain is shown above in a photo taken on the morning of the cathedral fire. The future of St Raphael's remains a topic of discussion in the Madison diocese, with Bishop Robert Morlino beginning a series of six "townhall" meetings next week to solicit opinions on the rebuilding project.

Notably, last month the bishop and rector made a jailhouse visit to William Connell, who pled no contest to the arson charge in early July. The stated purpose of the visit was to forgive Connell, who apologized and offered his wish that the cathedral be rebuilt.

In accord with the norms of law, Bishop-elect Swain must be ordained and take possession of the diocese of Sioux Falls (comprised of "East River," South Dakota) within four months of this morning's appointment.

Oh, and one last thing: Bishop Aquila, you can breathe now.

Sarah Tews/Wisconsin State Journal


Bertone: "I Had A Dream"

Adding an even more bizarre twist to his appointment to head the Vatican's geopolitical apparatus without ever having spent a day in it, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone -- who takes office you know where in two weeks -- revealed at the close of his farewell Mass in Genoa that "On the night between 15 and 16 August, Pope John Paul II appeared to me in a dream."

This is not a joke; we couldn't make this up if we wanted to.

"In the dream, the Pope was very old, with his cane and very serene. We spoke of the young," Bertone, a Salesian, told the gathered faithful and media, "and I told him that World Youth Day was his most beautiful invention; he was happy [to hear that]."

The incoming Secretary of State said he had asked the late Pope -- who, over time, named him archbishop of Vercelli, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, archbishop of Genoa and, in 2003, a cardinal -- for his blessing. Said Bertone, "He replied, 'I bless you gladly.' I knelt, he gave me his blessing and said 'from now on, do not be afraid.'"

A week later, on the 23rd, the cardinal told Benedict XVI of his dream and, he says, the Pope replied, "Don't be afraid, then."

Meanwhile, one of Rome's veteran Americans is dreaming of an undersecretary's job.

And which dream is more unusual?


Do You Hear the Statos Scream?

With 16 days looming until the new Secretary of State takes office, the Tarcisio Bertone Media Blitz is in full swing. And as Rome returns to life at the ebb of the August exodus, the panic is building in the Terza Loggia.

The sense of impending doom won't be helped any by an interview Bertone gave this week in the Italian press in which he's quoted as saying he'd rather be considered the "Secretary 'of Church' more than 'of State.'"

To quote one of the dicastery's more colorful characters, this can be interpreted as the new Boss telling San Damaso, "I don't want anything from you people!"

As if that wasn't enough to send the Vatican-types running for the Paxil, Zoloft and Xanax, the Salesian strongman's looking to collaborate with his once and future boss on building a "smaller, more agile" Roman Curia.

Agita all around, I tell you. Agita!
Cardinal Bertone noted that two reforms of the Roman Curia have been conducted over the last half century, "one right after the Second Vatican Council, by Pope Paul VI and another one by Pope John Paul II".

"After almost two decades, an evaluation of how the dicasteries are organised is more than comprehensible, in order to reflect on how to make the existing structures more efficient for the mission of the Church and eventually to consider whether all of them should be maintained."

The Cardinal also pointed out that he is "optimistic" in the face of the duties he will assume in two weeks, duties which will make him the closest cooperator with Benedict XVI....

Referring to his new role, Cardinal Bertone said that the Holy See's task is not so much "to defend the interests of the Church, but rather justice and the dignity of man, of all men, especially of the weak and those who suffer intolerable injustices and inequalities", a Zenit report adds.

Concerning the Middle East, Cardinal Bertone recalled that Benedict XVI has spoken of three rights: "That of Lebanon to its integrity as a sovereign country, that of Israel to live in peace, and that of the Palestinians to live in a homeland."
On 15 September, when Bertone is introduced as the new Lord of San Damaso by Papa Ratzi in an audience for the Stato staff, you'll sure be able to cut the love in the room. With a knife.

In other Stato news, it hasn't been officially announced yet, but word's flying around that one of the two key openings in the Vatican's top office has been filled. I'm told that, yet again, the Holy See's top English-language post will go to an American: Msgr Peter Wells, a priest of the diocese of Tulsa. Wells succeeds Archbishop-elect James Green, who'll be ordained to the episcopacy on 6 September after being named apostolic nuncio in South Africa earlier this month.

Meanwhile, the crucial appointment of the new Secretary for Relations with States -- the Vatican's "Foreign Minister" -- remains ever closer at hand....


A Word of Prayer

On a personal note, a staple of my daily inbox -- one which means more than I could express -- are the requests of prayers for various things from the readership.

Just so you know, though, remember that your narrator is not an oracle nor a spiritual leader by any stretch of the imagination. Quite the opposite, actually; if an intention really means a lot to you, I might actually be the one person you wouldn't want praying for it... the Boss upstairs might just close his ears, run away, or something. At least, as that's the reaction I often get from those clerics who are big on the whole "I am the alter Christus" bit, I've come to think it a sign.

I was telling a friend about this the other night and she asked me if I actually did pray for each and every one. How could anyone not? Horrible as I am at the act, to pray for others when they ask is the least we can do for each other and, if nothing else, it's a very human means of uplift to someone going through a rough moment to know that they're being remembered.

If I were to post all the requests from people experiencing illnesses, family issues, job/money woes, anxieties and crosses of all sorts, we'd be here 'til the next Holy Year. Suffice it to say, I learn more from the correspondence I get each day than you could ever learn from me over several eternities, and the perseverance, strength and faith so many of you show while bearing intense suffering -- whether in your own lives or in aiding others with great patience, concern and love -- never ceases to inspire and remind me that, indeed, we really have been blessed to experience something beautiful in this church. I don't know how you each get through as you do, but to learn and know each experience is a gift. Thank you.

And for the rest of us, a key part of this whole "being church" thing is to keep an eye out for and a presence with each other, especially for those among us having a tough ride. The Lord often reveals his goodness not from the skies, but in the unexpected goodness and presence of others when we need it most. So we need to keep looking out for those moments where we can actually be of help... it doesn't take much effort to find more than a handful of those. Whether in a literal or figurative sense, you might just find yourself saving a life, and doing so is not as hard as you'd think.

A few requests this week have been particularly moving, and the situations extremely difficult, hence this post. In light of these, I just ask that you keep everyone you know, and everyone you don't, who's been dealt a truly overpowering hand in your own prayers, that they find the strength to keep on and that their burden may be lightened, whether through consolation, recovery or the assistance of others. And know that, whatever situation the moment finds you in, each of you, your loved ones and good intentions remain in my remembrances every day. Again, it's the least we can do for each other.

As always, thanks for reading and God love you all.


"May the Angels Greet You With 'You're Beautiful!'"

As a coda to this, the summer of ecclesiastical women, Sister of Loretto Mary Luke Tobin, the only American woman -- and one of 15 overall -- to sit at Vatican II, has gone on to her eternal reward:
One of only 15 women auditors invited to Vatican Council II, Tobin watched church fathers open the windows to vent fresh air through the ancient institution. Although cautioned to listen, but not speak while in Rome, she later became one of only three women - representing half the Catholic world's faithful - allowed on the planning commissions for documents on the church in the modern world and on the laity....

The trust Tobin put in lay leaders, such as Fitzpatrick, she also placed in religious women. Upon her return from Rome, "it was almost impossible for her not to let her thoughts flow directly from deep meditation on the Gospels to their message of hope and action for us women religious," said Coyle.

At the time nuns were so used to being obedient to the voice of God as expressed via church officials and superiors that "we'd lost track of the gifts and talents God had given us individually to make the world a more just one for all," Coyle said.

Tobin began the renewal of Loretto both in the classroom and at chapter sessions. The community's current president, Sr. Mary Catherine Rabbitt, was a novice when Tobin was attending the council. Rabbitt remembered Tobin's homecomings as full of hope for a renewed church.

"She took risks, accepted challenges, encouraged others to develop their own talents and always, always, kept current with the latest thinking in theology, ecclesiology, and all that was happening in her many peace and justice circles," Rabbitt said.

Sr. Maureen McCormack, a former Loretto president, had Tobin as a high school teacher and an instructor in the novitiate. McCormack remembered a marginal note Tobin had jotted on a paper the student was assigned on St. Paul's epistles. "How about making up for what is wanting in the sufferings of Christ?" Tobin asked the novice.

After the May death of Sr Rose Thering, whose thought was instrumental in the conciliar decree on interreligious relations Nostra aetate, arguably the two US churchwomen most heavily involved in the Council are now gone from our midst.

The title of this post is taken from a friend's e.mail which contained Tobin's obit. It's a reference to the moment when a certain American religious woman of a progressive bent (guess who) concluded a TV interview by telling the anchorwoman, "You're beautiful."

Just so you know, I've been looking for the soundbyte to dub it into the James Blunt song.... It'd be wonderfully wild.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Things Lefebvrist

As we haven't checked in on our separated Econian brethren in awhile, some of you might appreciate an update.

Where we last left off, the General Chapter of the Society of St Pius X met in July, re-electing Mons. Bernard Fellay as its superior-general. As Fellay is seen as the best hope for reconciling the schismatic sect with the Catholic church, sighs of relief were breathed around the Vatican -- especially as, more than just sometimes, you'll hear the Roman school of thought that the one agenda item Benedict XVI holds most dear is returning the adherents of the Tridentine Mass to the fold... there are just other problems like anti-Semitism, ecclesiology, the Council... Etc. etc. etc.

Given the statement released from the Chapter at its close, the Pope might just have to keep praying.

The Lefebvrists said, in part:
[T]he Priestly Society of Saint Pius X declares its firm resolution to continue its action, with the help of God, along the doctrinal and practical lines laid down by its venerated founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.
Ostensibly, this would include more illicit episcopal ordinations.... Which, given the reality of things, they really should think of doing on riverboats. But I digress.
[Once the Holy See surrenders to the Econian will, lifting the excommunications and granting the Universal Indult] the Society looks to a possible debate on doctrine, the purpose is still that of making the voice of traditional teaching sound more clearly within the Church. Likewise, the contacts made from time to time with the authorities in Rome have no other purpose than to help them embrace once again that Tradition which the Church cannot repudiate without losing her identity. The purpose is not just to benefit the Society, nor to arrive at some merely practical impossible agreement. When Tradition comes back into its own, “reconciliation will no longer be a problem, and the Church will spring back to life”.
Just like it was in the dream year of 1958: not golden, but gilded.

SVILUPPO: Fellay talked to CNS' John Thavis the other day:
Bishop Fellay made clear that the society's differences with the Vatican were broad. In the society's view, he said, the church has experienced a "great, great decline" over the last 40 years -- in liturgy, discipline, faith formation and education.
"We have pointed out to the authorities that a big part of the problem may come from the novelties introduced with the council," he said.

The question is not so much what the church should do about the Lefebvrite society, he said, but how the church should solve these more basic internal problems.

"We are absolutely persuaded that when church authorities take these problems in hand, then we will no longer be a problem," he said.

Bishop Fellay said he was convinced after meeting with Pope Benedict that this pope was "capable of listening to what we said" and that the society's requests were "not at the level of the impossible."

Saint Fulton?

In case you're keen for my $.02, I've previously stated that Fulton Sheen stands as the greatest American Catholic of all time. In terms of impact, none other before or since comes close.

First on radio and then on television, over many Sunday and Tuesday nights, Sheen's panache, wit and humanity singlehandedly dismantled what remained of the Establishment myths of Catholic immigrants keen to establish Roman domination of the halls of power. Having captivated the popular imagination, he moved the church into the vanguard of the American mainstream. Barely three decades after Al Smith's faith kept him from the Oval Office, Sheen paved the way for another of the faithful to take it.

As you know, that hasn't happened since. And such is the state of things that, even if one came close in our own time, a Catholic presidential nominee would be eaten alive -- by Catholics.

Wait, that already happened.

The move to canonize the son of Peoria with the Louvain agrege who lived in Manhattan, served as bishop of Rochester and was assigned a titular see in Wales is quickening in its pace. Two alleged miracles have been presented to the Holy See, with all their local documentation completed.

With a nod to TV's awardfest, Ann Rodgers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tracks the progress toward the altars of he who would become "the first saint to have won an Emmy."
A tribunal for the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh spent six months gathering evidence from family members and medical personnel concerning a critically ill baby who recovered after relatives prayed to Archbishop Sheen for intervention. The documents were sent to Rome last month, where Archbishop Sheen is a candidate for beatification, the second step toward canonization or sainthood....

"A series of complications occurred at the time of birth, and the manner in which the complications and problems converged at one time, and the way they were relieved, were considered by many people to be extraordinary," said the Rev. Brian Welding, judicial vicar of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, who was in charge of the investigation.

Andrea Ambrosi, a canon lawyer from Rome who is the official advocate for the beatification, said at the conclusion of the hearing that all of the medical witnesses "recognized that a force superior to their medical science intervened for his recovery."...

The members of the tribunal had to interview the witnesses, transcribe the interviews and have the witnesses review the transcriptions for accuracy. In a few cases, the interviewers went to the homes of witnesses to take testimony, Father Welding said. The tribunal was required to have its own medical expert to review the testimony and give an opinion. Father Welding drafted Dr. Thomas Gillespie, a physician and Pittsburgh seminarian, whose opinion remains secret.

When all 1,000 pages had been completed, Vatican procedure required them to be closed with a wax seal of the diocese. No such seal existed, and the diocese had to have one made for the occasion. One copy of the documents will remain here.
There's a tie to the next post. One of Sheen's most prominent conversions was that of Clare Booth Luce, the playright, sometime politician and wife of the publishing magnate Henry R. Luce.

In 1949, three years after Clare's reception into the church, at her urging the couple donated their southern retreat to the Cistercian Trappist community at Gethsemani. Their gift -- a former plantation -- became Mepkin Abbey. The Luces are buried in its graveyard.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Death of an Abbot

Over the years, this city has given to the wider church religious of the highest calibre. This tradition of excellence continues to the present moment, but far too often is not recognized and celebrated at home as it should be.

One of the top tier of these many devoted souls will be buried tomorrow: Dom Francis Kline, abbot of Mepkin, the Trappist outpost in South Carolina. Abbot Kline died on Sunday at 57 after a four-year battle with leukemia.

Tomorrow's funeral at the abbey will be private as the crush of mourners would overwhelm the intimate new church there, which was built under his leadership. A public memorial service will be held in its gardens on Thursday evening.

The abbot, an alumnus of Philly's St Joe's Prep, is survived by both his parents. Following his election as abbot of Mepkin in 1990, the abbot's mother aided in making the community's habits. An accomplished organist, he studied the instrument at Julliard, leaving the world a year after his graduation to join the Trappists at Gethsemani... but not before playing the works of Bach from memory in performance at New York's Lincoln Center. Twice.

He may have left the world but, then again, he kept an active place in it. Fr Francis studied the sacraments at Sant'Anselmo, worked on several fronts to preserve the environment -- both in Mepkin's environs and beyond -- and, in a state not usually known for the clout of its Catholic monastics, his death brought tributes from Gov. Mark Sanford, who praised the abbot as "someone that just had a remarkable level of personal grace in the way he handled himself," and former Sen. Fritz Hollings, who called Kline "an inspiration" and "a saint if there ever was one."

Obits here and here, with an excerpt of Kline's treatise on "Monasticism Loose in the Church" here; a second book, written during his illness, will be published next spring.

PHOTO: Mepkin Abbey


On St Siro's Chair

Making good on his June promise to "provide in short order" for a successor to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone as archbishop of Genoa, this morning Benedict XVI used the city's patronal feast of the Madonna della Guardia to name Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, the head of Italy's military ordinariate, to the post.

It's already been announced that the 63 year-old Bagnasco will be installed in Genoa, where he spent his priesthood, on 24 September.

A native son's appointment to one of Italy's traditional cardinalatial sees indicates that the recent pattern of Genoa archbishops -- i.e. the last two (Cardinals Dionigi Tettamanzi and Bertone) ended up going somewhere else -- is something of the past. Bagnasco has served as Italy's military chaplain-in-chief since 2003; he was ordained bishop of Pesaro in 1998 and elevated to archbishop in 2000 when it became a metropolitan see.

In his previous Genoa days, its new archbishop served as a seminary professor, spiritual director, head of the archdiocese's liturgical apostolate and its catechetics and education offices. The thread of youth ministry runs through his priesthood -- he was once the diocesan representative to the FUCI (the Italian federation of Catholic collegians) and once led regional efforts for the pastoral care of students.

Notably, the appointment appears to be a valedictory victory for Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the outgoing papal vicar of Rome and strongman of the CEI, the Italian bishops' conference. Since 2001, Archbishop Bagnasco has served as head of the board of Ruini's prized organ of communication, the CEI's daily paper, Avvenire.


Monday, August 28, 2006

Chapter Glossary

The Capuchin Franciscans began their 83rd General Chapter this morning in Rome with a Mass celebrated by the community's first cardinal in half a century, Boston's Sean P. O'Malley. The gathering, held at the order's International College of St Lawrence of Brindisi, runs until 17 September.

The chief order of business awaiting the 200 or so delegates is the election a new General Minister in succession to Canadian Fr John Corriveau, who has reached the limit of two six-year terms. While the order will release an official summary of each day's activities, interested parties would be wise to keep an eye on an "occassionally irreverent" chronicle of the gathering which has sprung up....



The Archbishop Whispers... Himself

Back in June, over late-night drinks with a visiting bishop, the topic of our many vacant sees came up... and then we got to Detroit.

"Oh, it's John Myers," he opined, going on to say, "at least, that's what he's telling everybody."

Further research yielded the confirmation that, indeed, the 65 year-old archbishop of Newark tops the buzzmill in the race to succeed Cardinal Adam Maida as head of the church in Detroit and its 1.5 million Catholics.

It was reported here a fortnight ago and today hits the pages of Tony Soprano's favorite paper, The Star-Ledger:
[T]he rumors about Myers moving to Detroit are being discussed among priests, mentioned on the Internet and heard even among some lay people.

One member of the clergy in New Jersey who asked not to be identified said that in late spring, he was present when Myers told a group of clergymen that rumors of his being selected for Detroit were strong....

James Goodness, a spokesman for Myers, acknowledged the archbishop has discussed the rumors with people.

"The only thing the archbishop has talked about is that there have been some rumors," Goodness said. "That (Detroit) is where the rumors are, but they're just rumors."
...OK, OK -- but wasn't Washington was where the rumors were before?


One City, Two Anniversaries

As many of you know, tomorrow (29 August) is the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's landfall in New Orleans.

A year on, the needs of the area continue -- Catholic Charities said Thursday that its "agencies in Louisiana and Mississippi are in desperate need of volunteers to clean-up or repair homes destroyed by the hurricane."
An estimated 92,000 houses in New Orleans and 200,000 houses in the metro area were severely damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. In Biloxi, where over 65,000 homes were flood-ravaged and destroyed, people still are living in tents and trailers as they wait for aid.

Houses that need to have all of the moldy drywall and debris removed before they can be cleaned and renovated remain ravaged and unrepaired because no one is available to do the work.

"We're hurting," said Deacon John Ferguson, director of field operations for Catholic Charities in New Orleans. "We would normally be gutting 20-25 homes per week, but for the past several weeks, we have not had many volunteers. Perhaps it is because of summer vacations; perhaps it is because of the heat. But we are totally dependent on volunteers."

The rebuilding effort by Catholic Charities in New Orleans is coordinated through its volunteer program called Operation Helping Hands, which was established to mobilize volunteers from across the country to help seniors, the disabled, and those with little or no flood insurance gut homes devastated from the hurricane so the rebuilding process can begin.

Closer to home, the diocese of Camden is sending more volunteers to the Gulf Coast. And the Crescent City's archbishop, Alfred Hughes, has published his own reflections:
My own life has been dramatically changed. I never dreamed that God would be asking me at this time in my life to assume the responsibility of shepherding this good archdiocese in the face of such overwhelming destruction.

Many people have asked me why God could have allowed this to happen? Some may turn to prophetic messages relating destruction to sin. But as the Lord Jesus has revealed to us, God’s ways are far more mysterious than ours. God is a loving God who, even when he allows suffering, wants to draw greater good. St. Paul has promised us that for those who love God all things will turn unto good. I have experienced God’s grace. I have been strengthened by the extraordinary support of so many good people, both here in the archdiocese and in the country at large.
Some might remember that, when Katrina hit, one of the many New Orleaneans briefly in need of rescue was Philip Hannan, its eleventh archbishop, who was holed up in his TV studio. At 93, Hannan keeps kickin' -- and today marks his Golden Jubilee as a bishop. The photo below, from last year, shows the archbishop inspecting hurricane damage with one of his former priests, Bishop Thomas Rodi of Biloxi.

Ordained an auxiliary bishop of Washington on this day in 1956, Hannan -- who preached JFK's funeral and performed Jackie O's burial -- was sent to New Orleans in 1965 and led the church there for 23 years.

Having maintained a tangible presence in the Catholic engagement in mass media even in his tenth decade, the last living US bishop named by Pius XII has arguably surpassed all the rest in his commitment and effectiveness... not to mention keeps more active than many active prelates. Given the medium, it's only fitting that we take this chance to express to Archbishop Hannan all thanks and congratulations on attaining this milestone, one as rare as it is joyous.

Reuters/Carlos Barria
PHOTO 2: America


Ecce Fosterus Magnus

We're told the papal Latinist, Fr Reginald Foster, OCD "was himself" at his much-anticipated Notre Dame appearance last Thursday.

Deo gratias, because there are few, if any, better truth-tellers in this business than Reggiemagne.

A Big Red blogger was there and gives us these snippets of the Milwaukee-born living legend's wisdom:
Perhaps more pointedly than at other times, he spoke of the crisis in the Church - no, not the crisis in the Church about which this blog often comments - but about a crisis which Reggie thinks is here or will soon be here when men of his age and men like Grandpa Joe (which is how they refer to Benedict around the office, Reggie said) are gone and the last of those folks who took a knowledge of Latin for granted are no more. How will we study canon law, the Second Vatican Council, the Church Fathers, etc., if we no longer know Latin?...

If one studied letters from the time one was knee high to a grasshopper, by the time one was 18, Latin might be second nature. But one has to begin in elementary school, as men like Ronald Knox did, and even Reggie was hesitant, at least on Thursday, about beginning that early. Of course, he thinks that he could teach babies to speak Latin, but he wants to avoid at all cost a return to the bad old days in which Latin was jammed down childrens' throats....

Reggie related how they had been reading from Martin Luther's sermons in summer school and from some of Luther's letters to Erasmus; he confidently told the audience that Luther was no heretic and that if you but switched the names at the top of these sermons, putting Aquinas for Luther, no one would ever know the difference.
Deo gratias again, someone asked Reggie (who moonlights as Vatican Radio's "Latin Lover") about the "Liturgy Wars"... you can tell that our correspondent didn't like the answer:
[Foster defended] the older translation of the Novus Ordo Missae as, for example, on the grounds that "Et cum spiritu tuo" just means "And also with you." Which is a complete pile of garbage, and the Latin certainly doesn't mean that, and the expression is so obviously a Christian one, and so obviously a theological one - do you think that Cicero went around greeting his neighbors, "Et cum spiritu tuo!" - "And with your breath!" "And with your wind!" or some other such nonsense?

So Reggie told the audience: just leave the Latin alone, as it is, and for the rest, you write whatever you want in your English missal or Swahili or whatever, and don't even bother about whether it corresponds to the typical edition (Latin) of the current Novus Ordo Missae. Which pretty much sounds like the philosophy the ICEL employed the first time around, though it probably would have sounded more elegant in Swahili!
However, it raises an interesting question: if the Holy See sought accurate, faithful, doctrinally precise and aesthetically pleasing translations of the editio typica in the native language of the church's leading Latinist, then why on earth was said Latinist not consulted?

Ponder that one, if you dare.


The Women Behind the Walls

Between the cultural tumult of the cinematic release of The DaVinci Code, the Pittsburgh "ordinations" and Benedict XVI's recent comments in his interview with German television, it could be said that the prime ecclesiastical storyline of this summer has focused on women in the church.

But what of women in the Vatican, itself? Back in Rome after two weeks of much-deserved holiday, Robert Mickens blasts out the gate in The Tablet with the numbers:
A counting of women listed as Roman Curia officials, found in the Annuario Pontificio 2006, shows that among the major departments of the Holy See (congregations, tribunals, pontifical commissions and pontifical councils) women make up slightly more than 15 per cent of the formally registered office staff. The Congregation for Divine Worship, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, and the three major tribunals (the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Apostolic Signature, and the Roman Rota) have no women at all. The Congregation for Catholic Education has only one woman on its staff of 23.

Five women are among the 35 people who work at the Congregation for the Docctrine of the Faith (CDF), but four of them are technical staff. The CDF has no women among its 33 "consulters" from around the world. There are no women among the 22 members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and only three among the 32 members of the International Theological Commission - both offices presided over by the CDF prefect. There are also no women - just 27 men - on the CDF's special commission that deals with the dissolution of marriage cases.

Nineteen Vatican congregations and pontifical councils have a combined total of 595 outside "consulters", people who are consulted for their knowledge, experience and expertise. Only 66 of these are women, just 11 per cent. When the total figures of office staff and "consulters" are combined, 201 women (mostly women Religious) appear among the 1,214 names - just over 16.5 per cent. Even in offices where the constituency, as it were, is mainly women, men still hold the upper hand. For example, there are four times as many women Religious as there are men Religious in the world, but in the Congregation for Religious only 13 of the 34 staff are female.
As one friend likes to say, "Brutta, brutta, brutta figura."

However, Mickens notes a prominent exception to the rule:
It is said that Pope Benedict XVI has long relied on the theological help of Professor Ingrid Stampa. She appears in the Annuario Pontificio as a firstclass addetto di segretaria - the same rank as the Pope's personal secretary, Mgr Georg Gänswein.
Stampa -- who this writer has written about before -- is accredited to the German desk of the Secretariat of State. In the eyes of some senior papal handlers, she remains a controversial figure to the present moment....

I'd also posit Marie Hendrickx as an example that things are looking up.... Birgit Wansing, too.


Tumult in Mexico

Political activists say Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Mexico City has taken sides in the country's contested presidential election... Rivera calls activists "crazies":
Rivera is now immersed in a nasty political tussle that illuminates the hair-trigger sensitivity here about mixing religion and politics.

On one side, supporters of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the populist presidential candidate who is challenging the results of the July 2 election, accuse Rivera of siding with the apparent winner, Felipe Calderón. On the other side, Rivera calls protesters who have disrupted Mass at the cathedral "crazies," and other Catholic leaders condemn López Obrador supporters for placing the image of Mexico's most revered saint, the Virgin of Guadalupe, on political posters.

"The mix of religion and politics is always explosive in Mexico," said historian Enrique Krauze, who has dubbed López Obrador a "tropical messiah" because, Krauze says, he tries to use religion to further his political appeal.

Rivera has shown no reluctance to blend the spiritual and the secular, either. Last month, he said the church could mediate the post-electoral crisis.

Two weeks later, he called on Mexican Catholics to respect a decision by a special elections court rejecting López Obrador's request for a full recount and ordering a recount of only 9 percent of polling places. Rivera's statement echoed the position of Calderón, who supported the court's decision, and countered the stance of López Obrador, who lambasted the ruling and continued to demand a full recount. The court is expected to issue a ruling Monday on the electoral challenges.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

B16: "Thou Shalt Not Mess With Creation"

At today's Angelus, Benedict XVI commemorated this week's feasts of St Monica and her son St Augustine. Observant readers will remember that the latter is Joseph Ratzinger's on-record designee as his favorite saint... and not for nothing did the Pope do his doctoral work on the "Son of Tears."

The (still-vacationing) pontiff saved his most powerful words, however, to make a plea for the environment. Using the papal stage to call attention to a coming observance, the Pope said the following... which will likely irritate some among his American, SUV-driving flock (Whispers translation):
This coming 1 September, the Church in Italy will celebrate the first Day for the Protection of Creation, the great gift of God exposed to serious risks of choices and lifestyles which can degrade it. Envrionmental pollution makes particularly insustainable the lives of the poor of the world. In dialogue with the Christians of diverse confessions must pledge themselves to take care of creation, without depleting its resources and sharing them in a way of solidaity. On this occasion, I'm happy to welcome this morning a representation of the pilgrimage, promoted by the ACLI [Italian Christian Workers' Association], which has traveled the ancient Via Francigena from Monginevro [France] to Rome to increase awareness with respect to the environment.
AFP reports that the remarks immediately entered the Italian political discourse:
Italian Environment Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, leader of the Greens, seized on Benedict's remarks.

"It would be very useful if all the parishes in Italy equipped themselves with solar energy," he said.

He said it was very important that the Roman Catholic church did not confine itself to "the traditional message of respect for the human being" but also sent out "a message of love of nature and respect for the environment.
Further proof that real orthodoxy transcends ideology.... At least if, you know, the man on Peter's chair is to be believed.

AP/Pier Paolo Cito


Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Brothers Ratzi

Great post at Jimmy Akin's place about B16 in a suit. Tip to Akin for the photo, taken from some Trad site, which found it in some magazine... you get the idea.

More than anything, though, the shot underlines the strong bond the Pope enjoys with his one living relative, his older brother Msgr Georg Ratzinger. The two were ordained priests together in 1951, share a deep affinity for music (the Papstbruder served for many years as director of the famed choir of Regensburg Cathedral), and on next month's Bavarian homecoming, little brother Joseph has blocked out a private day with Msgr Georg at the home the former built on a cul-de-sac, which then-Cardinal Ratzinger was anxiously looking forward to retiring to.... For those who've forgotten, everything porcelain and feline decorates the house in the Regensburg suburb of Pentling. (The other Ratzinger sibling, Maria, served as her brother's housekeeper and companion until her death in 1991.)

Msgr Ratzinger -- known to some as "Georg the Elder" to distinguish him from Msgr Georg Ganswein, Benedict XVI's private secretary -- joined the Pope some weeks back for the duration of the summer respite at Castel Gandolfo. Contrary to the practice of the prior pontificate, when "everyone would be clawing to see the Pope" as soon as John Paul II arrived in Albano for the "public" portion of his summer after an excursion in the Alps, Benedict has kept true to his message at this past Sunday's Angelus that even the Pope needs downtime.

Illustrating this, only two senior prelates to date have been received in audience at the papal summer retreat; Cardinal Roger Etchegaray briefed the Pope last week on his visit to Lebanon as the specially-deputed papal legate, and Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re saw Benedict on Monday, ostensibly to restart the bishop-making machine for the fall. Not even the vacationing pontiff's hand-picked "Red Pope," Cardinal Ivan Dias, has been received since his recent arrival in the Eternal City.

The Pope will remain in the Alban Hills until he leaves for Bavaria on 9 September. The morning after Benedict returns from the five-day trip, the Apostolic Palace will quickly return to high gear as he introduces his new Secretary of State.


The Changing Style of Benedict

No, this isn't about the clothes. We've covered that enough already.

In a succinct but enjoyable first-person account, Phil Pulella of Reuters recounts his own experiences of the new Pope and the contrast he's wrought behind the Vatican walls.... The shot is of Pulella -- who's been in Rome with the wire service for 20 years -- with the Fluff.

A much more reserved man than his predecessor, Benedict has installed a new, quieter style in the Vatican's "Sacred Palaces", as the Holy See's buildings are known in Italian.

A German, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger lets few "outsiders" into his private apartments, so hints of what is on his mind rarely trickle out.

Even Vatican officials on other floors in the papal palace say they sometimes have trouble guessing what the Pope will decide.

One source famously told me during the first year of the papacy: "I can assure you, we not only know zero, we know less than zero."

Monsignor Georg Ganswein, a 49-year old German with boyish good looks, is the Pope's private secretary.

His style is more reserved that that of Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, a sharp, flesh-pressing operator who was the long-time personal secretary to John Paul.

Dziwisz used an extensive web of contacts with journalists and politicians to promote John Paul and let people know what was on his master's mind.

Under Benedict, only those reporters who are doing a pool assignment for the first time can greet him and have their picture taken with him.

Occasionally, Ganswein, a very friendly person with a ready smile, asks reporters himself if they have ever been in the frescoed room before for a pool assignment since Benedict's election on April 19, 2005.

The second time I went up he asked several of us that question.

"Do I really have to be honest?" I asked in jest.

Smiling, he responded: "Yes, you really do have to be honest."

So, I stepped aside and did not get a second picture with the Pope. Sorry mum.



When the Angels Sing

One of my reporting heroes, the superlative John Baer of the Philadelphia Daily News, has used that title since time immemorial to head up the columns he devotes to reader feedback. (By the by, those watching the Casey-Santorum cage match from afar might want to keep an eye on Baer as campaign season heats up; he's the best-connected, savviest political columnist in this fair Commonwealth of ours.)

However, if you told me 19 months ago that I'd be having my own singing angels in short order, I would've asked what you were on... and if I could sample it.

Bill McGarvey, my fellow Philly native/rockstar/editor of Busted Halo and your scribe have pooled some of the feedback we received from my column on women's ordination some weeks back. The responses truly ran the gamut, but each was, in its own way, wonderful (even the vitriolic ones), so to everyone who wrote in, again, all thanks -- with a special mention of the guy who said I should get a raise.... Everyone else, click over and enjoy the show. And, of course, keep it comin'.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Grandpa Ted

It was mentioned here last night, but it bears repeating: everyone's favorite uncle is now a grandfather.

True to form, word's going around that Cardinal McCarrick was happy as a clam to see his episcopal line passed on for the first time yesterday in Brooklyn, telling the three new auxiliaries before the liturgy that they're his "grandsons." Bishops Octavio Cisneros, Guy Sansaricq and Frank Caggiano each returned the favor, with Cisneros telling Washington's archbishop-emeritus in his public remarks how proud he was to have a share in McCarrick's lineage.

In an exceptional sign of involvement, yesterday's principal consecrator, Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, himself led the pre-ordination retreat for the bishops-elect, noting that he drew much of the template for his conferences both from Benedict XVI's recent General Audience catecheses on the apostles and Karl Rahner's "Bishops: Their Status and Function." DiMarzio was ordained an auxiliary bishop of Newark by McCarrick in 1996.

Pop-Pop Ted was ordained a bishop in 1977 at the tender age of 46, when he was named auxiliary of New York and elevated at the hands of the Servant of God Cardinal Terence Cooke. Sent to Metuchen as its first bishop in 1981 and promoted to Newark in 1986 and then to Washington in 2000, McCarrick ordained 12 bishops in his own right over his episcopal ministry. Among the current US hierarchy, only Cardinal Roger Mahony, with 13 ordinations under his belt, has been a more prolific bishop-maker; Cardinal Adam Maida has also ordained 12.

While seven of the Ted Twelve have gone onto lead dioceses of their own, it's a safe bet that the eighth will come in short order with the promotion of Bishop Kevin Farrell, the popular Washington auxiliary and chief vicar-general, to a local church of his own.

Farrell, a Dublin-born former Legionary of Christ who turns 59 next week, is widely respected, even beloved, among the DC crowd for his straight talk, warm personality and unique combination of administrative savvy with a pastoral heart; his intense record in Latino ministry is notable. The bishop has been mentioned as a possible nominee for several open or soon to be open posts, including Pittsburgh, Wilmington and Dallas; such has been the speculation surrounding his future that recently-arrived Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl is said to have asked that Farrell not be moved immediately so a smooth transition can be facilitated.

The DC auxilary's brother, who remained in the Legion after his 1984 departure, is Bishop Brian Farrell, the former head of the English desk at the Secretariat of State who currently serves as Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Reuters/Keith Bedford


The Renato Road Show

Tomorrow, Priests for Life is breaking ground for its new facility in Amarillo, Texas; the previously New York-based group was invited down by Bishop John Yanta.

Curiously enough, the groundbreaking ceremony will be presided over by Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace and Migrants and Itinerant Peoples. Seems that Martino's stayed on this side of the Atlantic since the ordination of his former undersecretary, now-Bishop Frank Dewane, as coadjutor of Venice some weeks back.

Given the cardinal's statements around the time of the Iraq war -- and his former post as the Holy See's observer at the UN in New York -- the expected ferocious reaction has taken flight at Freeper.

In other anti-abortion news, the movement is none too pleased over President Bush's signal earlier this week that he would support over-the-counter access to "Plan B," the abortifacient commonly known as the "morning-after pill."

Intriguingly, the news came four days after one US bishop deemed abortion a "sacrament" of but one political party -- i.e. not the Republicans, either....

Hmm. Seems a revision is in order.


More Milingo Madness

Anyone who knows Vatican life knows that, in recent years, summer has been Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo's time to shine. The controversial Zambian prelate known for his charismatic healing ministry began this year's Roman respite with a bang and is now showing further signs of not letting up -- i.e. a possible venture with Dan Brown, which the Holy See's gotten wind of and is warning of "serious consequences."
[Milingo] is reported to have agreed to work with Dan Brown on the project [a novel about exorcisms]. The agreement was said to have been reached at a meeting in Houston, Texas, attended by representatives of Dan Brown, Sony Pictures, Random House publishing company and Target, an American company which intends to finance the film.

Participants talked about organising a meeting between Archbishop Milingo and Dan Brown at Gatwick in late September or early October, according to the Italian daily, Il Giornale.

In addition his work with Brown on the new novel, Milingo is also reported to have reached an agreement to collaborate with Sony Pictures in the production of a film based on Brown’s earlier novel Angels and Demons. It seems though that the Zambian has not yet decided whether he will collaborate under his own name or as a behind-the-scenes advisor.
Oy vey.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Ordination Day in Brooklyn

There's your shot of the day.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn became the first of the McCarrick bishops to spread the Ted's episcopal lineage earlier today when he ordained three new auxiliaries in a ceremony at one of the mega-diocese's spacious parish churches, Our Lady of Angels in Bay Ridge.

In keeping with the traditions of Brooklyn Catholicism, the choice of venue was a practical one -- while the Cathedral-Basilica of St James is too small, the traditional fallback site of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, where DiMarzio was installed in 2003, isn't air-conditioned.

As many of you know how layers of vestments don't help in the August heat, comfort dictated the day. Or at least the site. But they lugged in the gigantic oak cathedra from St James for the event nonetheless.

The elevation of Bishops Guy Sansaricq, 71, Octavio Cisneros, 60, and Frank Caggiano, 47, was the third triple ordination the US church has seen this decade and the second in the 153-year history of the Brooklyn diocese; the first was in 1980. Four cardinals (Egan, McCarrick, O'Malley and Rodridgez Maradiaga) joined 44 archbishops and bishops for the event.

Sansaricq -- the first Haitian-American bishop -- is known as the "godfather" of Brooklyn's Haitian community, and has served since 1987 as National Director of the Haitian Apostolate. Representatives of the Haitian government were in attendance at today's liturgy. In an interview on his appointment with the Brooklyn Tablet, Sansaricq spoke of learning from his years of ministry "the plight of immigrants in general and especially of undocumented immigrants," highlighting an issue of historic and current import to the Brooklyn church. The diocese's Migration and Refugee Office, the first of its kind in the world, is marking its 35th anniversary this year.

Bishop Cisneros, the fourth Cuban-American named to the episcopacy but, notably, the first outside Miami, arrived in the US on the Pedro Pan airlift when he was 16. Though he initially settled in Marquette, Michigan, he found his way to Brooklyn, where he was ordained in 1971. Since 1994, he's served as the diocese's Secretary for Priestly Formation and Rector of the Seminary Residence at Douglaston, the large chapel of which was one of the venues under consideration for today's ordination.

Born in March, 1959, Bishop Caggiano is the third-youngest American bishop after Marquette's Alex Sample and local boy done good Dan Thomas. Trained at the Greg, where he earned an STD, he is said to have an intriguing concept of the "rabbinization" of the church -- an observation based on the evolution of the Jewish tradition, where the importance of teaching came to overshadow that of priesthood. He currently serves the Brooklyn Curia as Secretary for Evangelization and Pastoral Life.

PHOTO: Reuters/Keith Bedford


Monday, August 21, 2006

The Gospel According to Bono

If you're lucky in this life, you get a share of those moments where you get to say to yourself, in a good way, "This isn't happening..."

Suffice it to say, I've been blessed to have a couple of those over the years. But in the top echelon of 'em, one of the best of the best, was on my graduation day from Penn when my handpicked nominee to be speaker came and began the Commencement Address with the words, "My name is Bono and I am a rock star."

As long nights with U2 blaring on the speakers got me through the four years, I could've sobbed at the sight and sound of its frontman present for the victory lap. I still quote that speech routinely, holding onto every bit of it, as it was one of the best and most nourishing sermons I've ever heard.

It's no secret that Papa Wojtyla had his own Bono moment, written about on these pages before the existence of the above photo was made known. And many of you know that, on the night of the Magnificenzo's death, Hewson commemorated it by hanging the rosary JP had given him on his mic stand before the show, a lone spotlight shining on it.

All this is preface to a recent piece on the spirituality of U2 in light of a new book on the same. It's a topic which always makes some among the puritan crowd flip out, but while that crowd seem to like tiny congregations, some of us don't as it means that some others aren't getting the message... and usually with good reason.

To quote my commencement address, "This is a public service announcement -- with guitars."
Take, for example, "Mysterious Ways," a smash hit from the 1991 album Achtung Baby. I used to roll my eyes when friends pointed proudly to the line, "If you want to kiss the sky better learn how to kneel." Aren't Bono's impassioned voice and The Edge's signature guitar riffs enough by themselves? But Scharen points out that the song is about Salome, the step-daughter of King Herod, whose dance so pleased the king that she was able to ask for and get the head of John the Baptist on a platter. And the song is not only about that. It morphs into a description of Wisdom, who danced at creation; whose movements, Jesus tells Nicodemus, can't be anticipated; who teaches her people how to love. "I've always believed that the Spirit is a feminine thing," Bono has said. Suddenly the song takes on layers of theological depth.

As a preacher I've been stumped on more than one Sunday at the lectionary's selection of the Salome story. Bono has given us something profound to say about it that will connect with younger listeners who are U2 fans and point them toward a deeper connection with God....

"Where the Streets Have No Name" has its origin in a realization that Bono once had about Belfast in Northern Ireland. He'd learned that one's address in that city is a surefire clue as to one's religion and socioeconomic status. So when he sings about a place "where the streets have no name," he's praying that such mindless categorization of people will cease. Bono says that the lyrics are "not great" but that the theological concept is thrilling: "It puts the hair up on the back of my neck." In the 1990s Bono would often end that song with a couple of extra lines: "Then will there be no time or sorrow / Then there will be no time, no shame." The musicians recognize in these moments that they are a bunch of "cockeyed idealists," as Scharen calls them, whose work is "painfully, insufferably earnest," as Bono says, but eschatological hope has that sort of effect on people.
While we're at it, I dare anyone to come up with something as beautiful and widely appealing as "The First Time" whilst maintaining some reference to John 14.

Tip to Jimmy Mac at the news desk and Don Jim, who ran this first.


Collections: For Men Only?

An e.mailer tells an interesting story....
I attended midday mass on The Feast of the Assumption of Mary at a parish in Manhattan that has a long-standing reputation for being “liberal.” When the time came for the collection, the celebrant (one of the pastoral vicars of the parish) noticed that there were no ushers and asked for volunteers to take up the collection. Two women rose from the pew they were sharing and started walking toward the back of the church to gather the baskets with which the collection is taken up. Noticing the two women, the priest said, “No, no; we should have some men do this. It’s a male ministry.” The two women seemed quite embarrassed and quietly sat down while two men quickly volunteered to take their place.

I have many recollections of women taking up the collection during mass, both at this “liberal” parish and at others. Does the letter of church law indeed prohibit women from taking up the collection? Is it common for women to be prohibited from taking up the collection at conservative/traditional parishes?
Responses welcome.


The Deaconry Begins Anew

As scribbled on here the other day, Bishop Robert Carlson ordained the diocese of Saginaw's first "permoid" in a quarter-century yesterday.

As a friend with midland ties approvingly said of Carlson's homily, "there's nothing in it that makes one think this man was ordained to be some kind of soldier in a holy war."

Which is why he's respected by people of good will across factions.

PHOTO: Diocese of Saginaw


The Cielini Take Rimini

While in DC for the installation of Archbishop Wuerl -- and, yes, you're all still owed the recap piece -- I had a couple drinks (and, yes, cigarettes) with Msgr Lorenzo Albacete, the New York-based theologian and head of Comunione e Liberazione in the US. He kept saying to me, "You must come to Rimini."

And by that, he meant this week. Obviously, this wasn't my year, but hopefully next.

Benedict XVI's favorite ecclesial movement -- the only one which, he's been overheard saying, hasn't lost its way -- is yet again holding its annual summer conference in the seaside resort-town. It's one of the largest yearly gatherings in Italy; the cielini from around the world flock in by the tens of thousands and with them the cardinals and dignitaries of all stripes. One cardinal who's done his share of travelling over the years told me that Rimini is "the most incredible thing" he has ever seen.

The US crowd will be intrigued to know that nuncio to Washington Archbishop Pietro Sambi (peace be upon him) is a longtime attendee, and not just because Rimini is close by the hometown where he spends vacation filling in for the pastor of his boyhood parish.

Tealeaf readers, take note....

Officially known as the "Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples" -- something churchpeoples could use these days, let alone other peoples -- the gathering's topic for this year is "Reason is the need for the infinite and culminates in the longing for and the presentiment of this infinite becoming manifest." It's ostensibly taken from the work of Don Luigi Giussani, whose death in February 2005 arguably began the tide of events which made his funeral preacher the next Pope.

True to form for the group which "changed [his] life," Benedict sent a message to the meeting, which was read yesterday under the signature of Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the outgoing Secretary of State.

"The 2006 Meeting intends to repropose with vigor the perennial truth of Christianity," said the message addressed to Bishop Mariano de Nicolo of Rimini, "God, the Infinite, lowered himself into our finite state that he could be perceived by our senses, and so the Infinite 'reached' the rational search of finite man.

"Here is the Christian 'revolution'," the Pope continued. "God the Creator 'reaches,' today and permanently, the rational search of man who seeks Him, he encounters the creature who sighs for him. Though a man among men, the Only-Begotten Son of God affirms: 'I am the way, the truth and the life' (Jn 14:16). The words give us an invitation which the Church cannot cease to return to the people of each location and culture. From this invitation the Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples this year wishes to make an echo, recalling the infinity made 'unassailable' (incontrabile), possible for each man and woman to know God and to quench in Him their own thirsts."

The Conference ends on Friday. Keep an eye here for updates.... And here's hoping the plan for an "American Rimini" about 55 minutes from here eventually becomes a reality.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Circus Continues

Eileen DiFranco "said Mass" again today... and a horde of media showed up.

Who wants video? ... It's not in the linked version, but one attendee interviewed said that if Jesus were there, "He'd be applauding [DiFranco] from the front row."

And immediately came to mind a vision of how the line would stretch from here to Phoenix if Jesus ever put out a "Help Wanted" ad for a spokesperson.


Friday, August 18, 2006

The latest Almost Holy is posted for your viewing pleasure... or not.


The Faithful Secretary

The Italian journal Il Riformista ran a piece today on Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, SDB, who takes office as Secretary of State on 15 September.

Get ready for a month of stories on the Vatican's new prime minister, the Pope who chose him, and the coming sea-change in the Holy See's oldest office, which was founded in 1487. Of course, Wednesday's appointment of State's chief English-language official as nuncio to South Africa kicked off our own coverage, but much more will be coming.

Both a theologian and canonist by training, Bertone served for eight years as Cardinal Ratzinger's #2 at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before being named archbishop of Genoa in 2003 and a cardinal later that year. To the wider audience, he's best known as the voice of the Holy See's response to The Da Vinci Code.

The incoming Cardinal-Nepos brings no diplomatic experience to the dicastery which oversees Vatican diplomacy but, given the onetime Grand Inquisitor's manifest distaste for the culture of the Secretariat of State, it seems that's just the way Benedict XVI wants it.

Catholic News Agency has summarized today's piece for the Anglophone audience.
According to his friends and associates, Bertone is always one to thoroughly study the problem at hand before taking action. Monsignor Giuseppe Versaldi, Vicar General of the Vercelli Archdiocese where Bertone was first appointed bishop, tells the story of Bertone’s appointment. “After (Pope John Paul II) named him bishop, Bertone locked himself in his room all night and studied the life of Saint Eusebius, who was bishop of the city back in 345 AD.”

“Bertone spurred us all to study Thomas, Newman, Romini and to organize conferences in order to spread their thought,” Maria Antonietta Falchi recalled.

Falchi, who in addition to being a member of the Political Science faculty of the University of Genoa also lends a hand at the archdiocesan office of culture, said that while he was a scholar, at the same time Bertone was always among the people. “He could get along anywhere. He said Mass on the docks with the workers. He made his presence known throughout the region, even in the hall of the city council.”

Bertone’s priest secretary recalled for the paper an occasion in which Bertone decided to take a public bus to the Vatican. As the Cardinal in his long black cassock and red fascia strode on to the bus, the people - especially a group of young people – stared in silence. Bertone immediately broke the ice with his “characteristic” smile. By the time he reached his destination the prelate had engaged the youth in a deep conversation on love, sex, virginity, and chastity....

Bertone worked through the late nineties as second in command to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It was through their work at the congregation that the two grew to understand and appreciate one another. And, many Vatican insiders say, it is this relationship that allowed Ratzinger to easily make the decision to call Bertone once again to his side, in replacement of the aging Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

But while the Holy Father quickly made up his mind as to who the new Secretary of State would be (some say with in the first two months of his pontificate) he waited to announce his surprising decision until June of this year.
This theory has long been known -- Bertone was one of the handful who visited with Benedict during the seclusion of the Les Combes portion of his vacation last year.
The announcement continues to surprise many in the Secretariat of State, who expected Sodano’s successor to be someone from within their ranks. Most had presumed that Benedict would continue the practice, which had developed over the years, that the Vatican’s “prime minister” was someone groomed within the diplomatic corps and raised in the mindset of his predecessors. The choice of an outsider, in fact, led many to joke that Bertone was chosen because he was the only one who could decipher the Pope’s tiny handwriting.
To say the San Damaso crowd are "surprised" is a soft-pedaled assessment. As someone said on the morning of the 22 June announcement, "Call the [Roman] pharmacies and see if they've got any Paxil, Zoloft or Xanax left."


From the Anglican Desk

In case you haven't been keeping up -- and, as it's August, who could blame you? -- the Anglican Communion is still doing its utmost to make the Catholic conversation look civil and decent by comparison.

As plans develop for the early November inaugural of Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori, the latest developments have a representative of archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams slated to meet in New York with six bishops of the Episcopal church (four dissidents, the PB and PB-elect), a Virginia cleric ordained under the aegis of the church of Nigeria (with the blessing of the conservative American Anglican Council) and, of course, the ultimate harbinger of broken communion -- the specter of lawsuits.

Somebody up to school our Anglican brethren in bella figura?

For more, keep an eye on Thinking Anglicans -- Canterbury's answer to Whispers.


Oh No, Not Again....

It completely crept up: it's negotiation time again with our Catholic high school teachers' union here in Philly....

Suffice it to say, contract season always makes for good entertainment.

While our high school teachers are unionized, the elementary teachers in the parochial schools are not. This once led two friends of mine to get a massive petition signed, which they placed in the sedia gestatoria as Pope Paul VI was carried into an audience. The appeal led to a round of heated phone calls between Rome, Washington and Philadelphia... but after 30 years, still no union.

For the high school teachers, however, word is that there's "no contract in sight" three weeks before the start of classes.
Rita Schwartz, president of the Association of Catholic Teachers, described ongoing negotiations with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in the union’s monthly newsletter.

“Contract talks … have produced very little in the way of a settlement,” Schwartz wrote. “I am not optimistic, at this point in time, that the ACT team will be able to bring back an acceptable contract to the members.”

But Schwartz’s memo said there has been no progress on any major issues, including salaries, medical benefits and an early retirement benefit that allows teachers with 25 years of service to retire at age 55 and receive healthcare coverage until age 65.

Three years ago, the teachers hit the picket line for 10 days over similar issues. It was the longest strike ever by Catholic high school lay teachers in Philadelphia archdiocese history, officials said.

“The ACT team continues to argue strongly to keep punitive and penalty-driven, anti-teacher, anti-union proposals out of the contract,” Schwartz’s letter said. “At the same time, we are working extremely hard to protect existing language, quite a bit of which has been a part of the labor-management agreement for decades.”

The zipper clause also has re-emerged as a stipulation from the archdiocese, Schwartz previously said. It would eliminate any practices that aren’t written into the contract, thus “zipping up” the contract, she said.

For example, teachers could previously return from maternity leave and apply for another type of leave, including child rearing or academic leave. That practice was an unspoken understanding, and there will be no such agreement with the zipper clause wording, Schwartz said.

It is unclear what else the union is asking for in this contract.

Catholic high school teachers start at an annual salary of about $31,700 a year, average roughly $45,000 and top out at $61,390 a year.
As always, stay tuned.


Episcopal Politics

Even though many of you have seen it, for those who haven't Bishop Thomas Doran of Rockford went off... and off... and off... in his latest column in the diocesan newspaper:
Many of the issues that confront us are serious, and we know by now that the political parties in our country are at loggerheads as to how to solve them. We know, for instance, that adherents of one political party would place us squarely on the road to suicide as a people.

The seven “sacraments” of their secular culture are abortion, buggery, contraception, divorce, euthanasia, feminism of the radical type, and genetic experimentation and mutilation. These things they unabashedly espouse, profess and promote. Their continuance in public office is a clear and present danger to our survival as a nation.

Since the mid-1940s we have been accustomed to look askance at Germans. They were protagonists of the Second World War and so responsible for fifty million deaths. We say, “How awful,” and yet in our country we have, for the most part, allowed the party of death and the court system it has produced to eliminate, since 1973, upwards of forty million of our fellow citizens without allowing them to see the light of day. They have done their best to make ours a true culture of death. No doubt, we shall soon outstrip the Nazis in doing human beings to death.

I do not think that we should spend a great deal of time in lamentation over the children whose lives have been snuffed out by the barbaric practice of therapeutic abortion. They passed from their lives quickly in this world and have gone into the hands of the Lord of Life and Mercy for all eternity. We must make it clear too, that many who have sought to have practiced on themselves therapeutic abortion are in many instances driven to it by persons heedless of their welfare, or by well- meaning but inept parents or guardians who regard abortion as a solution and not as what it is — an immense problem. There are some, I think few, largely given over to immoral lives who regard abortion as a good, but their number is not great.

What we have to remember is that violence breeds violence. When we tolerate unjust attacks upon the tiniest innocents among us, we habituate ourselves to violence. And so we have allowed these barbaric practices to corrupt our laws, our medical practice, and even our ordinary lives. How accustomed we have become to the immense loss of life in our wars throughout the world! Those who have killed millions under their mother’s hearts cannot be expected to balk at a mere few thousand killed in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Somalia, in Darfur, in Bosnia, in Madrid, in London, in Baghdad, in Beirut, in Washington, in New York. The violence of abortion coarsens the lives of all of us.
Make of it what you will.

Elsewhere, Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo in Zimbabwe continues his campaign against the government of President Robert Mugabe:
Ncube, a fierce critic of Mugabe's policies, also dismissed the veteran politician's Heroes Day message which extended gratitude to faith-based organisations for their role in helping disseminate a positive image about his regime.

"His talk is mere empty talk and we will not bow down to that nonsense," Ncube said on Wednesday.

"It's all part of his (Mugabe) slyness. He is a very manipulative man, I know so because I have been to his house once. He served us hot tea and greeted me in my mother's tongue, most probably to placate me."

The archbishop, who has crossed swords with Mugabe on several occasions about his misrule, added that his problem with government is rooted in its tactics aimed at enticing the church to peddle lies on its behalf while the masses suffer.

"My problem with these people is that they want us to be hypocrites and tell lies that the situation is normal when it is not. There is hunger, inflation is very high and school fees continue to rise. How will the people survive?" Ncube said.

He said the only positive thing to date was the resilience of Zimbabweans because they "are peace-loving and have had to put up with government nonsense".
The pinko liberal archbishop is missing the point: Abortion is illegal in Zimbabwe (there are just 70,000 or so performed underground each year) and Mugabe is nothing if not anti-buggery.

The absence of any Democrats there seals its place as sheer paradise... right?


Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Bettin' Bishop

Bishop Tobin of Providence cops to enjoying the occasional wager as a controversial referendum on sanctioning casinos looms in Rhode Island.

"In the interest of full disclosure it should be noted that Yours Truly has been known to participate in a little gambling on occasion," wrote the bishop in an article to be published today in the diocesan newspaper The Providence Visitor.

"I buy raffle tickets to support a local parish or school. I participate in friendly football pools. I've won and lost (usually lost) a few bucks on the golf course. And on a few occasions, I've even made a pilgrimage to Foxwoods, paying my tithe to the slot machines."

In "self-defense," he added: "In light of my Irish-German heritage and very frugal nature, both the time and money spent there are always strictly limited."

In an interview yesterday, the bishop said he opted for "full disclosure" because he "wanted people to know I am not a puritan or prude when it comes to these activities" and also to "humanize" his layered view of where the church stands on gambling, in general, and the "vague" casino proposal headed for the Nov. 7 ballot.

The bishop, a native of Pittsburgh and a huge Steelers fan who acknowledged betting "a few bucks a week" on football pools, said: "Gambling is a very sensitive topic for Catholics.

"We realize there are moral concerns about gambling, but still we play bingo, sell raffle tickets, have parish festivals with games of chance, and organize trips to Atlantic City and Las Vegas. Are sins being commited every time these activities take place? I don't think so."

The bishop said the church does not view all gambling as immoral, and only views it as such when it becomes a form of addiction, involves "excessive amounts of money," and leads to crime, corruption and "collateral damage to individuals, families or communities."

We can only wonder if Tobin bet on the volleyball matches (that is, if there were any) at the seminarian barbeque he hosted a couple weeks back....


Where In the Philadelphia Area Is the Archbishop-elect?

CNS posts its brief on today's big news -- nothing you haven't already been appraised of, but with one interesting detail:
Msgr. Green, who has never been to South Africa, said of his nuncio duties, "The very first thing I have to do is learn a lot" about the society and culture. In an Aug. 17 telephone interview from the Philadelphia area, Msgr. Green said as nuncio for the countries of southern Africa he will be charged with maintaining "the bonds of the church universal and local church."
Maison Balshi? Cardinal's Residence? Ventnor? The Sem? Where, oh where, can Jim Green be?

I don't have the crystal ball on this one; I'd just like to pay a courtesy visit.


Archbishop Green: The Details

For those curious, word's tripped the wire that Archbishop-elect James P. Green will be ordained to the episcopacy on 6 September in Rome. The ordination liturgy will take place at the Altar of the Chair in St Peter's Basilica with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the outgoing Secretary of State, as principal consecrator. Cardinal Justin Rigali -- a 30-year veteran of San Damaso and its missions -- will serve as a co-consecrator.

First word on the street is that South Africa is an unusually prestigious post for a first-time nuncio. This is very true; the last American to serve there, Archbishop Ambrose DePaoli, received it as his second assignment after a five year stint in Sri Lanka. (DePaoli currently serves as nuncio to Australia.)

Archbishop Green will return home in late September, and a Philadelphia celebration will take place in the Cathedral-Basilica of Ss. Peter and Paul on the 29th of next month.

I've got my confetti.


The English Desk Is Open

Another day, another dollar, another Philadelphian elevated to the episcopacy.

This morning, Pope Benedict named local boy Msgr James Green, head of the English-language desk at the Secretariat of State, as apostolic nuncio in South Africa and Namibia, and apostolic delegate to Botswana. The appointment comes with an elevation to the archiepiscopal rank, and Green has been assigned the titular see of Altino.

Coming but three weeks and a day after the Ordination of the Century, it seems the Holy Father wants to drown our town in celebration or something.

Archbishop-elect Green, 56, was ordained a priest of Philadelphia in 1976. From 1977-82, he served as private secretary to the late Cardinal John Krol, and shortly thereafter was sent to the Accademia.

In the diplomatic service of the Holy See, Green served in Papua New Guinea, Korea, the Netherlands, Spain, the nunciature in Scandinavia (based in Copenhagen), and spent a year in Taiwan as charges d'affaires before being brought to Rome as head of the English desk in late 2002. Green's appointment continues the longstanding trend of the post as launching pad for episcopal careers: his predecessor, Bishop Brian Farrell, LC, is the current secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and for a decade the desk was led by Msgr Justin Rigali of Los Angeles, who was made an archbishop and the first American president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in 1985.

The archbishop-elect is the second Philadelphian among the current nuncios of the Diplomatic Corps; the nuncio in Zimbabwe, Archbishop Edward Adams, is the other. Adams received his first assignment as a mission chief a decade ago this month, when he was sent to Bangladesh. Six other Americans head up Vatican embassies, two of whom were not diplomats prior to their appointments.

The move of San Damaso's top English-language official comes less than a month before the 15 September audience at which the Pope will introduce his new Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. Bertone's lack of familiarity with English adds to the import of the English desk as a major strategic opening, and makes for the second key post in the dicastery's upper ranks which the incoming Cardinal-Secretary must fill. The other is the Secretariat for Relations with States, vacated by Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo's appointment as head of the Government of the Vatican City State, the Governatorato.

While Green's friends in Rome and the US had hoped he would end up succeeding Lajolo in light of his native language, this morning's appointment doesn't dim the priority of naming an English speaker to the post which directly oversees the Vatican's diplomatic relations. Several Anglophone prelates have been mentioned; notable among these are Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin (a former nuncio despite his lack of Accademia credentials) and Bishop Lawrence Brandt of Greensburg, a veteran of the Corps who left it in 1981 to return to his home diocese of Erie.

The Pope is said to remember Brandt distinctly from the latter's stint at the nunciature in Bonn, during which Joseph Ratzinger served as archbishop of Munich and Freising. If the Italians seek to keep it "della famiglia," a popular choice would be that of the nuncio in Brazil, 65 year-old Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri.

New apostolic nuncios are traditionally ordained to the episcopacy in Rome at the hands of the Secretary of State, unless some extraordinary reason (usually an elderly parent who can't make the trip) moves the venue to the nominee's home diocese.

That said, we here in Philly wouldn't mind another party.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Il Mio Onomastico

Only when a text message arrived on my cellphone this morning -- from Geneva, of all places -- was I reminded that today is St Roch's Day.... Of course, some of you know him better as St Rocco; despite the name, I'm nowhere near as saintly; and, yes, I do keep a statue of him somewhere in the piles of things which is my bedroom.

So, who was he, you ask?
He is said to have been found at birth miraculously marked with a red cross-shaped birthmark on the left side of his chest. As a young child, St. Rocco showed great devotion to God and the Blessed Mother. He was orphaned when he was twenty and left under the care of his uncle, the Duke of Montpellier. Soon after, St. Rocco distributed his wealth among the poor and took a vow of poverty, setting out on a pilgrimage to Rome.
The last part sounds about right....
At Piacenza, St. Rocco himself was stricken with the plague, which was evident by an open sore on his leg. He was banished from the city, and took refuge either in a cave or hut in the neighboring forest, sleeping on leaves and drinking water from a small stream. Miraculously, a dog that refused to eat faithfully brought him bread as a means of sustenance. The dog’s owner and Lord of the castle, a gentleman named Gothard, followed his dog into the woods one day and discovered St. Rocco there. The nobleman had pity on him and brought him to his castle, where St. Rocco was cured.

After he recovered, St. Rocco was reputed to have performed many more miracles of healing. He traveled through northern Italy for two or three more years before returning to his birthplace in France. Upon his return to Montpellier, however, he was imprisoned for five years as a spy in pilgrim’s disguise by his own uncle, who was governor and who failed to recognize him (while St. Rocco, for his part, refused to identify himself). According to the legend, on August 16, 1378, a guard entered his cell and found St. Rocco near death. The dungeon was illuminated with a blue light radiating from his body. Upon hearing this, the governor demanded to know St. Rocco’s identity. St. Rocco faintly replied, “I am your nephew, Rocco.” Only one thing could prove that, so the governor had St. Rocco disrobed and the red cross-like mark was visible on the left side of his chest.
A little bizarre for my tastes -- but still good to know. That said, I celebrate the two Petrine feasts as my principal ones.

There's a prayer to him here... and if you use it, please keep me in mind while doing so.

On a brief housekeeping note, I'm wailing away at the e.mails which have piled up over the last week. Above and beyond the sanity which comes with being able (for once) to chip away at my long-overdue bills, the fund drives have always been a real blessing in that I hear from readers who otherwise never check in, so know how grateful I am for that. As I've just been deluged and am merely trying to keep my head above water, if you've dropped me a line and haven't yet heard from me, you will soon enough... all thanks, please be patient and, of course, keep it comin'.

Happy St Rocco's Day to you all.