Thursday, June 26, 2008

Last Runs Before Rome

On Sunday morning, the last year's new intake of 41 metropolitan archbishops from around the world will receive the symbol of their office -- the pallium -- from Pope Benedict.

In keeping with the tradition established by John Paul II in 1984, the conferral of the lambswool band will take place at the pontiff's Mass for the Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul, at which B16'll be joined by B1 -- Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople -- who'll sit alongside the Pope during the Liturgy of the Word and team up with him again for the blessing.

After spending the night in the silver coffin atop the tomb of Peter beneath the basilica's main altar, the pallia -- woven by Benedictine nuns from the wool of lambs blessed on January's feast of St Agnes -- are blessed by the Pope and given to the new archbishops with the words:
To the glory of Almighty God and the praise of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the apostles Peter and Paul, and of the Holy Roman Church, for the honor of the Churches, which have been placed in your care, and as a symbol of your authority as metropolitan archbishop: We confer on you the pallium taken from the tomb of Peter to wear within the limits of your ecclesiastical province.

May this pallium be a symbol of unity
and a sign of your communion with the Apostolic See,
a bond of love, and an incentive to courage.
On the day of the coming and manifestation
of our great God and chief shepherd, Jesus Christ,
may you and the flock entrusted to you
be clothed with immortality and glory.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Two of the year's new archbishops will be unable to make it, so their presents will be sent to their dioceses, where a papal legate will confer them in the cathedral. Dating from the third century AD and only restricted to metropolitans in 1978, the pallium doesn't automatically come with a residential archbishopric, but must be formally petitioned from the Pope.

* * *
While the group's global headliners include Cardinal John Njue of Nairobi, the freshly-installed Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, Archbishops Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising and Pavel (Paolo) Pezzi of Moscow, two Canadians -- Archbishops Tony Mancini of Halifax and Martin Currie of St John's, Newfoundland -- and three Statesiders will be among the group: Archbishops Edwin O'Brien of Baltimore, John Nienstedt of St Paul and Minneapolis and Thomas Rodi of Mobile (the Alabama prelate to get his day in Rome).

Before leaving for their respective pilgrimages, though, two of the latter three have been tying up loose ends at home.

Following his widely-noted decision to place the Legionaries of Christ under more stringent oversight in the Premier See -- and a highly-candid chat with the National Catholic Reporter in its wake -- O'Brien met with members of the Legion's lay arm Regnum Christi last weekend to explain himself.

A Charm City priest in attendance provides a brief:
Recognizing that they probably had already heard much of what was the impetus for the meeting, the archbishop told the roomful of 150 people, “It is out of pastoral concern that I speak to you. … I want you to hear [these things] directly from me.” He began the meeting by restating the content of his letter that went to Fr. Alvaro Corcuera, the head of the Legion of Christ in Rome. In restating these concerns raised in the letter, O’Brien emphasized again the three areas of concern he had with regard to the operations of the Legion and Regnum Christi in the Archdiocese:
First was the lack of pastoral transparency in the sharing of information about programs and participants. Second was the nature of youth programs and activities that seem to show a lack of respect for parental rights and duties, and a call to cease ongoing spiritual direction with children under 18. And finally was a need to respect the parental role in encouraging and fostering vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.

After his brief words of explanation, the archbishop opened the discussion up to the concerns and comments of the assembly. Most of the comments reflected the very positive role that involvement in Regnum Christi has had in the lives of the families who participate. They said that they are closer to their Church and Jesus, and that they have been active and integral participants in their parishes as well. They didn’t feel the “coercion” to follow the LCs vocational promotion or the “flaws endemic” to them that the archbishop’s letter had referred to.

Some who spoke acknowledged their skepticism about RC and their schools and programs but did not deny the positive effects that they saw with their families as a result of this ministry. One man asked O’Brien, “Are you open to this dialogue?” noting that his comments – especially those in the interview with John Allen – seemed “offensive” and “not very open” to a process of healing (referring to the comment that priests applauded the archbishop's decision with regard to the LC). Others pointed out that there could have been a tendency on the part of ex-members to “misinterpret” the problems of RC and that their input represented only one, biased side of the issue.

Many things were said in defense of RC and LC, and O’Brien listened attentively. Some folks mentioned that there was an orthodoxy in teaching by the LC that was not encountered from diocesan clergy. This was the attraction of the Legion’s activities. There was a question as to whether or not the Archbishop was conducting the meeting simply to appease members. O’Brien assured them that “I’d be wasting my time if this was for PR.” For him, it is a real issue that must be addressed openly and candidly....

The people spoke, and O’Brien “got what they were saying.” “I love you and what you are doing,” he told them. Now, he says, it is up to them to be open and honest in approaching their pastors – parish priests – and share the best of who they are – something the LC have already taught them to do for God. In a letter sent to Baltimore priests as a follow-up, O’Brien tells us “In my opinion, many members of Regnum Christi are exemplary in doing fine work in this Archdiocese. However, unique among many apostolic groups, LC and RC suffer a strong negative image among many of our clergy in Baltimore and beyond. Until this factor is addressed candidly, tensions will remain. I suggested that members of Regnum Christi speak with their parish priests, relating their account of Saturday’s meeting and seeking ways to collaborate more closely with parish life.”
Meanwhile, in the Twin Cities -- where Nienstedt's first month in office after a year in wait as coadjutor has seen the term "consecrated blizzard" return to contemporary parlance -- the archbishop put the kibosh on a long-running LGBT prayer service held by a city parish to coincide with the region's Pride Week:
This is "yet another volley of dehumanizing spiritual violence directed at GLBT persons and their families under Archbishop Nienstedt's reign of homophobic hatred," David McCaffrey, a board member of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM), said in an e-mail Monday to members.

"The archdiocese is now dictating to people who they can and cannot pray for, and that deeply concerns me," said Bayly, executive director of the CPCSM. "This certainly does not celebrate the presence of God in the lives of gay people. They are dictating to gay people how to have a good life."

The Rev. Jim Cassidy, acting pastor at St. Joan's, said he respects the wishes of the archdiocese and is just happy that the service was not canceled.

"The archdiocese, for all parishes, is the front office and we need to respect that," Cassidy said Tuesday. "There is no welcome mat being pulled here."

Also Tuesday, [archdiocesan spokesman Dennis] McGrath defended the archdiocese and Nienstedt, saying that gay and lesbian relationships, especially if they are consummated, are contrary to church doctrine.

McGrath said Nienstedt decided to act after he was notified by callers about the GLBT service at St. Joan, which has a large homosexual contingent.

McGrath said Nienstedt simply did what any archbishop in the country would do in a similar situation. He said the decision does not signal that the archdiocese is taking a conservative turn in the Twin Cities.
A lay-led rite went forward last night outside St Joan's. To avoid ruffling further feathers, it was characterized as a "peace service."

On another note, in the largest gift in its history, the Twin Cities church last week received an anonymous donation of $10 million, earmarked to ensure the survival of 15 inner-city parochial schools.