Sunday, February 27, 2011

"We Start Down This Path Because We Have Found Jesus... or, Better, Because Jesus Has Found Us"

No texts having emerged, here below you'll find fullaudio of the "two homilies for the price of one" from today's Mass of Transition marking the handover of the archbishopric of Los Angeles.

Going in reverse order, first, the post-Communion remarks of the new head of the nation's largest local church, Archbishop José Gomez...

...and on his 75th birthday, closing out a transformative quarter-century as chief shepherd of his native diocese, Cardinal Roger Mahony's final preach from the cathedra, which introduced the Rite of Transition:

Of course, as solemn -- and final -- as today's rites were, the transfer of power doesn't become official until B16 formally accepts Mahony's resignation under the provisions of Canon 401, paragraph 1.

The Vatican sign-off is expected to come early this week.

PHOTOS: Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels(1); Getty(2)


Transition, Accomplished

Before anything else, just take in the shot....

A powerful moment. In a whole host of ways.

* * *
Jurisdictionally speaking, the handover might've taken just the better part of a year... but in a way, what happened earlier today in LA was a far longer time in coming.

Sure, we could say "it is accomplished"... but given the historic nature of it all, it might be more fitting to say, "hoy, ahora, es consumado."

In the 456th year since the Spanish settlement of Florida at St Augustine, 314 years after Spanish Jesuits built the first California mission...

....222 years from the establishment of the Catholic hierarchy in the United States, 171 years since the Famine and the rise of the Irish -- the same year as the founding of California's first diocese...

...three-quarters of a century past since Los Angeles became a metropolitan see, 58 years from the creation of the first "Cardinal of the West" -- and at the close of the monumental, oft-controversial 25-year tenure of the native son who, some would say, gave its Catholic community the courage to be itself...

...a son of Mexico is the archbishop of Los Angeles, the nation's largest local church. And with it, reflecting the rise of a people soon to form the majority of these shores' 68 million faithful, the "Anglo ceiling" of American Catholicism's topmost leadership has been shattered once and for all.

And given all that, who needs the Oscars?

Texts, etc. to come.

SVILUPPO: Gomez and Mahony fullaudio posted.

PHOTO: Getty


Leaving the Chair... and Doubling His Flock: On Transition Day, Cardinal Mahony's "Retirement Plans"

At this hour, with the reins of the nation's largest local church -- the 5 million-member archdiocese of Los Angeles -- passing to Archbishop José Gomez in bilingual Masses of Transition on Cardinal Roger Mahony's 75th birthday, the curtain falls on one of the monumental episcopates in the four-century history of American Catholicism... while, far beyond Southern California, a new era begins for the faith on these shores.

Though embattled in recent years over his handling of clergy sex-abuse cases -- a chapter on which the outcome of a Federal grand jury, convened in 2008 and still believed to be ongoing, will significantly hinge -- smart money would still bank it that, when history recalls the longest reign of an American cardinal in the post-Conciliar age, the first native Angeleno to head the city's church will be recalled at least equally, and likely far more, for paving the path toward the Stateside fold's next epochal transition in its makeup, birthed by the most seismic change the 68 million-member American church has undergone in nearly two centuries.

Of course, in LA, the future has already come; no less than 70 percent of its Catholic population is Latino, now led by the figure set to become the first Hispanic cardinal north of the border, himself an immigrant. Yet even as the latter reality -- for which Mahony ardently lobbied during the selection process that tapped Gomez -- is sufficient on its own to cement the cardinal's legacy, as the demographics stand, it's only the capstone.

In a way no one could've envisioned as the young cleric raised on a chicken farm literally worked the fields and marched alongside Cesar Chavez and his band of migrant laborers, self-identified Hispanics comprise some three-fifths of the American Catholic faithful under 30, stand within striking distance of forming a plurality of the at-large fold nationwide, and -- beyond their supermajority in the City of Angels -- are now de facto majorities of the church in such "traditional" outposts as New York and Chicago as well as the faith's newer, rapidly-booming bastions in California, Texas, Arizona, Florida, the Carolinas, and the list goes on...

...and in a word, whether they're in California or beyond, whether they know of him or not, for the better part of four decades as a bishop -- and even before -- Mahony's literally been the priest, prophet and king of their ascent.

To be sure, the ad intra flashpoints that've seen fairly unique interpretations in LA Catholicism over the cardinal's quarter-century at its helm -- liturgy, ecclesiology, the role of women, and on and on -- have long been debated within these walls, and you can bet they'll continue to spark arguments for as long as there's a Congress. Still, whatever one's side of the aisle, today's a watershed moment -- the lone American cleric ever to land in the crosshairs of South Park, dubbed "Hollywood" by John Paul II; a figure novelized, lionized or scrutinized by the masses, as Mahony hands over the chair in the Cathedral he built, the American church's last folk icon leaves the stage.

For his next chapter, though, now freed from the burdens of administration, beyond more time to "smell the roses" -- and, of course, enjoy the company of his Archangel cats (whose pictures he keeps in his wallet) -- the cardinal's looking to return to the heart of his fifty-year ministry, and has begun toward it with a flourish.

In late January, Mahony circulated his "retirement plans" with a post on his blog. So before we turn to the fifth archbishop of Los Angeles, here below is the fourth archbishop's closing statement.

* * *
Welcoming the Strangers in Our Midst

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony
Archbishop of Los Angeles

As I near formal retirement in a few weeks, many people have asked what I plan to do after retiring. Because my roots and most of my time in ministry have been in Los Angeles, I plan to remain in the city I know with the people whom I love.

I have spent our annual Bishops’ Retreat in early January praying and reflecting on where the Lord Jesus is calling me to focus my time and energy over the coming months and years.

When Archbishop José H. Gomez becomes the Archbishop of Los Angeles in the last days of February, I will be free from the demanding administrative duties which are part of serving as Archbishop of the largest Archdiocese in the country. Each day I shall continue to pray for all of the people of our Archdiocese, as well as pray for and support our Archbishop.

With fewer duties, I am eager to give more emphasis to my ministry as a priest—celebrating the Eucharist as needed, hearing confessions, as well as having more time for hospital visits.

In reflecting back on my years in ministry as a priest and as a bishop, I have come to see that so much of that ministry brought me in touch with immigrant peoples, regardless of how they came to this country. While growing up in the San Fernando Valley I came in contact with those Mexican-American men and women who worked for my parents at their plant. They became my friends. During my years as a seminarian at Saint John’s Seminary in Camarillo, several of us seminarians were able to accompany priests to the farm labor camps where Mass was offered for the braceros, the temporary farm workers mostly from Mexico.

After my ordination to the priesthood, I served in the San Joaquin Valley and was always deeply touched by the faith, traditions, and commitment to family on the part of countless immigrants across the Valley—a large number of whom were involved in agriculture. Their hard work and sacrifices were evident at every turn. The efforts of Cesar Chavez to improve the salaries and working conditions of thousands of farm workers in our State greatly inspired me.

After being ordained bishop, my ministry continued with immigrants in the Dioceses of Fresno and of Stockton. Again, I was attracted to these people because of their faith and love for the Church. They were always anxious to help whenever asked, whether by assisting others in need or by lending a hand in the parish or the Diocese.

With my appointment as Archbishop of Los Angeles in 1985, this relationship expanded as Asian Pacific and other immigrant peoples from different parts of the world became part of my ministry as well.

Over these many years, I have been constantly called and challenged by the words of Jesus: “For I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35), echoing God’s mandate to his people in the Old Testament.

Over the years immigrant peoples have become very dear to me, and Jesus continues to call me to walk with them on their journey. I intend to spend the coming months and years walking in solidarity with the 11,000,000 immigrants who have come to the United States to improve their own lives and the life of our country and to advocate on behalf of the silent millions. In a special way I look forward to collaborating closely with our United States Bishops’ Conference and the Committee on Migration and Refugees which is now chaired by the next Archbishop of Los Angeles, the Most Reverend José H. Gomez.

For so many immigrants in the United States today, life is not easy. With the terrible downturn in the economy the past two years, millions of people have lost jobs in every field of employment. Many have had to give up their homes and to make deep sacrifices to keep their families going. So many voices blame immigrant peoples for our economic woes. This is unjust and flies in the face of the facts.

Some 11,000,000 of our immigrant brothers and sisters are misunderstood and maligned. Without legal documents, their livelihoods and their very lives are at risk. They live in the shadows of our society. They are easy targets of blame for everything that has gone wrong, and is going wrong, with our country. But a little historical perspective sheds light on our current situation and gives hope for the future, helping us to see immigrants not as “those people,” but as brothers and sisters living in our communities with the same longings and aspirations as all Americans.

If we would refresh our memories as a nation, we would see that the presence of immigrants—with or without legal documents—is never a cause of concern when the unemployment rate is low and our economy is sound and expanding. For example, in December 2000 the nation’s unemployment rate was 3.9%. Those were the heady years of the technology and construction booms, and we needed everyone available to fill the jobs. But after the financial and housing collapse of early 2008, the unemployment rate has grown to the point of 9.8% in December 2010. As the economy improves, gradually, the need for workers will also increase.

I am encouraged by the prospects of helping these silent millions in our midst. A review of major national polls since 2007 shows the reason for my optimism: a majority of people polled believe our borders need to be made more secure, and that illegal immigration needs to be controlled. But the same polls reveal that a majority of people polled [63% in one poll, 81% in another] are open to a structured path to earned citizenship for those who are here in our country without papers but who pass background checks, pay fines, and have jobs.

These high percentages tell me that our Catholic Gospel values and the American spirit are still alive among us. I suspect that many anti-immigrant feelings and sentiments arise from frustration with the seeming inability, or the unwillingness, to fix our broken immigration system. Three websites are useful to come to a deeper knowledge of immigration issues: The Justice for Immigrants organization sponsored by the Church; the Faces of Immigrants site sponsored by our Archdiocese; and the Migration Policy Institute.

I would like to focus on the positives and encourage all of us to get to know our immigrant neighbors more personally. We will discover that their core values are the same as ours, and that they are here to help enrich, not diminish, our fine country. Once we put a human face on an immigrant, the stereotypes and across-the-board characterizations begin to dissolve.

When the disciples ask the King, “When did I see you a stranger and welcome you?” Jesus responds: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:38, 40). Let’s begin a deeper conversation among ourselves without the harsh accusatory rhetoric which has so clouded this debate in recent years.

Across the country we have so many immigrants who are invisible and strangers. I have great hope in working with our Catholic people at the parish level in order to understand Jesus’ invitation “to welcome the strangers in our midst.”

But there is more. We need to engage our Catholic business and professional leaders, our Catholic colleges and universities, and our national Catholic organizations, urging them to put a human face on the immigrants in our midst and to give assistance to immigrant peoples as they struggle to find their rightful place in our society by becoming active participants in our communities, working jobs and paying taxes, and giving their very best for our country.

As I move forward to the next stage of my journey in faith, I ask that you join me in prayer and mutual support as I seek to live more wholeheartedly the answer to the call I have heard from Jesus: When did you see me, a stranger, and welcome me? When I looked into the faces of the eleven million who all bear the hopeful face of Jesus Christ!

PHOTOS: Getty(1,3); Reuters(2)


Saturday, February 26, 2011

In Beirut, the Patriarch Exits

For the first time in memory, the posts overseeing the two largest Eastern churches in communion with Rome are simultaneously vacant.

Two weeks after Cardinal Lubomyr Husar retired as head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic church after years of delicate health, this morning -- as expected for some time -- B16 accepted the resignation of the Maronite patriarch, 91 year-old Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir (right), who stood down due to age.

Like the Pope, Eastern patriarchs are elected for life, but may resign if age, health or other circumstances inhibit their function in office.

The Maronite Catholic church counts at least 3.5 million members worldwide, some 40 percent of them in the branch's home base of Lebanon. In the US, the church's 80,000 members are served by two eparchies based in New York and Los Angeles. This year, the world's Maronites are marking the 1,600th anniversary of the death of their founding patriarch, St Maron; a statue of the Lebanese hermit was unveiled earlier this week in a niche outside St Peter's Basilica, with the patriarch and Lebanon's President Michel Sleiman. Both Sfeir and Sleiman were received by B16 in private audiences over the subsequent days.

Elected to the patriarchate in 1986, Sfeir was elevated to the college of cardinals eight years later. While the Maronite chief was the only sitting Eastern patriarch to be made a cardinal-elector by John Paul II, Sfeir became ineligible to vote in a conclave well before the late pontiff's death.

The Roman prominence was arguably due to two factors: the global size of the Maronites -- second only to the 5 million-member UGCC among the Eastern churches -- and, especially, their key role in Lebanese life as the divided country's largest Christian group.

Reflecting the latter, Sfeir's quarter-century at the helm has seen the patriarch establish himself as an influential voice in Lebanon's political conversation. In one recent public intervention, the cardinal warned that Syria and Iran were "meddling" in the country's affairs, pledging that "we will try our best to solve the problem."

The patriarch's petition to leave office rumored for months, the acceptance of Sfeir's resignation indicates an agreement on a point of contention said to be of great concern to the Holy See: that replacements for six Maronite bishops who've retired over the last year would be in place before a Synod to elect the church's next head.

While the face-off's resolution remains unknown, the Maronite church's particular law stipulates that the global fold's roughly 40 bishops are to gather at the patriarchal curia in Bkirki (north of Beirut) no more than one month after the church's top post falls open.

On a related note, it was announced last week that the eparchs of the Ukrainian Synod will convoke at the church's former seat of Lviv on 21 March to elect Husar's successor as the UGCC's major-archbishop.



Friday, February 25, 2011

Aux. "Shock"... Again: Harrisburg Clergy Chief to Pittsburgh

After a very long fortnight, suffice it to say, enough with the Pennsylvania “Shockers” already.

Still, at least this one’s happy.

In the second straight appointment of an assisting high-hat on these shores from another local church, this morning the Pope named Fr William Waltersheid, 54, secretary for clergy and consecrated life in the diocese of Harrisburg, as auxiliary bishop of Pittsburgh. (And with the move, the 22 year-old debt incurred at the 1989 appointment of the Steel City’s Fr Nicholas Dattillo as the Keystone capital’s eighth bishop has been paid off.)

A former head of pastoral formation and vice-rector of Rome's Pontifical North American College known for a particularly strong Marian devotion and “phenomenal pastoral sense,” the bishop-elect (right) will assist Bishop David Zubik, whose celebrated all-out vigor has hit sizable stumbling blocks over recent months after the ordinary began suffering back problems that’ve seen him undergo two surgeries since last April, the last of which -- in early January -- required a month off to recover.

Along those lines, like last month’s appointment of Boston’s Fr Chris Coyne as auxiliary of Indianapolis (his ordination to come next week), the unusual scenario of a choice from across diocesan lines indicates that as the local need for an auxiliary was particularly pressing -- both on account of Zubik’s health and the size of the 700,000-member Pittsburgh church -- the time needed to clear a homegrown candidate through the extensive, historically intense vetting process currently in place would have delayed the remedy’s arrival. In this context, it’s worth recalling that two Burghers who recently cleared the process (both heavily mentioned as potential Steeler Nation auxiliaries before their moves) were, instead, quickly named to dioceses of their own: Bishops Ed Burns of Juneau and Bernie Hebda of Gaylord.

The diocese lost its last active auxiliary with the 2009 departure of Bishop Paul Bradley for Kalamazoo.

A psychiatric nurse for a time before he entered seminary, Waltersheid was ordained in 1992 by Dattillo, who died in 2003. Praised for being a low-key hard worker who’s “very, very mindful” of the priests in his care, the effect hasn’t just borne fruit among the Midstate’s current presbyterate -- in 2009, the Harrisburg church welcomed an offshoot of an overcrowded discalced Carmelite community in Nebraska to take over a convent in the diocese, and the bishop-elect said last year that he expected over 100 young men to take part in a summer program to discern a possible call to priesthood.

Asked what he’d tell a potential seminarian, the Pittsburgh pick replied that “I have never had an unhappy day as a priest.”

What’s more, keeping with the consistent thread of B16’s Stateside appointees, the bishop-elect is said to be “anything but a ‘climber.’” During his days as the NAC’s #2 under then-Msgr Tim Dolan, one op recalled, Waltersheid “wouldn’t do the Vatican stuff -- he’d be at the grotto saying the Rosary.”

For his titular see, as opposed to some now-underwater locale or an area where the church has since been overtaken by Orthodoxy or Islam, the new Pittsburgher was notably given "California" -- the honorary jurisdiction created for the recently-passed longtime auxiliary of Los Angeles, Bishop John Ward.

And, well, if California didn't go to a Californian, with the Handover of the Century afoot this weekend in LA, does that mean its auxiliaries are staying "parked"?

According to the Pittsburgh chancery, the bishop-elect will be ordained on Easter Monday, 25 April.

SVILUPPO: And already, the statements....
“These are days of growth in the Church of Pittsburgh as The Church Alive! While Bishop-elect Waltersheid will be a particular blessing to the entire Church of Pittsburgh, I am especially grateful for all that he will do to be of support to the very dedicated and hard working priests of this diocese and the growing number of seminarians,” Bishop Zubik said....

“I am profoundly humbled by my appointment as auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh by Pope Benedict XVI and I offer my heartfelt thanks to Our Holy Father for his confidence in me. I am overjoyed to have the opportunity to serve the people of God in Pittsburgh with whom already I feel a great bond. I am very excited to follow the wonderful pastoral vision of Bishop Zubik whose dedicated and effective ministry as a priest and a bishop speaks for itself,” Bishop-elect Waltersheid said.

“Like many of the faithful of Pittsburgh I come from hard-working people who have lived their Catholic Faith generously and have loved the Church tremendously,” he said, adding that, “I truly believe that becoming part of the Church of Pittsburgh founded on so many experiences common to my own life and those of my family is a marvelous blessing.”...

“I can sincerely say that I have loved every day of my priesthood and with now with great confidence in the mercy and love of Our Lord Jesus Christ, I humbly take the next step of embracing the good people of the Church of Pittsburgh,” Bishop-elect Waltersheid said.

“With a promise of my personal and sincere support,” Bishop Zubik said, “I truly welcome you as a brother and as a fellow collaborator in advancing the message and the mission of Jesus Himself in this wonderful Church of Pittsburgh.”

Thursday, February 24, 2011

PopeTrip Looming, Berlin Falls Open

In September, the Pope is scheduled to make another visit to his homeland -- a state visit to Germany this time, set to climax with B16's first papal trek to Berlin.

Now, though, the first German pontiff in a thousand years will face an important call: picking his host.

This morning, Benedict accepted the resignation of Berlin's longtime archbishop, Cardinal Georg Sterzinsky, all of a month after the capital prelate reached the retirement age of 75 and without a successor chosen.

Named bishop of Berlin -- then a non-metropolitan church -- in 1990 and a cardinal the following year, Sterzinsky became the city's first archbishop in 1994. The cardinal is said to have been in poor health for some time, hence the quick departure.

While B16 has been uniquely generous in extending his countrymens' time in office past their 75th birthdays -- the Pope's own successor in Munich, Cardinal Frederich Wetter, was kept in post even after turning 80 -- the reality remains that, with three of the country's resident cardinals at or near retirement age, the Berlin opening opens the most significant change of senior leadership the German church has seen in decades.

At the helm of what's often called Europe's wealthiest archdiocese, the German bench's leading conservative -- and its senior prelate closest to the pontiff -- Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne is 77, but expected to remain until after a Eucharistic Congress recently set for 2013 to mark the 1,700th anniversary of its local church. Meanwhile, the country's most prominent progressive voice -- the longtime chair of the German bishops, Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz -- turns 75 in May.

Then bishop of Berlin, Meisner was made a cardinal in 1983, the same year Lehmann was named to Mainz.

In both cases, however, Der Deutschepapst will only have a limited say in who takes the posts. Under the terms of the concordat governing Germany's relations with the Holy See, both sees retain provision for the election of the diocesan bishop by their respective cathedral chapters, with Rome confirming the choice. Still, the groups of clerics are bound to choose from the three-name terna for the post presented by the Vatican.

In his one major appointment at home to date, in late 2007 the Pope named Bishop Reinhard Marx of Trier as archbishop of Munich and Freising -- the post Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger himself held from 1977-81.

Having won plaudits for an especially deft reponse to last year's outbreak of sex-abuse revelations in Germany, Marx (above) was elevated to the college of cardinals at last November's consistory. At 57, the media-savvy sociologist -- a co-drafter of this pontificate's social manifesto Caritas in Veritate -- is the youngest member of the papal "Senate" by close to a year.

Benedict's third visit to Germany as Pope after 2005's World Youth Day in Cologne and the following year's "homecoming" in Bavaria, September's state visit is expected to take the pontiff to Freiburg and Erfurt beyond its leg in Berlin.

PHOTOS: Reuters(2)


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

100 Hours....

Even if it hasn't yet been noted here due to the sudden, consuming local chaos of recent days, far be it from anything to obscure the reality that, at this moment, American Catholicism stands at the threshold of a signal point in its four centuries of history.

At the weekend, the largest local church these shores have ever known -- the 5 million-member archdiocese of Los Angeles -- begins a new era as Archbishop José Gomez assumes its cathedra on Cardinal Roger Mahony's 75th birthday, the fulfillment of a year-long apprenticeship.

Of course, the handover isn't just a seismic one in Southern California. With Hispanics comprising an ever-growing half of the nation's 68 million Catholics (and no less than 70 percent of the mammoth LA fold), the succession signifies a reality both ancient and new -- a burgeoning Latino majority in our time finally come into its rightful place on the stage of national leadership... and three centuries since Spanish missionaries first built the church on the California and Florida coasts, a key point in Stateside Catholicism's gradual, yet ever bounding, return to the hands of its first founders.

Church, a moment of no small import is upon us. Ergo, Maestro Flaherty, raise the curtain (and given the low native volume on the file, readers, crank up your speakers)....

...and lest we be remiss at this milestone's approach, let's not forget the Stateside church's modern answer to the Lakers:

And, well, in her, you've got that rarest of things -- an LA champion even a Spurs fan can cheer.

While we're at it, as the eventual winner of the bench's Tourney of the Century was said to have enjoyed the exercise mightily (at least, after the fact), for history's sake, one last airing of last year's outbreak of Arch Madness couldn't hurt:

Sure, a low seed ended up playing a key part in settling the mix... then again, though, much like late March on the college court, just further proof that 'round here -- and especially in these days -- anything can happen.

And hard as it is to believe, that time of year is here again.

Full brief to come.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Baby Bishop... Northern Primate: On "Pope's Day," Hatman Strikes

Good Tuesday morning... and with it, big news for our friends up North.

Appointed an auxiliary to Cardinal Marc Ouellet all of 22 months ago, this morning the Pope named 53 year-old Bishop Gérald Cyprien Lacroix as the new archbishop of Quebec in succession to the now-prefect of the all-powerful Congregation for Bishops.

A native son of the million-member Quebec church -- and, along the way, an alum of Manchester's St Anselm's College -- Lacroix (left) becomes its 25th chief shepherd, and primate of Canada as leader of North America's oldest diocese, whose foundation dates to 1658.

Given the nominee's launch from junior prelate to honorary first among equals of the Canadian bench, it can be gleaned that the media-friendly Lacroix -- a member of the Pius X Secular Institute, a new movement dedicated to redoubled efforts at evangelization -- embodies Ouellet's articulated model of his preferred qualities in episcopal leadership, which the cardinal has outlined as “men of faith... [with] the guts to help people live it out” and someone who's "audacious in proposing the Word and in believing in the Power of the Word and the power of the Spirit."

To mark his appointment -- in what one of the more unique reactions to a move -- the archbishop-elect launched a Twitter feed shortly after the Roman Noon announce.

The appointment took the top line in a raft of moves announced today, which included the departure of another Quebec auxiliary, Bishop Gilles Lemay, 62, across the province to lead Ouellet's native diocese of Amos. The duo are the second and third diocesan chiefs in Quebec named on Ouellet's recommendation since the cardinal took up his Vatican duties in September -- notably, half of the Francophone province's 19 ordinaries will reach the retirement age within the next two years. Most prominently among them is Montreal's Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, who turns 75 in late June.

Elsewhere, B16 named three new auxiliaries to Belgium's capital church of Mechelen-Brussels, bolstering the standing of its controversial head, the recently-named Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard; transferred the nuncio to the Philippines -- the soft-spoken Philadelphia native Archbishop Edward Joseph Adams, to oversee the Holy See's mission in Athens -- named an Indian prelate as secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples...

...and lastly, on the very day that a magnitude 6.3 earthquake rocked New Zealand's South island, killing at least 65 and causing sizable damage to Christchurch, whose cathedral has "half-collapsed," the rector of the latter -- Msgr Charles Drennan, 50 -- was named coadjutor-bishop of Palmerston North, located across the Cook Strait.

SVILUPPO: A reader points out a particularly notable piece of the Quebec pick's biography -- Lacroix spent a good piece of his formative years in Manchester, New Hampshire, attending the city's Trinity High School alongside the aforementioned, Benedictine-run St Anselm's.

Last year, the now-archbishop (Trinity Class of '75) was on hand to keynote the banquet at his alma mater's homecoming, which marked the school's 40th anniversary. (Lacroix is shown at right, cheering a touchdown during the homecoming football game.)

During his visit, the young prelate struck his hosts as "funny, engaging, inspiring, thoughtful" and able to "bring the house down."

"He was just so real," a ManchVegas op said. "This guy is the real deal."

And now, the "real deal" becomes a big deal, with a sizable plate of challenges ahead in a heavily-secularized Quebec. Keep an eye -- if the backstory's any indicator, and especially in the high-profile shadow of Rome's lead "kingmaker," the reign of Lacroix should make for quite the ride.


Monday, February 21, 2011

"On Behalf of the Holy Father, I Ask Forgiveness"

As over 30 victims of clergy sex-abuse and their loved ones crowded a small room in a Philadelphia hotel on short notice to share stories of shaming, suicides and shattered faith in the wake of last week's second grand jury report on the River City church, further details emerged of yesterday's Liturgy of Repentance in Dublin's St Mary's Pro-Cathedral (its media access curtailed to respect the privacy of the still-suffering in attendance).

Begun with the Irish capital's Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and the archdiocese's Apostolic Visitor, Cardinal Séan O'Malley of Boston, lying prostrate (above) before the Pro's altar -- dominated for the day by a large, bare wooden cross -- the 90-minute rite included "lengthy" readings from the findings of the two civil inquiries into Ireland's long, brutal history of abuse in the church: the 2009 Ryan Report on misconduct in Catholic residential schools sponsored by the state, and the same year's Murphy Report, which revealed decades of serial cover-up by the Dublin curia.

While a handful of victims protested outside, terming the service "another stunt" by church leadership, at multiple points inside the sanctuary, the liturgy -- prepared principally by survivors -- was interrupted by members of the packed congregation who sought to speak of their suffering.

In one of the unplanned interventions, a man stormed a microphone to ask, "What the hell did I do wrong as a child? What the hell did any of us do, as children, wrong?" to deserve what the victims endured.

Some in the crowd responded with a standing ovation.

Climaxed with O'Malley and Martin's washing of the feet of eight survivors and others affected by clerical sex-abuse (at which point several witnesses reportedly wept), the prayer closed with a reflection by the Vatican-appointed Visitor -- tasked along the way with the healing of three Stateside dioceses -- who returned to several key elements of his 2003 installation homily in Boston, a message given in the wake of the local revelations which sparked the greatest crisis American Catholicism has ever known.

Said to be "distraught" over recent days' developments on his native side of the Atlantic, here below is the fulltext of O'Malley's Dublin talk.

* * *
My brothers and sisters, I am very grateful for this opportunity to be with you today and to take part in such a moving service of reparation and hope. I am especially thankful to our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, for his care for the Church in Ireland and for inviting me to be part of this Visitation.

On behalf of the Holy Father, I ask forgiveness for the sexual abuse of children perpetrated by priests and the past failures of the Church’s hierarchy, here and in Rome; the failure to respond appropriately to the problem of sexual abuse. Publicly atoning for the Church’s failures is an important element of asking the forgiveness of those who have been harmed by priests and bishops, whose actions -- and inactions -- gravely harmed the lives of children entrusted to their care.

The O’Malleys hail from County Mayo, a part of Ireland that was hallowed by St. Patrick’s ministry there. They tell the story of a dramatic conversion of an Irish chieftain by the name of Ossian. A huge crowd assembled in a field to witness his baptism. St. Patrick arrived in his Bishop’s vestments with his miter and staff. St. Patrick stuck his staff in the ground and began to preach a long sermon on the Catholic faith. The people noted that Ossian, who was standing directly in front of St. Patrick, began to sweat profusely, he grew pale and fainted dead away. Some people rushed over to help and they discovered to everyone’s horror that St. Patrick had driven his staff through the man’s foot. When they were able to revive Ossian they said to him, ‘Why did you not say something?’ And the fierce warrior replied, ‘I thought that it was part of the ceremony.’

The warrior did not understand too much about liturgy and rituals, but he did understand that discipleship is often difficult. It means carrying the Cross. It is a costly grace and often we fall down on the job.

Jesus teaches us about His love in the Parable of the Good Samaritan where in a certain sense the Samaritan represents Christ, who is so moved to compassion by the sight of the man left half dead on the road to Jericho. The innocent victim of the crime is abandoned by all. The priests and levites turn their back on him, the police fail to protect him, the innkeeper profits from the tragedy. It is Christ who identifies with the man who is suffering and showers compassion on him.

Jesus is always on the side of the victim, bringing compassion and mercy. Jesus is not just the healer in the Gospel. He identifies with the sick, suffering, homeless, all innocent victims of violence and abuse and all survivors of sexual abuse. The Parable ends with injunction; ‘Go and do likewise!’; just as Jesus turns His love and compassion to those who have been violently attacked or sexually abused. We want to be part of a Church that puts survivors, the victims of abuse first, ahead of self-interest, reputation and institutional needs.

We have no doubt of Jesus’ compassion and love for the survivors even when they feel unloved, rejected, or disgraced. Our desire is that our Church reflect that love and concern for the survivors of sexual abuse and their families and be tireless in assuring the protection of children in our Church and in society.

From my own experience in several dioceses with the tragic evil of sexual abuse of minors I see that your wounds are a source of profound distress. Many survivors have struggled with addictions. Others have experienced greatly damaged relationships with parents, spouses and children. The suffering of families has been a terrible and very serious effect of the abuse. Some of you have even suffered the tragedy of a loved one having taken their own life because of the abuse perpetrated on them. The deaths of these beloved children of God weigh heavily on our hearts.

The wounds carried in Ireland as a result of this evil are deep and remind us of the wounds of the body of Christ. We think of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane as he experienced his own crisis. He, too, was overwhelmed with sorrow, betrayed and abandoned. Not only survivors of abuse and their family members, but many of the faithful and clergy throughout Ireland can echo our Lord’s plaintive cry, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ But today, through the saving power of the Cross, we come together to share in each other’s sorrows as well as our collective hope for the future. We come together to bind up the wounds we carry as a result of this crisis and to join in prayer for healing, reconciliation and renewed unity.

Based on the experience I have had with this Visitation, I believe there is a window of opportunity for the Church here to respond to the crisis in a way that will build a holier Church that strives to be more humble even as it grows stronger. While we have understandably heard much anger and learned of much suffering, we have also witnessed a sincere desire to strengthen and rebuild the Church here. We have seen that there is a vast resource, a reservoir of faith and a genuine desire to work for reconciliation and renewal.

During the course of many meetings, I have been blessed to hear from many survivors and their families, lay women and men and religious and clergy who seek reconciliation and healing. Today’s service, which survivors so generously assisted in planning and are participating in, gives testimony to the longing of so many to rebuild and renew this Archdiocese and the Church throughout Ireland.

Just as the Irish people persevered and preserved the faith when it was endangered, and carried it to many other countries, the commitment to sustain the faith provides the opportunity for the hard lessons of the crisis to benefit the Church in our quest to do penance for the sins of the past and to do everything possible to protect children in the present and in the future.

I would like to conclude my remarks by sharing another parable with you that further illustrates the demands of the Great Commandment which contains the whole Law and the prophets. The Japanese tell the story of a man who lived in a beautiful home on the top of a mountain. Each day he took a walk in his garden and looked out at the sea below. One day he spotted a tsunami on the horizon coming toward the shore and then he noticed a group of his neighbors having a picnic on the beach. The man was anxious to warn his neighbors, he shouted and waved his arms. But they were too far off, they could not hear nor see him. So the man set fire to his house. When the neighbors on the beach saw the smoke and flames some said let us climb the mountain to help our friend save his home. Others said: ‘That mountain is so high and we’re having such fun, you go.’ Well, the ones who climbed the mountain to save their neighbor’s home were themselves saved. Those who remained on the beach having fun perished when the tidal wave hit the shore.

The Gospel of Christ is about love, sacrifice, forgiveness, hope and salvation. The burning house on the top of the hill is the Cross, and it is the suffering of all those children who experienced abuse. Climbing the mountain, we are not doing God a favor, we are saving our souls.

PHOTO: RTE News(1); John McElroy(2,3)


President's Day... Pope's Day

Yet again, this third Monday of February is officially observed here in the States as Washington's Birthday, but known far better as President's Day.

Of course, the observance commemorates the 22 February 1732 birth of the "Father of the Country," George Washington. While Washington's birthday has been marked as a national holiday since at least 1796 -- the final year of his presidency -- subsequent years saw Abraham Lincoln's 12 February birthday added to the calendar as a separate civil observance. In the late 1960s, the Lincoln holiday was suppressed, but Washington's anniversary widely became dubbed "President's Day" in the years since.

In keeping with the house custom on the great feasts of state, it wouldn't be President's Day 'round here if we didn't revisit the famous "Prayer for the Nation" written and first delivered in 1791 by the father of American Catholicism -- the nation's first bishop, John Carroll of Baltimore:
We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name.

We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope N., the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, N., all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.

We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

We pray for his excellency, the governor of this state , for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.

We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance.

To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.
In 1790, Washington addressed a letter to American Catholics expressing his supportive hope "that your fellow-citizens will not forget the patriotic part which you took in the accomplishment of their Revolution, and the establishment of your Government, or the important assistance which they received from a nation [i.e. France] in which the Roman Catholic faith is professed."

Aided by the contribution of the early church on these shores -- a community that then numbered some 25,000 souls (served by 22 priests) scattered across the 13 new states -- the first Commander-in-Chief said that, "America, under the smiles of a Divine Providence, the protection of a good government, and the cultivation of manners, morals, and piety, cannot fail of attaining an uncommon degree of eminence, in literature, commerce, agriculture, improvements at home and respectability abroad."

The founding father added his prayer that "the members of your Society in America, animated alone by the pure spirit of Christianity, and still conducting themselves as the faithful subjects of our free government, enjoy every temporal and spiritual felicity."

Yet in our own time, reflecting the reality that leadership in every age has its glaring moral deficiencies, this year's civic feast marks the first President's Day that the site of Washington's official residence in the nation's pre-DC capital is open as a memorial to the slaves he kept there.

When he died in 1799, the first President had over 300 slaves at his Mount Vernon home, making provision for their freedom only after his wife's death.

* * *
It tends to be overlooked, but Washington's birthday brings a rather notable confluence with the liturgical calendar.

Every 22 February sees the ecclesial equivalent of President's Day: the ancient feast of the Chair of Peter, symbolizing the universal jurisdiction of the Pope of Rome.

Of course, this year's "Pope's Day" has a particular resonance given the impending beatification of the second-longest reigning pontiff in church history. And on the feast's first observance following his election as the Chair's 265th occupant, Benedict XVI devoted his General Audience catechesis of 22 February 2006 to explaining the celebration's history and meaning.

Below is a full translation, taken from the house archives.
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Latin liturgy celebrates today the feast of the Chair of St. Peter. It comes from a very ancient tradition, chronicled at Rome from the end of the 4th century, which renders thanks to God for the mission entrusted to the Apostle Peter and to his successors. The "cathedra," literally, is the fixed seat of the Bishop, found in the mother church in a diocese, which for this reason is called "cathedral," and is the symbol of the authority of the Bishop and, in particular, of his "magisterium," the evangelical teaching which he, as a successor of the Apostles, is called to maintain and pass on to the Christian community. When the Bishop takes possession of the particular Church entrusted to him, he, wearing the mitre and carrying the pastoral staff, is seated in the cathedra. From that seat he will guide, as teacher and pastor, the path of the faithful in faith, in hope and in love.

What was, then, the "cathedra" of St. Peter? Chosen by Christ as the "rock" on which the Church was built, he began his ministry in Jerusalem, after the Ascension of the Lord and Pentecost. The first "see" of the Church was the Cenacle, and it's likely that in that room, where also Mary, the mother of Jesus, prayed together with the disciples, a special place was reserved for Simon Peter. Successively, the see of Peter became Antioch, a city situated on the Oronte River, in Syria, today in Turkey, in that time the third metropolis of the Roman empire after Rome and Alexandria in Egypt. From that city, evangalized by Barnabas and Paul, where "for the first time the disciples were called Christians" (Acts 11:26), where the name Christian was born for us, Peter was the first bishop, so that the Roman Martyrology, before the reform of the calendar, also provided for a specific celebration of the Chair of Peter at Antioch. From there, Providence brought Peter to Rome. Therefore we have the road from Jerusalem, the newborn Church, to Antioch, the first center of the Church recounted by the Pagans and still united with the Church which proceeded from the Jews. Then Peter came to Rome, center of the Empire, symbol of the "Orbis" -- the "Urbs" [city] which expresses the "Orbis" [world] of the earth -- where he concluded with his martyrdom his course in the service of the Gospel. For this, the see of Rome, which received the greatest honor, is also accorded the honors entrusted by Christ to Peter to be at the service of all the particular Churches for the building up and the unity of the entire People of God.

The see of Rome, after this movement of St. Peter, became recognized as that of the successor of Peter, and the "cathedra" of its bishop represented that of the Apostle charged by Christ to feed his flock. This is attested to by the most ancient Fathers of the Church, for example St. Iraneus, bishop of Lyon, but living in Asia Minor, who in his treatise Against heresies described the Church of Rome as "the greatest and most ancient, known of all;... founded and built at Rome by the two most glorious apostles Peter and Paul"; and then: "With this Church, for its outstanding superiority, must be accorded to it the Church universal, the faithful in every place" (III, 3, 2-3). Tertullian, a little later, for his part, affirms: "How blessed is this Church of Rome! For it the apostles poured out, with their blood, the whole of doctrine." The chair of the Bishop of Rome represents, therefore, not only its service to the Roman community, but its mission of watching over the entire People of God.

To celebrate the "Cathedra" of Peter, as we do today, means, then, to attribute to it a strong spiritual significance and to recognize it as a privileged sign of the love of God, the good and eternal Shepherd, who wishes to gather the entire Church and guide it along the way of salvation. Among the many testimonies of the Fathers, I'd like to report that of St. Jerome, who wrote in a letter of his to the Bishop of Rome, is particularly interesting because it makes an explicit reference to the "chair" of Peter, presented it as the sure grounding of truth and of peace. As Jerome wrote: "I decided to consult the chair of Peter, where is found that faith which the mouth of an Apostle exalted; I come then to ask nourishment for my soul, where once was received the garment of Christ. I don't follow a primate other than Christ; for this reason, I place myself in communion with your blessedness, that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that on this rock is built the Church" (Letters I, 15, 1-2).

Dear Brothers and Sisters, in the apse of St. Peter's Basilica, as you know, can be found the monument to the Chair of the Apostle, Bernini's eldest work, realized in the form of a great bronze throne, held up by statues of four Doctors of the Church, two of the west, St. Augustine and St. Ambrose, two of the east, St. John Chrysostom and St. Athanasius. I invite you to stand in front of this suggested work, which today is probably decorated admirably by many candles, and pray in a particular way for the ministry which God has entrusted to me. Raising our gaze to the alabaster window which opens over the Chair, invoking the Holy Spirit, may he always sustain with his light and strength my daily service to all the Church. [Applause] For this, and for your devoted attention, I thank you from my heart.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

In Dublin, the Three Silences

Given the significance of today's Liturgy of Repentance in Dublin's St Mary's Pro-Cathedral -- and, indeed, the event's resonance with a fresh outbreak of related stories on these shores over recent days -- here below is the text of the reflection given at today's rite by the Irish capital's Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.

* * *
There are moments where silence and listening are more important than words and what we say.

What can I say to you who are victims of sexual abuse by priests of the Archdiocese of Dublin or by religious? I would not be honest and sincere if I were to say that I know what you have suffered. I may try to understand, but that suffering is yours. Only you know what it means to have been abused sexually or in some other way. I can try to imagine the horrors of being abused when just a child, helpless and innocent. I can try to imagine how this abuse has haunted your life until today and sadly may continue even for the rest of your lives.

I can recognise the humiliation you suffered, the assault on your dignity and self-esteem, the fear and anxiety, the isolation and abandonment you experienced. I can listen to you tell me about your nightmares, your frustrations and your longing for a closure which may never come. I can imagine your anger at not being believed and of seeing others being cared for while you were left on your own.

I can try to imagine all those experiences but I know that it is only you who have had that experience. Whatever I imagine, what you experienced must be a thousand times worse.

I can express my sorrow, my sense of the wrong that was done to you. I think of how you were not heard or not believed and not comforted and supported.

I can ask myself how did this happen in the Church of Jesus Christ where as we heard in the Gospel children are presented to us as signs of the kingdom. How did we not see you in your suffering and abandonment?

The Church of Jesus Christ in this Archdiocese [of] Dublin has been wounded by the sins of abusers and by the response to you for which we all share responsibility.

Someone once reminded me of the difference between on the one hand apologising or saying sorry and on the other hand asking forgiveness. I can bump into someone on the street and say “Sorry”. It can be meaningful or just an empty formula. When I say sorry I am in charge. When I ask forgiveness however I am no longer in charge, I am in the hands of the others. Only you can forgive me; only God can forgive me.

I, as Archbishop of Dublin and as Diarmuid Martin, stand here in this silence and I ask forgiveness of God and I ask for the first steps of forgiveness from of all the survivors of abuse.


There is a time for silence. But there is also another silence: a silence which is a sign of not wanting to respond, a silence which is a failure of courage and truth.

There are men and women in this Cathedral today to whom we must express our immense gratitude for the fact that they did not remain silent. Despite the hurt it cost them they had the courage to speak out, to speak out, to speak out and to speak out again and again, courageously and with determination even in the face of unbelief and rejection.

All survivors are indebted to those who had the courage to speak out and let it be known what had happened and how they were treated. The Church in Dublin and worldwide and everyone here today is indebted to them. Some of you in your hurt and your disgust will have rejected the Church that you had once loved, but paradoxically your abandonment may have helped purify the Church through challenging it to face the truth, to move out of denial, to recognise the evil that was done and the hurt that was caused.

The first step towards any form of healing is to allow the truth to come out. The truth will set us free, but not in a simplistic way. The truth hurts. The truth cleanses not with designer soap but with a fire that burns and hurts and lances.

Again the Church in this Archdiocese thanks you for your courage. I in my own name apologise for the insensitivity and even hurtful and nasty reactions that you may have encountered. I appeal to you to continue to speak out. There is still a long path to journey in honesty before we can truly merit forgiveness.


There is a third level of silence in our midst this afternoon. It is the silence of the cross. I was asked who should preside at this liturgy. My answer was not a Cardinal or an Archbishop but the Cross of Jesus Christ. We gather before the cross of Jesus which presides over us and judges us. It is the Cross of Jesus that judges whether our words and our hearts are sincere.

The final moments before the death of Jesus were marked by darkness and silence. That silence is broken by the words of Jesus: He forgives those who kill him. He also brings forgiveness and new life to one of the thieves who surround him. But that forgiveness is not cheap forgiveness. One thief mocked Jesus; he did not recognise that act of injustice that was being carried out. The other recognised his own guilt and that recognition opened the door to forgiveness. No one who shared any responsibility for what happened in the Church of Jesus Christ in this Archdiocese can ask forgiveness of these who were abused without first recognising the injustice done and their own failure for what took place.

The silence of Jesus on the cross is again interrupted by his prayer of abandonment: “My God why have you forsaken me?” It is the prayer that so many survivors must have made their own as they journeyed with the torment of hurt which for many years they could not share and which haunted them day after day, from their childhood and into adult life.

But Jesus faces that abandonment and finally hands himself over to the Father bringing his self-giving love to the utmost moment of giving his own life in love. That opened the door to newness of life.

We gather under the sign of the cross which judges us but which ultimately liberates us.


This afternoon is only a first step. It would be easy for all of us to go away this afternoon somehow feeling good but feeling also “that is that now”, “it’s over”, “now we can get back to normal”.

The Archdiocese of Dublin will never be the same again. It will always bear this wound within it. The Archdiocese of Dublin can never rest until the day in which the last victim has found his or her peace and he or she can rejoice in being fully the person that God in his plan wants them to be.

* * *
SVILUPPO: The reflection given at the Dublin liturgy by its Apostolic Visitor, Cardinal Séan O'Malley of Boston, has since emerged.

PHOTOS: John McElroy


"Guide Us, Lord. Amen."

As the hometown clamor continues, its fallout threatening repercussions across the wider scene, it's worth noting that this Sunday likewise sees a climactic moment of the Apostolic Visitation to Ireland, mandated by B16 in the wake of the country's torrential revelations of clerical abuse and chancery cover-up.

In a liturgy designed "principally" by survivors, the Papal Visitor to Dublin, Boston's Cardinal Séan O'Malley OFM Cap., will join the capital's Archbishop Diarmuid Martin in washing the feet of several members of the community "who have suffered in various ways through abuse."

The act of repentance in Dublin's St Mary's Pro-Cathedral will take place in the context of the Services of Repentance which were called for by the Holy See in each of the beloved Isle's four provinces; today's is the last of the group, following December's Visitor-led penance in Tuam cathedral and last month's services in the archdioceses of Armagh and Cashel and Emly.

According to an announcement from the Dublin curia, the rite "will ask the forgiveness of God and of all survivors for the failure of those church leaders and many others in the family of the church to respond with love, integrity, honesty, understanding and compassion to the pain and distress of survivors."

In some quarters, suffice it to say, this work -- as arduous as it's needed -- is only beginning... or, sadly, has yet to sufficiently begin. Yet wherever we find ourselves in these days, the grace needed to either start along or keep on the path can only ever begin with prayer.

Along those lines, a survivor wrote and sent to Martin a prayer of apology and for healing, which the archbishop's since circulated around. Especially in these days, its lines are worth recalling anew:
Lord, we are so sorry
for what some of us did
to your children:
treated them so cruelly,
especially in their hour of need.

We have left them with a lifelong suffering.

This was not your plan for them or us.
Please help us to help them.

Guide us, Lord, Amen.

On a related note, it was to the Irish bishops that B16 first articulated what've since become his oft-articulated "Four Points" on addressing the crisis:
In the exercise of your pastoral ministry, you have had to respond in recent years to many heart-rending cases of sexual abuse of minors. These are all the more tragic when the abuser is a cleric. The wounds caused by such acts run deep, and it is an urgent task to rebuild confidence and trust where these have been damaged. In your continuing efforts to deal effectively with this problem, it is important [1.] to establish the truth of what happened in the past, [2.] to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, [3.] to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected and, above all, [4.] to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes. In this way, the Church in Ireland will grow stronger and be ever more capable of giving witness to the redemptive power of the Cross of Christ. I pray that by the grace of the Holy Spirit, this time of purification will enable all God’s people in Ireland to “maintain and perfect in their lives that holiness which they have received from God.
The above discourse delivered in the Pope's ad limina address to the Irish bishops on 28 October 2006, these weeks find the Stateside bench is in the midst of its own preparations for what promises to be an intense "checkup" by Rome, almost three years beyond the normal five-yearly timetable.

Expected to run through summer 2012, the US visit begins in November's first week with New England's Region I.

SVILUPPO: Martin's reflection from the Dublin penance has been posted.

PHOTO: The Papal Cross at Phoenix Park, Dublin


Friday, February 18, 2011

At "Ground Zero"

Another long weekend ahead in this town, church....

In the meanwhile, for those of you far afield, please keep the prayers up. And to everyone who's sent a good word over these days, again, no words can ever say enough thanks; amid a 200-year crisis, it means more than you know.

Sure, this place has been many things over time... but not in memory has it been anything like what it's suddenly become in these days.

Locals, the eyes of a "very illustrious" history have fallen upon us and this moment. And to a "shattered" presbyterate lies the task of forging our road ahead.

Fuller updates to come -- as always, stay tuned.


Countdown to B-Day

In preparation for Rome's biggest event since the 2005 funeral of Pope John Paul II, this morning the Holy See revealed its gameplan for the late pontiff's beatification on May 1st.

With crowds of 2 to 3 million expected to flood the city -- and the handful of hotel rooms remaining for the days said to have been running at some €700 ($950) a night -- the Vatican first made an unusual caution against "unauthorized offers" by travel agencies which have promised tickets to the beatification events. Released in six languages, a communique from the prefecture of the Papal Household -- the Curial organ that arranges audiences and handles ticketing for Vatican events -- underscored that "For the Beatification Mass... as made clear from the outset, no tickets are required" (emphasis original).

After the chaos that took place during last November's consistory -- when several prime sections had more ticket-holders than could be seated in them, and hundreds of pilgrims (if not more) ended up shut out of St Peter's Basilica -- maybe the lack of passes this time isn't the worst thing.

Beyond the crowd-control plans for the Mass, today's rollout included the announcement of several pieces of the days-long celebration itself. First among them is an evening vigil on 30 April -- the "liturgical anniversary" of John Paul's death -- to be held at 8pm at the Circus Maximus. The papal vicar for Rome, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, will preside, with Pope Benedict joining the gathering by video-link.

On Beatification Day itself, the remains of the new Blessed will be placed before the basilica's High Altar "for the veneration of the faithful," beginning shortly after the midmorning Mass and continuing until everyone who wants to pass by has had the chance to do so. The "exposition" on the basilica's main floor indicates that John Paul's body will be borne outside and present on the Sagrato -- the steps of St Peter's -- during the day's climactic liturgy itself.

The following morning at 10.30, a Mass of Thanksgiving will take place in the Square, to be celebrated by the Cardinal-Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone. Only after the second Mass will John Paul's remains be "privately" reinterred in the basilica's chapel of St Sebastian, on the main floor, between Michelangelo's Pietá and the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament.

* * *
Likewise this morning, the plans were unveiled for the Vatican presentation of the second volume of B16's Jesus of Nazareth, which will publish on March 10th.

In just the latest sign of the author's regard for Rome's ranking Canadian, the press conference to release the second part of the Pope's chronicle of the historical Jesus will be led by the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, barely six months after the Quebecois arrived to take up the all-powerful post.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

In Grand Jury's Wake, "We Have Fallen Short"

Over the six days since a second Philadelphia grand jury released a damning report that charged four priests and alleged ongoing mismanagement of clergy sex-abuse cases by the city’s scandal-rocked archdiocese, the fallout has been viewed as a “nightmare,” a “meltdown” and “a shambles” just within the church’s ranks.

Now, though, a concerted clean-up effort has begun... and the crisis’ next stage could well end up becoming something more still.

A bloodbath.

Under the glare of a fury toward the church unparalleled in this heavily-Catholic region's living memory, Cardinal Justin Rigali has set the stage for an occurrence without precedent over the decade since revelations of abuse and cover-up began erupting in earnest on these shores. Earlier today, the Philadelphia prelate ordered an "immediate re-examination" of accusations against "as many as 37" priests who, according to the grand jury, have remained in public ministry into the present despite reports which its investigation deemed “substantial” after the archdiocese ruled them unsubstantiated.

If even a fraction of the allegations to be reinspected are either admitted by the accused or newly judged to be “established” -- the archdiocese’s consistent standard, in line with the Stateside church’s particular law in force since 2002 -- the resulting mass suspension would mark, by far, the largest single banishment of priests on abuse allegations in the long trail of the most seismic scandal ever to shake the American church.

While the names of 34 of the clerics under fresh scrutiny have not been made public, and no move to curtail the mens’ faculties has yet emerged, the three accused but unsanctioned priests whose identities were revealed in contested cases examined by the grand jury were immediately suspended pending further review of the claims against them. (In one of the latter cases, the grand jury said that a victim who reported abuse by one of the three went on to commit suicide less than a year after he learned that the allegation was deemed unfounded, despite substantiating evidence.)

In his initial response to the report, the cardinal said last week that, although “the report states that there remain in ministry archdiocesan priests who have credible allegations of abuse against them,” he sought to “assure all the faithful that there are no archdiocesan priests in ministry today who have an admitted or established allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against them.” Addressing Rigali’s statement in interviews in the report’s wake, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams alleged that the archdiocese failed to deem as “credible” any allegation where the reported abuse took place beyond the statute of limitations.

At the cardinal’s direction, the new review is to be undertaken by Gina Maisto Smith -- a former city prosecutor, now in private practice, who specialized in winning rape convictions during her time in the DA’s office. Likewise recruited to "assist the archdiocese in its communications" with prosecutors and the curia's broader response to the report, Smith is a member of the board of the archdiocese’s Catholic Social Services.

The chancery announcement on the new process conspicuously made no mention of the local church’s lay review board, whose members were heavily criticized by the grand jury for their response to the contested allegations.

Today’s release ended a four-day message blackout from the archdiocese on the grand jury’s findings. Though Rigali has now issued four statements since the report’s emergence, the cardinal’s lone visual appearances over the last week have come in the form of two videos posted on YouTube.

In his comments today, the head of the 1.1 million-member church said that “many people of faith and in the community at large think that the archdiocese does not understand the gravity of child sexual abuse. We do. The task before us now is to recognize where we have fallen short and to let our actions speak to our resolve."

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With three priests and a lay teacher arraigned on abuse charges, the archdiocese’s former head of clergy personnel, Msgr William Lynn, now become the first US church official criminally indicted on claims of a cover-up, and a wide-ranging civil lawsuit alleging an ecclesial conspiracy filed on Monday by an unnamed 28 year-old survivor, local reaction to the news has run sizably more heated than it was in the days of 2005’s first grand jury report, which prominently accused the archdiocese of a lengthy, systematic pattern of protecting abusive clerics, but recommended no charges, citing expired statutes of limitations.

Reflecting the tenor of the amped-up public outcry -- one that, among other things, has seen a columnist muse that the cardinal “should declare moral bankruptcy,” the administration blasted as “more than a disgrace” and no less than the New York Times lamenting “more shame” for the church in a prominent editorial, all while pockets of the famously-cohesive Philadelphia presbyterate have quietly gone restive and reports of lower attendance at last weekend’s Masses have emerged from several spots -- an astonishing criticism of the archdiocese was even aired in the lead editorial of its stringently-supervised weekly, the Catholic Standard and Times, set to publish tomorrow.

After noting that “the archdiocese’s child protection efforts have educated thousands of church workers, volunteers and the children they serve,” the chancery's own newspaper said that “it’s also clear the programs have fallen short of the stated goals of doing every possible to safeguard young people within the Catholic church.”

“New measures featuring greater transparency must emerge,” the unsigned leader read. “But the larger goal of restoring confidence in Catholics — trust that archdiocesan officials really are working transparently and sincerely for the protection of children and genuine care of victims — remains the work of the coming weeks.”

While Lynn is the lone chancery veteran to have been charged to date on mishandling cases, indications are that Williams’ office is continuing its investigations, and that further indictments could well be in the offing.

In a scenario one of his confreres described as “chilling,” the well-liked former vicar for clergy -- still listed as pastor of his suburban parish, albeit now reportedly placed on leave -- was said to have spent 12 hours in jail until ten percent of his combined $50,000 bail was posted by his brother.

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Amid reports from the trenches that at least several archdiocesan clerics sought to cast a share of blame on the media and the prosecutors in their first responses to the developments last weekend, it is notable that the chancery’s newfound willingness to admit “falling short” still fell short of including any discernible word of apology -- to victim-survivors and their families above all, but likewise to a wider church and community where the administration’s efforts at containing the crisis have come to be viewed with a diminishing sense of credibility, on top of drawing consistently dwindling attention in local news coverage.

In a recent comment unrelated to the Philadelphia crisis, though, the church’s most prominent American leader of the moment offered a nugget of public counsel as worth noting as it was likely unwitting.

As the church on these shores seeks to rebuild its battered standing in the long shadow of the scandals, “what we have to do, and the bishops have to lead it, is one big fat mea culpa,” Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, the president of the US bishops, told the National Catholic Reporter.

“We can’t get tired of that, and we have to mean it.”

And, well, as the River City church undergoes the most volatile moment it's known since the destabilizing, years-long "Hogan Schism" of the 1820s, leave it to a historian to lay out the future's best bet.

SVILUPPO: Judging that the Philadelphia church's protocols prior to the most recent grand jury are "far from zero tolerance" on abusers, Thursday's editorial in the city's leading paper demanded "no more excuses" from the archdiocese. Meanwhile, the editor of the Philly fold's most-prominent suburban paper echoed the thought, saying early Thursday that "the faithful have had enough."